It wasn't Older Daughter. It was Older Daughter's Boyfriend. He was in the lobby of my building and wanted to know if I was available to see him.
Sure, I said, come on up.
I was still on the other call when he got here. I shooed him into my office and wrapped up my call. The client wanted a letter memorializing the opinion I'd just given. Realistically, I told her, looking over at the Boyfriend, I don't think I can turn it out before Monday. Would that be alright? It would, she said.
The Boyfriend's arrival in Chicago was not unexpected; we knew he was staying at our house for the weekend. His arrival at my office, however, would probably mean only one thing.
"I suppose I owe you an explanation," he told me -- not an auspicious beginning, but I didn't jump to any goofy conclusions. "No, you don't," I told him, and urged him to continue.
He started over again. "Well, I've had the ring now for a couple of months," he said. Much better beginning, I thought. "And I would have given her the ring on New Year's Eve" -- thereby beating Oldest Son's announcement -- "but your daughter got so sick" -- a bad case of the stomach flu, which he'd given her, but why bring that up now? -- "so it seemed like a bad time."
I had nothing to add.
"Well, anyway, your daughter and I have talked about this for some time. And she's told me that I should talk to you first, that this was important to you." Which is why you were going to give her the ring on New Year's Eve? But this was not a logic exam; it was a hard mission he'd undertaken and I again kept my mouth shut. "So, how would you feel about my marrying your daughter?"
I feigned shock, putting my hand over my breast and fluttering just a bit. "This is so sudden," I said.
OK, that was cruel -- because, after six years of dating, this was not sudden at all. I immediately felt guilty about it -- and, of course, I immediately gave my consent and welcomed him to the family.
I did have a couple of questions. Have you decided where you will live when Older Daughter finishes nursing school? I'd heard he was looking in Indianapolis (where his family lives), Chicago, and Boston. Boston, he said, had dropped out of the picture, but both Chicago and Indy were still under consideration.
Then I asked whether he was supposed to give me goats and cattle or whether I was supposed to give them to him. He said he looked it up and dowries are usually put up by the bride's father. "Is that so?" I asked. "Well, in that case, we don't believe in dowries."
They'd gone over to the parish church to inquire about open dates this summer, but the Boyfriend wanted to see when his church was open, too.
The Boyfriend is not Catholic. He's Episcopalian -- and very involved in his church, particularly with the church choir. While weddings usually take place in the bride's home parish, the Boyfriend was clearly hoping to have it at his church in Indianapolis. And, since the Boyfriend is an only child, Long Suffering Spouse and I have long known that this was a distinct possibility.
Older Daughter was compiling a list of pros and cons. Long Suffering Spouse and I told them -- again -- how we'd paid for our own wedding. The advantage of this is that we could invite who we wanted, go where we wanted, and limit all the well-meaning and maddening interference provided by parents and friends. We could choose whether to accept offers of assistance. We agreed to the request made by Long Suffering Spouse's father that he be permitted to buy the wedding dress. We agreed to my father's request that he be permitted to provide the band. But it was our show.
We told Older Daughter and the Boyfriend all this (and offered to buy the dress).
We told them that, no matter where they decided to hold the wedding, there'd probably be people who'd have to beg off because of the distance involved. You just can't please everyone when you plan a wedding.
The Boyfriend said most of his relatives would have to travel to Indianapolis anyway -- he still has both sets of grandparents living -- in Florida, I believe. He said his choir would come to Chicago, too. I said most of our friends and my cousins have kids -- a lot of them teenagers at this point -- who couldn't be left alone for the weekend. Most of them would not be able to attend. "I'd have no representation!" said Older Daughter.
I said this isn't an election. We would be there, wherever they wanted to go.
Older Daughter had been pretty involved in our church, too. She used to work at the Rectory. She wanted one our parish priests to participate in the service, wherever it would be held. "Not in Indianapolis," I told her. "It's too far for either of them to come for just the day and Sunday is kind of their busy day."
"Oh," said Older Daughter. "I suppose." She jotted things down and Long Suffering Spouse began to hold out hope that she might come around to the point of view we were rooting for: Have the wedding in our Chicago church. I was watching the Boyfriend, though. He was using the computer in our den and, from my chair, I could see that he was navigating in his own church's website pretty much the whole time.
Now I haven't said much about Long Suffering Spouse's reactions to these developments.
Those of you who've visited here for some time have probably come to know Long Suffering Spouse as a practical, level-headed sort of person, not prone to silly or extravagant displays. Saturday morning, this level-headed practical sort went out to the store, in a heavy snowstorm, and bought a huge stack bridal magazines.
Each one of these magazines, by the way, weighs about 10 lbs. But that's another essay entirely.
We suggested that Older Daughter and the Boyfriend needed to talk to his parents before making any decisions. The Boyfriend's father is in politics in Indianapolis. If the wedding were there, he'd probably have to invite a truckload of people. At least, in my experience, the largest weddings I've ever been at were those where someone in one of the families was in politics. The Boyfriend's father might even see it as an advantage to have the wedding here -- people would be less likely to take offense at not being invited, etc.
The kids had driven here separately, of course. Otherwise, the Boyfriend couldn't have had his surreptitious interview with me on Friday afternoon. And he was leaving at the crack of dawn on Sunday to sing with his church choir. Older Daughter balked at heading to Indianapolis; she wanted to spend more time at home. But, no, we said, better that you go. His family will want to see the ring and the choir (with which she also sang during her year in Indianapolis) would want to make a fuss.
He left at 5:45 am. Older Daughter followed at 6:30 am.
I hadn't figured it any other way.
Yes, this hurts a bit, I told Long Suffering Spouse, but this is what happens when we say we'll stand by them whatever they decide: They might decide in ways we don't like.
The phone was ringing when we got in the door: Older Daughter wanted to know how many people we were figuring on inviting. We hadn't really sat down and thought that through, Long Suffering Spouse told her, but we figured that no more than 20 or 30 would attend from our side, including us and Older Daughter's siblings. (My money's on 20.)
People can't be expected to drive all that way for a wedding, Long Suffering Spouse told her. Again. And again. And it's rude to invite people to something that you know they can't attend; it makes you look like you're merely grasping for gifts.
"You're punishing me for choosing to have the wedding in Indianapolis!" cried Older Daughter. I wasn't on the phone but I heard that one. That's when I lost my temper, ignoring Long Suffering Spouse's sharp whispers with her hand over the receiver, "Shhhh! She can hear you." She pulled her hand off the receiver and tried to smooth things over, "No one is punishing you," she said, "it's just too far for most people to go unless they're really, really close to you. We'll be there. But people with families have sports to work around, and their own family events, and can't leave teenagers home for a weekend, and you're asking people to stay the night at least --"
At some point Long Suffering Spouse realized that Older Daughter had hung up on her.
Older Daughter called back to apologize, later, but she apparently still has delusions of her side of the church being packed.
The wedding's in July.
I don't know if I'm going to last that long.