Real and Imagined

January 30, 2010

So today is the one year anniversary of the death of my wife’s brother.

He was adopted at 2 weeks, having been born to circus workers. True story. From what I understand, he was withdrawn, shy, awkward. A voracious reader, a video game player. House of Leaves was his favorite book, if you know what I mean. He was hard to raise and rarely happy.

The thing is that Wifebian’s dad disowned him his freshman year of college because he was being immature and hurtful, kinda like how children of divorced parents can be. And so, when he died, it had been 3 years since the family had spoken to him in any meaningful way.

Now there is some civil suit and Wifebian’s parents have driven an hour south every day for like a week to hear depositions. From the trucking company, from the liquor store owner, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from the coroner. Grueling, gruesome stuff. Perhaps worst of all, in some cruel twist of logic and karma, the defense is trying to bring Wifebian’s dad’s relationship with his son into question, to inspire doubt as to whether his dad is really entitled to this law suit. The fact of their estrangement is not unimportant to this argument.

Tonight, Wifebian’s dad is getting a tattoo to commemorate Wifebian’s brother, maybe the 3rd or 4th commemorative tattoo he has gotten on this subject, and then the whole family is going out to dinner at Wifebian’s brother’s favorite restaurant. It is very probable that everyone will order the most expensive thing on the menu and a Diet Coke, because that’s what Wifebian’s brother always did. I really like that about them, they have a much stronger sense of tradition that I was raised with.

Apparently, there was some question as to whether I would be invited to this dinner. Wifebian thinks that her parents do not feel entitled to tell middle sil that her husband can’t come because he is her husband and thusly it would be too conspicuous to fail to invite me, so I’m not not invited.

And I will try not to drink more than everyone else, but inevitably I do because her father is paying and then I feel guilty, again, because her father is paying, and it’s such a boring pattern.

Plus, there was a snowstorm here today. It is cold and icy, almost nothing is plowed. It’s one of those strange, singular days where everyone is humming with emotion — I mean, really? A snowstorm and the one year anniversary? Really? It makes me nervous. On snow days, I am too giddy to make good decisions and I get distracted, so I do things like lock keys in cars and ignore deadlines. Everyone in Wifebian’s family, medicated or not, is sure to be perseverating on car crashes, both real and imagined.

So, other than that fact that I will spend 30 bucks of someone else’s money on white wine, it’s hard to say what this dinner will be like. I have a suspicion everyone hopes, in their own way, that I just keep my mouth shut. From what I’ve gathered, I’m not supposed to ask questions, state an opinion or make observations about anyone’s emotional state. The problem is that I have no other conversational skills.  So I sit quietly and smile, trying not to make Wifebian nervous, except that she gets nervous when I’m quiet, so we both are uncomfortable. And I drink my wine and watch mil drink hers until I see that she’s had enough to start looking me in the eye. Then, I know she’s about to say, “I’ll have another glass if you do.” Then, I let her order another glass for me and start to test the waters by mentioning an opinion that is sure to be widely-held and popular: “I love those light fixtures.”

Hm. Apparently I do know what to expect.


In observing, I’ve noticed that most people, during conversation, just exchange basic statements of fact.

“He loved to read.”

“Yes, he had lots of books.”

“The lady at the library said that they have never gotten so many donations in honor of someone.”

“This bloomin’ onion is, like, a thousand calories.”

I have noticed, though, that it is OK to ask questions or state opinions if you are doing it about weather, traffic, dieting or the baby.

“How many weeks are you?”

“I’ve gained 10 pounds. If one more person asks about my twins I’m going to punch them. ”

“You should be careful on the way home.”

“I just love the tutu you got for her.”

“How many inches are we supposed to get?”

“Be careful on the way home.”


3 Responses to “Real and Imagined”

  1. Me said

    Man. Sounds like you have the potential for a rough evening. Here’s to white wine 😉

  2. Nicole said

    This evening sounds like it had the potential to be a scene in a Coen brothers film. So now I have to ask, how did it go?

  3. MamaDeux said

    How did it go? Nice that they are marking the anniversary, creating this tradition, but sucks that they won’t / don’t / can’t talk about it in an emotionally honest way. My own brother died last year and sounds similar to Wifebian’s brother – the withdrawn-ness, the video games, the estrangement. Also similar how some elements of my family just don’t talk much about it, beyond the simple “oh, he would have thought that movie was funny.” Hard stuff. I’d be guzzling white wine alongside you.

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