Shock and Awe

A little more than one week removed from my daughter Rose’s wedding and I finally feel that I can write about it. The wedding was perfect. Awesome! Rose and Al made a beautiful couple. And we had a very wonderful celebration, despite someone’s best efforts to ruin it.

I’ve given a lot of thought about what to write, what words I want to use, and which to write about first—the shock or the awe. It truly was a great celebration and out of respect for the new bride and groom, I’ll start there.

I took the week off of work to get the house ready for what would end up being eleven overnight guests, to decorate, and to make the food. Rose and I spent all of Monday doing a thorough cleaning of the kitchen and our family room. My oldest daughter Kate volunteered to come on Tuesday night and help me out for the rest of the week. By Wednesday afternoon, I had confidence it would all come together. But Thursday morning, I was frantic. Realization hit that there was too much to do. But I kept calm and did my best to persuade everyone to keep on task and work as an army. And that they did!

Thursday afternoon we got into full swing with the house full of volunteers decorating, making food, arranging flowers, or doing some other task. It was controlled chaos and we had a blast. The groom was not allowed anywhere near the bride and her entourage. And they made the most of it. I headed to bed about 11:30, and found out early the next morning that the group had been up until 5 am. I braced myself for an unpleasant ride.

Slowly the house came to life on Friday morning, Wedding Day, and the bride surfaced, a little too green in the face. Sure enough, she was soon regretting the fact that she had had too much to drink and too little sleep. Midway through the morning, I found her laying on the couch in the living room, crying. I sat down next to her and began to rub her back and she threw herself into my lap, sobbing. A hundred thoughts ran through my head, none of them anywhere close to what she was going to tell me. “I don’t know why I’m crying,” she sobbed. “I’m so happy. Why am I crying?” I laughed. Probably not the appropriate response, but I was so relieved that I wasn’t going to have to make tons of phone calls to call off a wedding. I smiled, hugged her as close as I could, and rubbed her back and told her very soothingly that getting married is a big milestone and emotions get the better of us all in those kinds of moments. Once the army of volunteers understood the end goal had not changed, work progressed around us, mother and bride, as we sat on the couch, she sobbing and me smiling.

We worked through the day and all managed to be dressed and ready to leave by 4:15. Even Brianna cooperated! We arrived at the restaurant on time and were met by a very nervous groom. He was so relieved to see Rose and immediately the smiles on both of their faces relaxed. It was wonderful to see. The judge arrived and before we knew it, Rose’s dad was walking her out on to the small deck and the ceremony began. It was a fabulous setting—outdoors on a deck parallel to the river, an intimate setting for eighteen. It was exactly what Rose wanted and everything was perfect.Image

When the ceremony was over and the kissing done, cheers rang out and the celebrating began. While witnesses signed the paperwork, the rest of us ordered drinks and dinner and we had a lovely evening in a private room of the restaurant. Al and Rose smiled the entire time. It really was fantastic.

After dinner, Rose and Al headed off for their private wedding night and the rest of us headed back to the house. We were exhausted and should have done some tasks to get ready for Saturday’s reception, but we just needed to rest. We decided to go to bed early and get up early and get it all done. It seemed like a good decision at the time, but Saturday morning I was feeling the pressure of needing more time. We put together fruit platters and made delicious capresé salad kabobs. We set up the gift table and the food table. The outside decorations took much longer than I had planned, but they looked fabulous. A quick trip to the balloon store took too long and required us to go to Plan B—blowing up balloons at home. The baker arrived on time with the cake and cupcakes. Shortly after, the caterer arrived with the meat entrees and let one of the dogs out. So there I was running down the street in my best clothes and high heels trying to catch the dog. It seemed right on par for the day. A neighbor grabbed the dog and back home I went, and from there on it was absolute chaos. People started arriving and we didn’t have all the food set up, but no one seemed to care. In the end, we could have used another hour. I didn’t hear a single complaint and I saw only smiles and heard only laughter. So I’ll consider it a success.

The weather was perfect. The food was delicious. We had a house full and then some. It was awesome. Rose’s smile never left her face the entire day. Absolutely wonderful! We did it!

