Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Getting Engaged, In Perspective

The night he proposed to me, my parents were both out of the country. I tried to call their cell phone several times to share the great news but couldn’t get through.  The next morning, they phoned and, thinking they were returning the missed calls, I excitedly prepared to gush and squee with my mother.  Unfortunately, they were not returning my missed calls; my father was calling to tell me that my mother had an accident, broke her leg in several places, and was in the hospital. 

At the moment, she's awaiting surgery and I've been thanking every lucky star that they're in country where everyone speaks impeccable English and the hospitals can provide advanced medical care. Ultimately, she will heal, although the recovery will likely be long and painful and we don’t yet know when she’ll be able to return to the States or all the challenges she'll face during rehab. All I could think about on that call was how much I wished I was nearby to help out and hug her, or what I could do to help prepare their house for any wheelchair or mobility needs, and how lucky we are that it's not worse.

On the first few calls with by father, I didn’t mention the engagement because, frankly, it wasn’t important. I wasn’t thinking about sparkly ring stories while my father relayed his foreign hospital saga, insurance company phone calls, and nightmare travel logistical changes. A few days later, when I finally spoke with my mother and felt sure she was stable and comfortable, I finally shared our engagement story. And she swears the good news will help her heal faster (anything I can do!)

Weddings and engagements and marriage don’t happen outside of the context of everyday life.  Along with the good, bad things surprise us in life-happens moments. And that’s precisely why I want to have a wedding and get married. I want to get married because hard things happen – they’ll happen tomorrow, they’ll happen the week before the wedding, and they’ll happen the year after the wedding, but a strong partnership helps you look for the good and manage the bad.  I want to get married because I know I can trust him to take care of me, whatever the cost, if I end up in a foreign (or domestic) hospital.  I want to get married because this is a man who knows when to hug, who knows when to make a joke, and who knows how to just listen when it’s hard. 

So if I can get all that love and partnership with a marriage, why bother with a wedding and why not elope? Well, I want to have a wedding because I want to celebrate our joy with the people I love most in the world, not because I want a big party and a pretty dress. I mean, I want the party and a pretty dress too, but what I really want is my mother, safe and sound and stateside, to experience this and all of my future celebrations.  And I also want a wedding because ritual celebrations are about finding joy, despite hardship, and about fiercely refusing to let hardship stand in the way of our happiness.  Hardship will always exist, but I want to face it head on, fortified by the love of my partners, family and closest friends.

Mom, I love you, and I can't wait to have you home again.

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