Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Wedding Log

Thank you for stopping by.  I know the last short story I offered was silly and less than entertaining.  But this story will not be silly.  But as for entertaining, you will have to determine that for yourself.  We all have dark recesses within us.  And Hans and Jennifer are now facing the darkness.  Share with me your reactions, if you would. -- Travis W. Inman

The Wedding Log

Hans rubbed his jaw and stared at the aspirin sitting on his breakfast plate, wishing he had some coffee to wash the pill down.  His unshaven face felt rougher than normal, but that seems to happen to him whenever he rolled around in his bed all night without sleeping properly.  He closed his eyes and exhaled slowly, hoping his headache didn't develop into a full blown migraine, but the tightness in his jaw foretold his future.

Finally, Jennifer filled his coffee cup and asked, "Did you find your pill?"

"Yes, thank you."  His German accent was hardly noticeable.  He was born and raised in the States; his father was the immigrant, not him.  But he still had a distant hint of his father's accent, especially when he was angry.  He reached for the aspirin and deliberately placed it on the back of his tongue, swallowing only when he had enough coffee to ensure the pill's safe delivery.  The bitter aftertaste seemed to suit him this morning.
He tried to read his newspaper while Jennifer scuttled about the kitchen from the frying pan to the toaster, but even the morning comics seemed dull and flat.  Didn't they used to be funnier?  He missed the Far Side, which was always funny.  But now he was living in the far side, and it isn't as much fun when it's real life.

Jennifer refilled his coffee and asked through a thin smile, "Is the caffeine starting to help, Honey?"  Of course, she knew it wasn't going to help.  He rarely got himself so worked up—anymore.  He tossed all night, and the few times he drifted off he ground his teeth, making those horrible nut cracking pops.  All night long.  Neither of them got any rest.  She poured herself a cup and sat across from him.  It was her place to sit, as it always had been from their early years.  They sat with Cassie between them when she was first born, and they never altered their seating arrangements from that day forward.  She reflected over her coffee for a moment longer, and then returned to the stove top, where the ham slices were starting to crisp on the edge, just the way Hans liked them.

He fussed with the paper a moment longer and then seemed to lose the strength to hold it up, allowing it to crumple in his lap.  Jennifer refilled his cup again.  This was going to be a two pot morning.  She dropped the first egg into the skillet and reached for the second before cautiously asking, "So, what are you going to do today?"

The paper snapped back to attention.  "I'm not going to the wedding.  That's what I'm going to do today."  He crumpled the paper like an accordion and shoved it into Cassie's chair.

Jennifer knew the answer, but she needed to hear him say it.  How many days could he brew about the same thing?  It had been months now, and she was starting to worry that Hans was going to suffer a stroke from the anxiety, which he wore like a night shirt, keeping it close to his heart, from the day Cassie announced her wedding plans with Alex.  They feared the wedding announcement because they already knew she was dating Alex.  They'd heard the rumors coming to them from their friends that she had met someone—and they were serious. 

Jennifer knew Hans hated himself for insisting that she go to California to college.  He was so proud when his daughter was accepted into law school; he bragged to anyone who would listen about his soon-to-be-lawyer daughter.  Oh, they had their moments, but his pride in his daughter was a constant for him, even when she was "expressing herself" in her teen years.  Hans was a stubborn man, and he had his rules.  How often had she cringed when he would shout at Cassie, "My house!  My rules!"  Jennifer knew how Cassie felt trapped in her last few years of high school.  Hans felt it was his duty to interview his daughter's suitors, and wasn't beneath issuing mild threats about how those young boys were to treat his daughter. 

Cassie was just as stubborn.  In fact, they were peas in pod.  They loved each other, but they frustrated each other so much that their relationship was confusing to everyone.  And Jennifer always felt as though she was the referee, constantly tossing out a yellow penalty flag when one of them overstepped and said something noxious.  Jennifer had always managed to bring them back together.  She could handle Hans, for she was the love of his life, and she could handle Cassie, for Cassie was always her little girl.  And now her little girl was going to get married.  To Alex.

