On navigating family joy amidst family crises

Pea’s step-brother got married this weekend, to his long-time girlfriend. It was a truly gorgeous, fun, personal tying of the knot. They are both performers, so attention to how the day unfolded and how their guests (audience) would experience it had been paid. There was a flash mob that was hilariously messed-up but ended up looking (to the outsider) amazing. The vows included a sonnet and a rap, as well as the statement “Here are the things you have to say in my vows, you’ll know when to come in.” (and she did.)  There was Southern BBQ and what was possibly the most delicious wedding cake I’ve had the pleasure of eating (more on the cake later).

Pea’s family has some discordant notes, but everyone loves this couple, and was delighted to be celebrating their day. No drama, no anger, no ruffled feathers (unlike the last wedding I went to with this group….). It was lovely, start to finish.

It was also really fucking hard. It was so nice to be surrounded by celebrations of love, and family, but it was also jarring when juxtaposed with emails from home*. It was hard to have carved out time to see family, and have it not be the family lying in hospital beds. It was REALLY hard to be the next in line for a wedding with all the attendant questions.  Would Pea and I have set a date and gotten a wedding semi-organized before last weekend if all was well in Canada? Not a chance. I could still answer with my usual “oh, we will eventually, it’s a transition point right now, we’re not really sure what we want, weddings are stupid and being engaged is fun, we just bought a house so maybe we’ll take a breath on life changes, yada yada yada”, and mostly that is what I answered.

All of those things are true, but so is the fact that I’m trapped. I don’t know when my father will be able to take a day trip to come to a wedding. I don’t know how long either of my paternal figures can be reasonably expected to still be around. I don’t know what that window is, the window where everyone is ok and is able to come. It might get clearer, if my dad’s current rehab doctor is able to get him off the ventilator, when my step-father’s pathology report comes back. We will know more, eventually. This weekend though, when asked half a hundred times about Pea and my wedding, I dissembled. A wedding is not a place to wail “I need all of my family out of the hospital before I can really think of this”. But after the 40th or so time, I needed to wail just to reset.

So I did. I locked myself in one of the bathrooms and had a good old sob. It would have been shorter, but I’d managed to serendipitously lock myself away right when the parent-child dances were happening, so I was able to just sob my way through those, clean myself up, rejoin the wedding, and grab another slice of cake**, no one the wiser.


* all good news, but good news like my father passing his swallow test and being allowed soft foods for the first time in two months. Good news like my step-dad being released from hospital to continue healing at home, away from C. diff and other baddies. Still big, hard, good news if at a rooftop BBQ far away.
** two generous pieces of cake on top of southern BBQ on top of the legless-making drinks in the extended cocktail hour plus a lot of jumping and dancing = another Labmonkey-locked-in-bathroom moment in which I removed indelicately many of those items from my stomach. Whoops. I do love excess, and was maybe not paying close enough attention to my life choices hour-to-hour. However, I was decidedly less hungover than Pea and that was probably why. I did tell Pea I barfed. I didn’t tell Pea I bawled. I was actually having a nice time, despite all the bathroom breaks, and didn’t want him to worry that night. We talked a bit about this visit being hard afterwards, so he knows where I’m at.

4 thoughts on “On navigating family joy amidst family crises

  1. thecommonostrich

    I feel this SO HARD. It’s so difficult to be in situations like that when you’re dealing with a whole lot of sad stuff. It’s like you have a little grey cloud that follows you around and colors all your decisions.

    If I have any words of unsolicited advice… Live your life. You can’t predict what will happen next with either your dad or step-dad’s health. It makes little sense to speed things up or put something off when you can’t predict the future. Do you– they’ll likely love and support you no matter what.

    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      Thanks Ostrich – I’ve managed to come to agreement on this, that I’ve just got to do what I need to. Buy a house the day before my step-dad has surgery? Yes. Hold of on getting married til Pea and I can do exactly what we want, even if it means I risk losing some key guest? Yes. I’m trying so hard to take your earlier advice about not borrowing worry. Hard, but good.

  2. conceptionallychallenged

    This sounds so hard. I’m glad you still had a good time overall. Even now I often have a hard time at family gatherings, although fortunately noone is in the hospital and I find questions about baby plans (ha) much easier to take with a living toddler to chase after.

    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      Life questions in uncertain times are always hard! I think not having gotten married yet has shielded Pea and I from a lot of the baby questions, so that is an unexpected bonus.


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