It was nothing short of a miracle given what we dealt with on the periphery. My husband’s daughter Faye and her two kids came to stay with us for five nights for the wedding. In earlier writings I expressed my concern and nervousness about Faye’s visit. She hasn’t been a very nice person to me, but I was committed to making the most of this visit. It really was a challenging time for her to come—when Rose was the “star” and there was so much commotion. But I looked at it as an opportunity for Faye to get to know my daughters better and to see her dad and me on our turf. Unfortunately, it seems Faye had another agenda.

For the last few months Faye has been a single parent as her husband is away for an extended period of time. And during this time, Faye’s son has become unruly, inattentive, and out of control. To say it has been a challenge for Faye is an understatement. Faye truly saw this visit as an opportunity to “check out” and not be a parent. She wanted a vacation and a break from her normal routine and she was determined to get it. Within two hours of landing at our house, I was slightly concerned at the amount of alcohol she had consumed. And not once did she scold her kids when they should have been. I wasn’t going to parent her children and I thought as the stepmother I shouldn’t say too much. But the kids got on my husband’s nerves too. We found a private moment to chat about it and together we figured it had been a long travel day and things would be better after a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, my husband took Faye and her kids out to an amusement park while Kate and I did the grocery shopping for all the food. In the afternoon our “army of volunteers” was in place and Faye signed on to do the vacuuming. Nearly everyone had completed their tasks but Faye hadn’t even started. Instead she had escaped to the social media world, communicating with friends and posting photos on Facebook. One of the other women offered to do the vacuuming since Faye was “busy.” As soon as the vacuum started up, Faye was off the couch and arguing that it was her job and she was going to do it. So the other woman handed over the vacuum and walked away. Just a few minutes later, Faye was back on the couch and the vacuum was making obscene noises. I looked to see Faye’s four-year-old daughter vacuuming up the tassels on the end of a large floor rug. The other volunteer quietly stepped in and helped the four-year-old, who in turn wisely said she’d better not do anymore. So the volunteer ended up doing the vacuuming after all. All the while, the six-year-old boy was running wildly around outside. It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered what had kept him so busy. (More about that in a bit.)

With all the work done, we started preparations for dinner and Faye was the first to ask for a glass of wine. By the time we had seated ourselves for our meal, she had consumed one bottle and was well into her second. Her kids sat down with full plates of food and ate two or three bites and were off running again. The rest of us ate and the celebrating began. As I wrote earlier, I headed to bed about 11:30 and shortly after the celebrating took a wicked turn. As my three daughters (Emily wasn’t there) have since told me, Faye loudly complained about how different her father was, and how I had spoiled him and how I was letting him do things he shouldn’t do (smoke cigars, eat desserts, etc.). Her mother never would have allowed such things, she claimed. The group of women friends sitting around the table weren’t too sure how to respond, so they tried to change the subject and put the focus back on Rose. But Faye wanted to be the center of attention. She continued to rant about what an important person she was and talk about the grand life she lived with her mother and father when she was younger. She laughed at the “poor” house we had and the sad life we lived. And she was only getting started. Next she turned her attention to Brianna and demanded to know what was wrong with Brianna that she would make such poor choices and do such horrible things to cause grief for Faye’s dad. My daughters will be the first to tell you that Brianna has made bad choices, but these sisters are a tight group and they won’t tolerate someone else attacking one of them. And all of Rose’s friends have been witnesses to all that has gone on in Rose’s life and they weren’t going to tolerate the trash talking either. One of the friends spoke up and told Faye she had had too much to drink and she needed to go to bed. Now! Voices were raised enough that my husband heard the noise and got out of bed to investigate. It didn’t take him long to assess the situation and order Faye to go to bed. She wisely listened and the rest of the group stayed up two more hours processing what had gone down.

Friday morning arrived and the group was very slow to move. Kate and I are early risers and we accomplished a lot before the rest of the crowd began to stir. In getting my work done, I had gone outside a few times and discovered plants uprooted. I was so preoccupied with all that I had to do that I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. I simply could not make sense of the nonsensical. I grabbed a trowel and some potting soil and replanted the plants as quickly as I could. Returning inside, I found a crowd of people drinking coffee and Rose on the couch in the livingroom crying. You know the rest of that scene.