The day they met Alex was difficult.  Hans was overly stubborn that evening, even though they met at a neutral site, but Hans wasn't going to like anyone Cassie brought home.  Her choices just didn't suit him.  And Alex was never going to win his approval.  Jennifer had to admit that Alex was a difficult person to like, and she herself struggled at dinner that night, each person trying to be civil, showing plenty of teeth, but not many laughs.  Cassie insisted they meet Alex before the wedding, which they did.  Alex tried to be polite, but there was little hope for things to work out right.  Hans would never approve.  And that was not going to change.

Jennifer remembered how Hans had wept that night sitting in front of the TV.  The only other time she'd seem him so emotional was when his father died.  On both of those nights she held him while he sobbed, the tears were flowing freely.  He was grieving Cassie's wedding as if it were her funeral.  And as far as he was concerned it was her funeral.  "When your children are small, they walk on your toes," he lamented.  "But when they are grown, they walk on your heart," and then he wept until he had nothing left to cry with.  Hans seemed so pathetic that night and the very memory of it brought tears to her eyes today.  She knew he blamed himself.  Hans knew that he tended to push Cassie away.  He just didn't know how to be a father to a girl who was as bull headed as himself.  When a child makes bad choices because the parents made bad choices, the pain those parents feel…the regret…seems to be a sorrow that can't be soothed.  Regret can be a hard pillow at night.  Self inflicted wounds hurt the most, and they bleed the longest. 

Jennifer dropped two perfectly cooked eggs onto his plate, along with two slices of toast and a thick ham steak.  It was his breakfast for more than 25 years.  As always, he waited a moment until Jennifer had assembled her plate and settled into her chair before uttering grace.  But today, grace didn't seem genuine. 
"Your brother isn't going to the wedding, either," Jennifer said casually.

He was busy slicing his eggs into tiny pieces.  "And he shouldn’t go.  It wouldn't be right."

"Do you realize that if we don't go, then no one from her family will be there?"

"How can we go?  How can we witness her marrying that…"  He reached for the salt and forced himself to relax.  "Alex is not fit for her to marry."

"Honey, I know.  I don't want her to marry Alex, either.  But she is going to do it, whether we like it or not."

Now the pepper.  "I wouldn't endorse her wedding under any circumstances.  They were sleeping together.  They were living together.  That…" his voice was hard, angry.  "That…"  He closed his eyes and practiced his counting technique.  "Alex had no business in her bed."

"I know," she said quietly.  "And I agree with you."

"It is sin," he said flatly.  "It is a horrible sin."  He lifted his fork and dripped egg yolk on the white table cloth.  "How can we show our faces at church?  What they have done is an abomination."  He looked down into his coffee.  "How can I endorse that?  Hmmm?  Tell me, how can I endorse an abomination?"

Jennifer buttered her toast.  "Hans, you can't endorse their sin.  I know that."  She took a small bite and placed it on her plate.  "I think only Alex's brother will be there.  And maybe some of her college friends."

"Well, I won't be there."  He waited for a response, but it never came.  For the first time since she sat down he looked directly at her.  "You aren't going to be there, are you?"  His concern was obvious.

Jennifer sipped her coffee before responding.  "She is my daughter, and I love her very much."
He slammed his hand on the table, rattling the silverware.  "I love her, too!" he growled.  "But I can't endorse this disaster."

"I can't turn my back on her, even if I don't approve."

"Well," he said through a large bite of ham.  "As far as I'm concerned, she is no longer our daughter.  Not if she marries Alex today."

Jennifer reached for the salt.  "Is that so?"

He clinched his jaw and fought the tears.  "I have no choice.  She had deliberately turned her back on our family.  On our beliefs.  On our…faith."

"I don't think Alex will last long," She observed.

"It matters not.  Once she says, 'I do,' then I don't.  I don't want to see her again, or allow her into this house with that…"  His lips curled in frustration and he closed his eyes and breathed.  "They are not allowed into my house together.  Ever.  And that's final.  Do you understand?"

She swallowed her bite of eggs.  "Well, let's not make statements that we have to regret later."

"What else can I do?  I have to be true to my convictions."

"Hans, she is our daughter.  She is my little Cassandra.  She is your pride and joy.  How can you just shut her out?"

"This marriage is an abomination."

"Yes, you've established that.  But when I go to the wedding, I am not endorsing her choices; I am showing my love for my daughter."

Hans knew he couldn't stop Jennifer from going.  It would be futile for him to try.  They never had a relationship where he lorded over her.  He always respected her individuality, even though they were a very traditional family.  Honestly, he wasn't surprised that she was going to the wedding.  Finally he said, "Well, if Papa was still alive, this would kill him.  It would put him in his grave."

