Monday, June 22, 2009


You may remember that although I asked my son twice, he held to his position that the Goat was not to be invited to his wedding. Given that the wedding was being performed by his mother at her house, that all made sense to me, but not, needless to say, to the Goat.

Isis agreed that I could contribute to the wedding as well as attending; I offered to provide the alcohol, an offer which was--wonder of wonders--actually accepted. A similar olive branch was offered my mother, who paid for the cake and the flowers. But otherwise, Isis did it all herself and took no offers of help until the weekend of the wedding, when her best friend and the members of the younger generation arrived, and they all pitched in to pull off the last minute food prep.

I never got a final head-count from the Happy Couple, who were presumably too busy with other things to keep track, so I was left buying wine and beer and hard cider and prosecco for an indeterminate number of people. The best estimate Son B could give me was that forty people were coming, and thirty of them would drink; but Isis had said there might be as many as sixty people coming. What to do?

I finally decided to take the number of guests posited by Son B and treat it as the potential pool of drinkers in a crowd of indeterminate size. So, how many out of forty will drink wine and how many beer? [The hard cider was there for the bride, as was the prosecco, though the quantity of prosecco had been somewhat expanded to allow a general toast.]

I dithered this way and that and finally bought beer for two thirds of forty, and wine for two thirds of forty, in hopes that it would all work out, splitting the wine equally into red and white. I had no idea what sort of food was being served, or I might have done better at divvying up the wine. What I might have thought was that all the meat would be cold, and in fact in turned out to be salmon and chicken. No one in the know would drink red wine at a reception where chicken and fish were the only meat served, and even for those of us not in the know, cold white wine would be more appealing on a summer's day. But then, buying without knowing what was being served, I rather overdid the red and fell a little short with the white wine--but only because I thought I had bought way too much white and held a few bottles back. Well, I almost got it right.

The story of my life...

I also asked both Isis and Son B if it were allright if I might speak at the wedding, though true to form I did it backwards, and asked Isis first. Her response was to point out bitterly how little right I had to speak on the subject of marriage, as though failure were not as demanding a teacher as success. Another wise female friend was of the opinion that I had forfeited not only the right to speak at this wedding, but at any wedding. That seemed a bit much to me. Son B, once I got around to asking him, was more congenial, but I was left with the dilemma that I had to make sure not to mention marriage, and a number of other topics, to keep the lid on Isis' displeasure.

It's hard to write a speech when half your functioning brain is busy censoring the thoughts that are slowly coming together out of the other half. My wise if censorious friend suggested a way out of the dilemma: I should just write down what I want to say, and ask a few trusted people what they thought of it.

Most people are rightly wary of offering advice, but the three good friends I asked were receptive, as they could see I was clearly in over my head; I got some great advice, but it only added to the censorship problem. In the end it was the Goat, bless his heart, who cut the Gordian knot: he simply said that I had the option of writing in metaphor--once the message moved onto a poetic plane, it could easily become vague enough to mention all the things I wanted to touch on without naming names or events that were Beyond the Pale at this wedding, at least. And I did find that as soon as I started trying to craft a poem, which became two sonnets in harness, all the earlier anxieties fell away. The need to maintain rhyme and meter offered ways around a lot of the thornier issues. I was rather proud of it once I was done. It was another acrostic poem, with the names of the happy couple threaded through it, or I would post it here...

Writing it made clear as little else has, just how liberating restraints are to me--in this case, figuratively, though the literal bears some weight as well... but even I could see that the literal was truly not a topic for a wedding.

So when the day rolled around, I was in fact nervous as a cat, but prepared. The Goat had made other plans for the weekend so that he wouldn't have to be sitting at home feeling sorry for himself; he went to a good friend's Midsummer Bare-ass Bear, Beer, and Booze party up on a mountaintop. Once I realized that I was far too nervous to concentrate, I drove over to meet him, and spend the night, which forced him out of the little tent he had brought along and into a motel room. Getting slightly stoned and slightly drunk and slightly @#$%ed took a lot of the tighter winding out of my mechanism, and I drove off after a ridiculously late breakfast, back to what had been home and the Happy Event, part I.