Friday evening after the wedding, all of us adults were relaxing and I kept hearing a pounding noise. Why I didn’t investigate is beyond my understanding. I chalk it up to being overwhelmed and exhausted. Yet on Saturday morning, there was more of the pounding noise. I asked out loud what it could be and was told that the six-year-old boy was pounding holes in the posts supporting our deck. What?! Sure enough, he had a chunk of cement that he had found and was using it as a hammer. He had pock-marked two poles and put a two-inch deep hole in another. I scolded him and sent him on his way, and I ran off myself. We had 100 people coming in just a few short hours!

Our small army rallied together and we put on a grand celebration. And as I stood on our deck and visited with family and friends, I looked out to my gardens and saw plants uprooted and tossed wildly into the grass. I said a silent prayer that no one else would have noticed. As soon as the last guest was gone and all the gifts were opened, I changed clothes and headed out to save the plants. I grabbed empty pots from the garage and the bag of potting soil and planted every last one of them. My husband came out to see what I was doing and I gave him an ear full.

All on her own, Faye had invited an old friend of hers to come to the wedding celebration on Saturday and to spend the night at our house. And as I sat on the deck putting plants in pots to save them, Faye took that moment to inform her dad that she and her friend were going out to get some ice cream and more wine. Her six-year-old didn’t come when she called for him, so she left without him. After planting the flowers, I went downstairs to the family room to check on the boy and found board games thrown about the floor, pieces intermingled and scattered everywhere. I called to my husband to come look at the mess and to deal with his grandson since I had so much left to do. Together we tried to talk to the boy, but the boy ran off to the bedroom and shut and locked the door.

Now in my house, when a child locks a parent out of a room the door gets taken off the hinges. Lightning fast I had that door unlocked and that boy was shocked. And then I used my Mother’s Voice and gave him a proper scolding. He spent the next hour on the floor next to his Grandfather watching a baseball game. When Faye returned from her trip to the liquor store, we told her what had happened. Faye told her son to apologize and he quietly said, “I’m sorry.” And she smiled and sent him on his way. “Go play with your sister.” No time out. No punishment. Nothing. Is it any wonder he was back to ripping up plants again on Sunday morning?

Kate and her husband and their daughter were up early on Sunday and we made pancakes. Faye’s two children came up to the kitchen and I asked if they were hungry. They each inhaled a pancake. Those kids were starved! It wasn’t until they ate those pancakes so fast that I realized I hadn’t seen them eat a single meal the day before. Every time we sat down to eat they would eat one or two bites and run away. And just as they finished eating one pancake, Faye came in the room and yelled at me for feeding them. “We’re going out to breakfast with my friend!” No one had told me that. Good riddance!

It was peaceful for about two hours and then they were back. I spent all of Sunday washing pots and pans and putting the kitchen back together. Kate and her family headed back to their home and the house grew quiet. My husband took Faye and her kids for a ride through the city and to an Italian deli while I returned the roasters to the catering restaurant. Faye had been talking for days about how she was going to make spaghetti supper for us on Sunday night. My husband and I were looking forward to it.

They returned home before I did, and Faye told her dad to get the sauce started and she would finish it. Of course, she didn’t. He did. And when I came back home, she was on my husband’s computer, opening up an Internet game for the six-year-old to play. She disappeared and I set the table for dinner and boiled water. When the noodles were ready, all of us gathered at the table. We said grace and the kids ate maybe four bites this time and they were off. The three of us ate our meal and Faye and her dad began a discussion about finances and Faye’s future plans. They took the conversation to the study while I cleaned the kitchen and the kids played in the family room. About 9:00 I headed for the shower and prepared to return to work the next morning. About a half hour later I came down to say good-bye to Faye and the kids and found my husband fuming in the study. He showed me where his grandson had taken a metal letter opener and carved a long scratch in the top of the desk and notches on the side. It was then that I realized the house was quiet and no one was in sight. I was grateful I had missed out on the drama while I had been in the shower. I went up to bed without saying good-bye.

The next morning I woke up, got dressed, and headed to work. I was so grateful that this was the day Faye would be headed back home. I had such a mixed bag of emotions—all negative—about what had transpired from her visit. And I knew it would take my husband and I several days to come to terms with our feelings and the destruction that had taken place.

Even now, more than a week later, we are still shaking our heads. It truly is a miracle that Rose was allowed to have her special moment despite all the chaos. I guess I can pat myself on the back for all the planning and preparations I did in advance. But I also believe there was divine providence that shined on us that day. I will forever be grateful that Rose’s wedding day and celebration were awesome.