"Yes, I suspect you're right about that.  He was a very stubborn man."

"Jennifer," he said quietly.  "Please don't go to the wedding.  Please respect my wishes."

Jennifer was silent for a long moment while she spread jam on her toast.  "Hans, I do respect your wishes.  I am not endorsing her choices, or even saying that I'm okay with it.  But, she is my daughter, and I love her unconditionally."

"But our faith," he pleaded.  "What about our faith?"

"Yes," she redirected.  "What about our faith?"  She closed the jar in her hand.  "What about our faith tells you that you can demonstrate God's love by turning your back on them?  How does that reflect our faith?"

"No!"  He pointed at her.  "Do not twist this around!  Their sin is clearly sin."

"I know that.  And that is between them and God.  We are not the ones who died to forgive them, Hans.  Their sin is not against us, but it is against God.  And Jesus himself accepted sinners.  He sat with them, and He ate with them.  He didn't simply shut them out because they were sinners.  You're faith should reflect His values, not yours.  What would Jesus do, Hans?"

He poked the edge of his ham steak and didn't respond.

"By being at that wedding, we are not saying that we approve of her choices.  We are saying that we love our daughter.  She already knows that we disapprove.  But when we arrive, she will also know that we still love her."

"They are still not welcome in my home."  He was still angry.  "In fact, we are going to turn her bedroom into a sewing room.  You've always wanted a sewing room, and now you have one."

"We are not going to do that.  We aren't going to change anything for at least a year.  And you can get off of your pedestal, Mister.  You know good and well that if Jennifer and Alex knock on that door you will let them in."

"Well," he rubbed his jaw.  "They aren't sleeping together.  And I'm not budging on that."

"Fine."  She refilled both of their cups.  "Right now you are offended.  Right now you are upset.  And so am I.  But over the years God has changed who you are, just as He has me.  Neither of us were perfect when we got married…"

"But this is different."

She stood and looked down at him.  "You and I both know that we didn't wait for our wedding night."

Hans's cheeks flushed.  "Well…"

"We almost made it."  She smiled and shook her head.  "One night short.  If my mother knew!"  She blew into her coffee.  "We waited until the night before we were married.  Does that make us sinners?"

He sighed.  "Well, you have to understand…"

"No, Hans.  Did that make us fornicators?"

He squirmed in his chair.  "Yes.  And I have regretted that for all these years."

"And would my mother have allowed us to visit in her home if she knew?"

His voice was smaller.  "Not on your life.  But this is different."

"Sin is sin, Hans.  We made mistakes, and God gave us a clean start.  Cassie is making mistakes, but God can give her a clean start, also.  But she is much less likely to turn to God for help if we use our religion as a crowbar to wedge her out of our lives.  Why would anyone want to seek help from a God when we are demonstrating that kind of faith?  It is the goodness of God that leads us to repent, right?  Cassie knows what we believe.  We raised her with the same set of values.  We have to let God work on her in His own way.  And we will love her and support her, no matter what she does."

"But what if she robs a bank?  Hmmm?  What if she kills a nun?"

Jennifer rolled her eyes.  "Really?  Hans?  What would Jesus do?  He would love us, no matter what we did.  We are to follow His example and reflect His love.  And there is a big difference between faith and religion.  What you are demonstrating is religion.  And I know you better than that.  You are a better man than that.  You have deeper faith than that.  So don't let your emotions rule your faith."

"But…" he was stubborn to the end.

"But, what?  Hans, you love Cassie.  Don't you?"

A tear formed in his eye.  "Of course."  He allowed Jennifer to touch his eye with a napkin.  "But I don't love Alex."

Jennifer thought about that for a moment.  "Okay.  I don't like her either.  But we will both work on that.  And God will lead us through, right?"

He resigned with a heavy sigh.  She was right, and he knew it.  He placed his napkin on his plate and stood.
"Where are you going?  You haven't finished your breakfast."

"I need to polish my shoes.  The last time I wore them they got scuffed.  And Papa would roll over in his grave if I went to a wedding with scuffed shoes."

1 comment:

Travis said...

I've been getting feedback on the parents not waiting for their honeymoon. What are your thoughts?