It was a beautiful day, warm but not so hot that standing outside made you want to crawl under a nearby rock, and everyone was in a good mood. Her family and my family were already mingling when I arrived a few minutes early--I had been given strict instructions that no one from my family was to arrived before the appointed hour, and I had passed that info on to my mother, who presumably had passed it on to my local siblings. Nevertheless, all but one of my family were already there mingling away when I arrived, and my mother was nervous about the last missing member of the clan, who arrived exactly one minute past the "not before" hour. I decided not to point out to my mother that he was not late; it was the others who had come early, in spite of specific instructions not to do so. I also decided that there was a little piece of my little black heart that rather liked the fact that the rest of the world was not overly concerned with any lines Isis might decide to draw in the sand.

It was a lovely ceremony, with Son B's siblings and the bride's foreign friends all taking small ceremonial parts. After all the limits imposed on me, it did surprise me a little bit that Isis chose to go on at some length about the importance of home, how this had been B's home, but that his bride's had been far away, and now they would have to find their home in each other. But I guess she felt no need to take any reciprocal heed of my feelings; it did seem that more than one line of her lovely speech had a barb or two in it just for me. I can't say it was intentional, but they lodged anyway.

And, you know what? I didn't really care.

Aside from the fact that Isis made her face a mask and backed off out of reach whenever I got anywhere near her, neither greeting me nor addressing me in any way except when asked a direct question [and then only once], I had a wonderful time. Her sisters were more than welcoming [the one who has the hardest time in life held my hand to her cheek and wouldn't let go, as the tears streamed down her face]. The three children on that side of the family were universally forthcoming; I suppose it helped that I actually still liked their lunatic father, whom their mother had divorced years before.

I made the tactical error, seeing the head-table layout, of assuming the groom's family would be sitting there, and asked Son B if I could sit with him. I turned out to be the only person over thirty at the table, and only one of two who actually spoke English during the meal. All around me the two families were mingled and chatting away as if there were no shadow on the proceedings, and I longed to be at one of the tables where English not only could be, but was, spoken.

Be careful what you wish for. It would have been far wiser to wait until the last minute to sit down, but that would have entailed making sure I was far enough away from Isis for her comfort, and close enough to either of my other two children to feel that I had sat with them.

Finally the prosecco was handed 'round. I made my little speech, and got a very nice response, especially from the happy couple. They really were happy. What I could not mention, of course, was how happy I had been on the same day in my own life, how my love for Isis filled me to the brim; how I was flush with the certainty that all but the very last chapter of my story had just been written. Well, everyone had told me I couldn't mention my own wedding, and I guess I see the wisdom in that.

The newlyweds were smiling so hard they were practically past ear-to-ear, and the happiness seemed to broadcast itself over the whole assembly. For me, the only exception was the grim determination of her who had been my wife, right there at the next table, not to look my way. She was certainly aware that I was aware of her, as the occasional flush beyond the general happy one betrayed.

What the hell!
I had a wonderful time, and by the time I left, the last of the guests not spending the night to depart, I had been able to have a talk with just about everyone.

I was so high on the positive aspects of the event that I called the Goat just to let him take part a little bit, to let me have his voice, if not his presence, at the feast. I dearly wanted to stay and hang out with my children, but I wasn't sure that it would have been considered a friendly gesture by the Lady of the House, and my heart was pulling me away toward Goatville. So I made my rounds, saying goodbye, not getting even the grace of a farewell from Isis, then hopped into my car and headed for the other set of hills.

The Goat was seated on my sofa in his living room--it's one of the many pieces of furniture I had no room for in my rooms, and on which he had agreed to take pity. I was so full of my own happiness that I sat down with him and just rattled on and on. I had his head in my lap, and caressed it while I told him all that had happened, how dazed I was at the friendly conversation I had been able to have with Isis' best friend as well as her eldest sister, and on down the line to Son A's very silly toast.

What I had failed to notice in my joy was the downward spiral of the Goat's mood. By the time I got to the end of my story, and let him know that I had been cautioned to be ready for some whiplash once only one of us was working--a situation we will enter in a year, in all likelihood--he must have been feeling pretty low, because his retort was a pretty nasty put-down. And I was completely unprepared.

It was like being kicked in the stomach. I sat there, still caressing his head, as all the joy of the day drained from my heart, and I felt it fill with the Goat's bitterness. I had been so eager to make him partake of the event, I had completely forgotten how much it had hurt him not to be invited, and how uneasily he had pretended he was over it. So, in return for my eagerness to share my joy, which I could see had brought him none, he now let me share his devastation. I couldn't believe that he could be so cruel. But then, I suppose he had thought I had been so first.