My three daughters who were here for the wedding and celebrations are still talking amongst themselves about all that happened. They love my husband and don’t want to show him any disrespect, but they have each quietly asked my permission to never interact with Faye again. Granted. I am not so lucky as I know Faye and I will interact again some day. But I am much wiser from this experience and I will approach the situation much differently. It is quite possible we will see each other again at Christmas. I love and respect my husband and will tolerate a social event with his daughter. But I won’t seek a relationship or
any interaction with her whatsoever. Bridges were burned. They may not ever be rebuilt.

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You’ve Got to Be Kidding!

We are in the home stretch now—only ten days before Rose’s wedding and reception at our house. And I’m thinking I should go check myself in to a hospital somewhere.

My dog woke me up at four this morning with an urgent need to go outside. So outside she goes and I see that all the lights are on in the basement. So I go down there and discover Brianna’s boyfriend laying on the couch watching TV and all of his personal belongings are stacked up all over the family room. Turns out he’s been kicked out of his house and he has nowhere to go. He is only 16! Can parents legally kick out their child at that age? He’s not even an adult, so he can’t get an apartment even if he had money and a job. He has neither. He doesn’t have his driver’s license or a car. I understand that he’s desperately in need of help, but I’m not the one who can give him that help! I don’t even know who to call to get him help.

I’ve known for a while that his home situation was pretty ugly. In fact, almost every time he shows up at his house his stepfather beats him up. A couple of times the police have been called, but the stepfather and the boy’s mother always tell the police that the boy started the fight. I’ve never witnessed the fights so I can’t say who started it. But who is the adult here? And if they don’t want the boy with them anymore, don’t they have an obligation to find a place for him? Or am I just living in a sheltered world with my rose-colored glasses?

I’ve got enough problems trying to get Brianna on a better life path. I can’t take on another messed up teen!

If that’s not enough…I received a call from Emily, my daughter who never wants to talk to me unless she needs something. She has a cyst on her wrist that has grown and is now pinching a nerve and she’s in a lot of pain and her arm is weak and nearly nonfunctional. Her doctor has scheduled surgery for Tuesday of next week, just days before the wedding. I completely agree that this cyst needs to be removed, and I’m glad that she’s on top of the situation. But I’m not thrilled that I’m the one she is asking to be with her for the surgery and recovery. She never wants to talk to me. We argue all the time. I have out-of-town guests arriving on Tuesday night, more on Wednesday night, and more on Thursday night! I asked Emily if she would check in with her dad to see if he could be with her and she refused to ask him. “He’s totally unreliable, Mom, and he can’t remember anything these days. I need someone with me who I can trust to listen to the doctor’s instructions.” Interesting. I’ll take that as a left-handed compliment.

Rose and I went and picked up her wedding dress last night. The alterations are perfect and she is so thrilled with her dress. That’s a positive! We had a chance to get caught up on the strange RSVPs that have been received in the last few days. Several are from people who were not on the invitation list. After talking it through, Rose came to the conclusion that the “extra” invitations she gave to her future mother-in-law for scrapbooking were not saved and instead were mailed out. How fun!

The photographer we had lined up for the wedding has cancelled.

In the last 24 hours, I’ve developed a pain in my right foot. It’s like a burning sensation and it kept waking me up all during the night. I put ice on it this morning thinking that would relieve the pain, but it hasn’t helped. What is that all about?

And added to personal stuff, the company I work for did a reorganization and some reporting structures have changed. None of the changes affected me personally, and I’m glad about that. But the changes have impacted several of the people I interact with on a daily basis and they are not happy campers. One woman is so angry that her body language is shouting loudly to anyone who looks at her. Yesterday she made a very snide remark to me in a meeting and I let it go. Later on my boss mentioned it to me and he attempted to apologize for her. I just nodded my head.

I took all of next week off of work to get ready for Rose’s wedding. It frustrates me that I am having to use precious vacation time for this purpose, when I feel that I really need to get away from the chaos in my life and take a real vacation. Well, there’s no money for that anyway. And my week off of work will allow me to do everything I need to do as a mom to give Rose a special wedding day. I trust it will all come together and I have faith that it will be the special day Rose wants.

But in this moment, I have to problem solve the situation with this newcomer who’s moved into my basement. I’m almost afraid to ask, what is next?