Monday, May 04, 2009


Well, it had to happen.

I was just hoping that a little more time would go by before we had to face this. One of my sons, whom I will call B (as opposed to, say, A), is going to marry his girlfriend this summer; the "real" wedding will take place in her far-away home country next spring, but in the meantime they are having a civil wedding to get the INS off her back. So far, so good.

However, having grown up watching his mother, a local officeholder and justice of the peace, welcome many couples to our living room in winter and garden in the summer-- even, irony of irony, gay couples after civil unions came in a while ago--my son is asking his mother to perform the ceremony. At what was until recently OUR house.

So Isis is going to have to say all those words to her son and his bride with her ex-husband in attendance, which is not going to be easy. It was originally a non-wedding with only seven people attending: one couple, two siblings, two parents, and the one surviving grandparent, my card-sharp mother. Period. That was good for Isis, and good in one way for me: it made it clear why the Goat was not being invited; I had asked right away, and the answer was "no."

It was good to have a reason, at least.

But now they have decided to invite some friends and some family, and my family at that. That is not going to be easy for some people; my family was in and out of the house for twenty years, but has not been allowed anywhere near it since I moved out. It's true I have occasionally gone in to use the bathroom, but I have also otherwise halted on the porch steps when I came to pick up my daughter for a visit. I figured I wasn't welcome, and I didn't have to figure it out on my own...

I decided that the best way to help make the day itself less stressful was for me to stop by Isis' office in town and speak to her well in advance, so that at least we were not doing THAT for the first time on our son's wedding day. It didn't go very well, probably because I said too much and asked her to say too much, but it probably also went as well as it could have. We are never going to agree on much of anything relating to our time together until I have stopped being regarded as the sole guilty party [by either one of us].

I asked for the interview because I knew my presence at the wedding was going to be hard on her, and I wanted to tell her that I was willing to do anything [within reason] that would make it easier.

I learned several things during our meeting: she is facing my family with as much trepidation as she is me, which would never have crossed my mind; and it is all going to be at least as painful for me as it is for her. I had somehow lost track of that. But it's true: I will not be in a position to welcome my family or my son's friends to the house; I will literally be a guest in my own house.

That is going to hurt a lot.

I have gotten used to driving by the house over the last two or three years--in the beginning, it opened up all kinds of wounds, but with time I made my home elsewhere and the house became a phantom limb with its disembodied pain, rather than an open wound--an old wound rather than an ongoing Civil War amputation with no anesthetic. But the fact remains that I have never really "been" there since I left, let alone for an event such as this, and my status is going to be brought home to me in no uncertain terms. It could be worse: at least she recognizes that I have a right to be there.

The person who apparently does not have a right to be there--and only because it's a house wedding--is the Goat. His reaction to not being invited was not volcanic, but certainly... strong. It is also certainly true that if I had told him the whole story at once instead of trying to shield B from any possible resentment, things might have gone better. As it was, no amount of persuasion could bring his dudgeon down to a level where logic could operate. Even after I told the whole story. Even though there were only going to be the couple, the two siblings, the two parents, and the one surviving grandparent in attendance.

He did eventually [eventually!] make his peace with that, but then the guest list opened up, and we started all over again.

The worst thing in that little snarl was the accusation that I was putting Isis' needs over his, which seemed a little over the top. It is true that twenty-five years will tend to trump two most of the time, no matter how wonderful the two have been. But that wasn't even the issue here: the issue was that Isis was performing the ceremony herself, and in her own home. The Goat seemed not to see that his presence would make it pretty hard for her to survive the event, let alone enjoy it. I was going to make it bad enough; my family was only going to make it worse; my lover might well have been the straw that broke the camel's back. And the camel was performing the ceremony. In her own home.

In a couple of years it might be OK, and I certainly hope that nobody else gets married for a while, because I am not backing down again. I asked my son to invite him, and he said he couldn't. Twice. I understood that; the Goat didn't. But to have him along on the first occasion on which I appear at all did seem to be asking a lot of a woman who has been doing her best to pretend I never existed.

The worst thing about my interview with Isis, though, was seeing how badly she is doing at pretending. My presence tore open all the wounds, even before I opened my mouth. She was more tense than I had ever seen her before, and she was visibly suffering. She could barely sit still--the woman I used to say was so even- tempered as to border on the bovine. She twisted her hands just the same way I did so long ago at Leather Night (when I came out in a whole new way just by being there, and saw the Goat for the first time). She and I had lived together for twenty-five years, and just having me in the same room now was almost more than she could stand. Anger I could have faced down and fought off; her anguish was something against which I had no defense. My own mouth went dry, and I began to realize that things weren't going to be easy for me, either, whether or not the Goat was able to come.

If I hadn't known I had to do it, I would have never been able to stay and try to get her to say what she needed from me to make the occasion one she could enjoy for its main component, the happy event itself. I wish the Goat could understand that. In the meantime, he says he understands, but still carries his bruised feelings about a millimeter below the surface most of the time.

When I heard about the expanded guest list, I had to call B and ask him again point-blank if he would be inviting the Goat. He said no, he didn't think he could. I had to say that I not only understood and admired, but basically shared his concern for his mother's feelings. But I also had to say that I hoped the next time he would show a similar concern for mine. It is my determination, my grim determination, not to let this happen twice.

Well, as I said at the beginning, I wish this had happened a few years from now, when the wounds might have been a little less fresh. But it might also never have come to that without the dread first meeting being required by the event happening now; I might be facing the same issues ten years from now, but with less of a leg to stand on in standing up for Isis' right to some kind of peace in her own home.

You know, I see many things more clearly now. I can see that the Inner Girl could only stay repressed for so long, and that the totality of her triumphal entry into the devastated remains of what had been the plainly male center of my being derived its power from the amount of time and effort that been spent on keeping her down and out of sight.

I can see that if I had ever had a lover like the Goat when I was young and less foolish, I might never have thought of marrying at all. I can see, now that I am desired for what I really am, how important that is to any kind of love. I was never able to give Isis that; I loved her to distraction, but I was not aflame with desire. I had never known what it felt like to experience that kind of love and that kind of desire at the same time. Now I do.

So I can see that I wronged her from the beginning. My only defense is that I had no idea I was doing it, and certainly never intended to. "I had no idea." Now there's a line the Goat and I can share... And here I am, the little boy who grew up between warring forces and is completely allergic to being caught in the middle of anything, caught in the middle again.

Between the only two people I have ever loved deeply.

Life just keeps throwing punches, and all we can do is roll with them.
Hang in there, guys.


  1. It's time to make peace.

    Unfortunately, it's often not an easy process. Just look at the Middle East.

  2. I hope that everything works out...and it's good that you can see both sides.

  3. Try to make it work...for your son's sake