I see that now. All I saw at the time was his displeasure and anger. And all I felt at the time was that the joy of the day, which despite all the tension and pain of being a guest where I had long hoped to play the host, had been extinguished. I crept home and went to bed more miserable than I have been for a very long time.

The next morning I wondered, not for the first time, whether I had not made a terrible mistake in aligning myself with the Goat. I had spent the previous day having my nose rubbed in everything I had lost by leaving home, and roughly, too. Now it appeared that the only thing I had in the world to counter that dreadful loss was turning to dust in my hands. I wrote a poem for him [my way, as you may have noticed, of coping with the need to reveal my emotions, especially when they are high] and e-mailed it to him. I tried to recognize his sadness and my thoughtlessness, but also to remind him that I had called him from the wedding to hear his voice, that I had left my children and the long evening around their bonfire to be with him.

And got no reply. Under the circumstances, I didn't really see how I could drive out to his House in the Woods until I was sure he wanted me to be there. And until he could tell me that he wasn't as angry and displeased with me as he had been the night before, I wasn't about to go.

I left phone messages for him, asking him to let me know if he still wanted me to come; and asked myself what conclusions I should draw if he did not. As the hours wore on, I got sadder and sadder and got less and less done, aside from literal and figurative hand-wringing. At the very end of the afternoon, he called after finally getting one of the messages, and couldn't understand my reservations at all. It was as if the night before had never happened, as though I were crazy to have taken it to heart. And surely I knew that I had subjected him to worse, and he had bounced back without the need for reassurance. Or so he said. I got ready to go over, but my heart was still pretty heavy. All the way up the mountain, all I could think about was the way he had managed with one or two short but mightily bitter remarks to completely unseat the joy that reigned in my heart. How could he?

Well, when I finally arrived at the cabin, all was sweetness and light, and I was the one with the problem for being upset. That rather dazed me, but to tell you the truth, the main thing was that my question about how much he cared for me was taken care of as soon as we stopped talking. I rather think that talking is actually a trap for him. He is remarkably capable of expressing all kinds of emotion [and content] in the way he makes love.

And I found myself lying in his arms after he had done so, completely happy, completely at rest. As sure that he had forgiven me for whatever I had done to him as I could be without the two words that unlock my heart ["I'm sorry"] being spoken. And as sure that I had forgiven him. I suppose it is technically possible to lie while lying with someone, but it is a horrible art, if a high one. The Goat's talent is rather different, and it leaves no doubt about what moves him to make his moves. Once again I was overwhelmed by the fact that one [I] could experience something so utterly new, so utterly overwhelming, at the ripe old age of 55, and have it borne out week after week, leaving me just as week in the knees at 57.

It's a mad world, my masters.

Oh, and the funny part:

At the Goat's mountaintop Bare-ass Bear event, I ran into someone from Nowheresville. It was the Alaskan Brown Bear I had taken out to dinner when he came East to look for a house a year or so ago. The one who made me realize how much a certain kind of vulnerable glance coming out of a face covered in fur turned me on--that impossibly powerful particular blend of the masculine and feminine... ah, fur! In any case, we chatted for quite a while, and I admired a new tattoo he had gotten on his first trip back to the Other Coast since he and his partner had pulled up stakes for the Bay State. It was great to reconnect. I came home to a rather embarrassed e-mail from the ABB, who remembered our conversation from long ago, and my tale of my coming out again, and how coming out for leather had been so much harder for me than what I had done in college--it was actually leather rather than gayness I was working so hard to overcome, not to have to accept.

Well, it turns out that my little Alaska Brown Bear has discovered something new about himself, and it made him realize that he really only knew one other person who had at last embraced leather rather late in life--although the ABB and I do part company as to when "late" sets in, as I don't think forty qualifies--and that maybe the two of us might have some things to talk about. I hastened to reply that I was sure we did, but that he should not regard me as having any particular expertise--I just knew what I liked. He said that was just what he needed; he had plenty of black belts around, and what he needed was more of a worm's eye view of the undertaking.

That I can certainly offer. So the next time I drive up to my mother's, I get to make a side-trip to the ABB's front porch, and a view of someone else's confusion, for a change. Just another little adventure waiting to happen.

We just keep on keeping on.
Although the devil does generally take the hindmost...

1 comment:

  1. You have a difficult time believing you deserve to be loved. You do deserve it. And I think the goat really does love you. That's why he was so hurt, and so forgiving.

    He's got his own insecurities, too. Accept. Trust.