A few years back, we drove over to LA for the wedding of my youngest niece.  The other two had had their weddings on the East Coast, but we aren’t close to our families, and we didn’t go.  LA was a day’s drive away, and we thought we ought to make at least one of the weddings and see the family.  We both felt it was a duty, so we did it.  Family visits, of course, have a down side, but that’s families, and that’s duty.  You pick your friends, not your family.

On the plus side, I could get to see Channel Islands National Park, which was on my “See all the National Parks” list.  We drove over on a Thursday, mistakenly believing that staying up in Ventura would make the travel easier.  It didn’t.  We entered freeways where speed went from 75 to zero in a half mile.

We had a great visit on Santa Cruz Island the next day.

On Santa Cruz Island. Hard to believe 10 million people are right across the water.

On Santa Cruz Island. Hard to believe 10 million people are right across the water.


On a big plus side were some whales.

Anacapa Is. from Santa Cruz.

Anacapa Is. from Santa Cruz.

We thought we could easily make the rehearsal dinner that Friday night, but well, the boat bringing us back from Channel Islands was a little late, so we got to the hotel a little late, and check in was a disaster.  The first room had luggage present which wasn’t ours, and when we went back to the reception desk, a good walk in its own right, they looked at us with disbelief.  We did get a second room, except the room card didn’t work.  Back we went.  Bottom line was that we could get into the third room with about as many swipes of the card. We took it.  The hotel was deemed 10 stars; I wondered aloud whether “10” was binary notation.

Somewhere along the line, my observant wife noted both the clock and a Trader Joe’s next door, announcing to me that we weren’t going to the rehearsal dinner.  I had a brief moment of “we can’t do that,” followed by visions of driving in LA on a Friday night, which in my 45 years of driving in several countries, was in the top three for difficulty (Toronto and Cádiz, Spain are the other two). After the “we can’t do that,” came “wow, we could just relax and start the visit early tomorrow morning,” which is exactly what we did.

Saturday morning, we went to the bride’s house, offering our services for whatever she needed.  We weren’t part of the wedding party, but we had a car, which is a total necessity in LA.  My niece desperately needed a few things at a pharmacy and a store, and we got them with no problem.  She was grateful.  I thought that nice, given that what we got was easy to do.  For us, it was.  We then took my sister-in-law (SIL) out for coffee.  That got her out of the house, for which both she and my niece were appreciative, albeit for very different reasons.  We went to a coffee shop for about an hour and a half, and for the then 42 years I had known her, we had the best conversation I can ever remember.  I think the fact I was fairly relaxed, aside from being in LA, and my SIL really stressed had a lot to do with how well things went.

We went to the wedding early.  I hadn’t been looking forward to meeting my SIL’s estranged husband.  I didn’t like him on several levels, not the least was how he had treated her.  He had crossed Jerk Junction so many times that it no longer had a “Stop and Think” sign.  A short time after we arrived, a few older men showed up, and my wife and I went down to meet them.  Sometime after I shook hands with all, my wife commented, “That was xxxx, you know.”

I didn’t.  I don’t have prosopagnosia, or the inability to recognize faces, but I am not exactly good at placing faces on people, especially those whom I have not seen for 16 years.  I hadn’t a clue that I had just shaken hands with the estranged husband, which meant that I treated him like a stranger, which in many ways he was, politely, without giving away my dislike.  Wow, I couldn’t have scripted that better if I had tried.

The wedding went well, and at the dinner, I volunteered to sit between the parents of the bride, her near-ex’s voice booming out loud and clear, as he was the Master of Ceremonies.  It wasn’t a big deal, after all, sitting between the two of them.  I had to deal once with his trying to bring up Navy days, for we both served in very different ways, but I had no desire to talk either to him or about my time in the service 35 years earlier. I ignored him.  I made sure I turned towards my SIL, listening carefully to her and my wife, talking when I could, and somehow getting food into my mouth without looking at my plate, in order to avoid any further interaction with her then-husband.  When husband got up to make a toast, I shoveled food into my mouth.  The rest of the time, I kept the two of them away from each other, possibly avoiding a scene. When things were winding down, we left, got back to the hotel, and were on the road early the next morning, eastbound to the Colorado River and Arizona, LA in our rear view mirror.  Mac Davis in reverse, for those who go back to 1980 in their music.

We weren’t at all important in the wedding party.  Yet, I have fond memories of what I did that day.  We were the two most relaxed people present.  We had time to run errands, we had time to separate mother from niece, woman from husband, and we made good use of the time.  We did it quietly with no fanfare, no raising of voice, nothing at all.  We were there.

Maybe I was important.  For years, I gave my SIL and our nieces gifts during the holiday season.  The biggest gift I ever gave them, however, was that day in Los Angeles.  Maybe they remember it, maybe they don’t.   No matter.  I do.  Like most gifts, the giver gets a lot back in return.

My SIL still sends me e-mails.  I cringe when they come.  Family.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: