My daughter is getting married a week from Saturday. I wrote about the family trip where she became engaged in my last book, so I won’t write about it again in deference to the six of you who have already read about it. The foregoing is a shameless attempt to coerce you into reading Stumbling Toward Victory. Full disclosure is important (unless you’re a politician).
We are deeply engaged in wedding planning. As usual, when I use the term “we,” I mean “they” – I’ve been forbidden from expressing opinions about anything important unless specifically asked, and then I’m usually provided with the acceptable response beforehand. It simplifies things, and honestly, I don’t have opinions about some of the most critical issues. I didn’t even know there was a color called “champagne.” I know what champagne is, of course – it’s a beverage that people who are not planning a wedding can afford to drink.
Amy recently asked me to look at a piece of cloth and express an opinion about the color, and I foolishly tried to comply instead of asking, “well, honey, what do YOU think,” waiting thirty seconds while I practiced my “look of attention”, and then saying, “I think so, too.” Remembering fondly the days when people asked my opinion and then hung on my every word while I provided it (feel free to remember things the way YOU want to; grant me the same courtesy), I hitched up my jeans and said, “which piece of cloth?”
“Oh it’s over there,” she said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of a floor-to-ceiling rack of cylindrical bolts of cloth that were all exactly the same color. “The champagne-colored one.”
I’ve been down this road before and I was in no mood to hear that I was being willfully non-compliant, so Izzy and I shuffled over to the rack and began analyzing. After about 15 minutes, we returned to deliver the verdict.
“It looks nice,” I said. Izzy glanced up at me, and I could tell she was thinking, “you don’t expect to get away with this, do you?” Sometimes having a dog that is smarter than you are is a blessing; this was not one of those times.
“Nice, huh? What about the texture and weight? Do you think it will work as a pleated or gathered altar cloth?” Amy said, instinctively circling to the side to flank me and look for a vulnerable spot.
“It’s soft, and the weight is fine,” I said with a touch of panic. “I think it’ll be great.” I turned to put Izzy between me and Amy; Izzy turned with me and stayed behind my legs. “‘You started this, you finish it,” Izzy’s look said.
“Show me,” Amy said, her eyes narrowing, and I buckled like a Kleenex suspension bridge.
“They’re all the same damn color; how do I know which one is champagne?”
“What have you been doing for the last 15 minutes? THIS one is taupe, THIS one is ecru, THIS one is sand…and THIS one is champagne.”
“It looks nice,” I said again, mostly not to admit defeat.
Amy made a sound that defies description, but that every married man knows. This sound is the reason wives win arguments, the reason men go to war, the reason NASCAR and hunting and golf and beer and Bass Pro Shops exist.
When Izzy speaks, I understand her. The reason she is so clear is that I decide what her nonverbal clues mean, and they mean whatever I want them to. Izzy says whatever I need her to say, and she and I are ok with that.
When Amy makes The Sound, I am also free to interpret. The Sound usually means some combination of “you’re an idiot” and “I love you,” but the proportions of those two ingredients vary with time, location, and circumstance. The current meaning of The Sound is also impacted by how long it’s been since the last time she made The Sound, and how many times that day it’s been necessary.
On this day, she was forced to make The Sound repeatedly and almost continuously, and the meaning had shaded into, “you’re an idiot” and “go wait for me in the parking lot while I start the truck,” with only a little bit of “I love you” which may or may not have actually been there.
I can’t be blamed – fabric stores are not my natural habitat. Neither is it my natural role to express an opinion about the qualities of the color champagne, as distinguished from ecru or taupe. The changes in our normal patterns of behavior and interaction demanded by Parkinson’s disease aren’t natural either, but we still manage. She didn’t run me over with the truck (MY truck, which she drives whenever we’re out together – if I drive, she makes The Sound), but I didn’t wait for her to decide. Iz and I crossed the parking lot and found a barbecue restaurant to wait out the remainder of the fabric shopping.
Parkinson’s disease causes unavoidable friction in relationships, but it’s likely that some that friction would have been there anyway. A realistic approach, a touch of humor, and a dog all make things easier. Barbecue doesn’t hurt, either. Most days, The Sound has more love than idiot in it, and even if it doesn’t, I have faith that it will again soon, and that until then I can hear what I want to.
And, I really do think the altar cloth for my daughter’s wedding will be nice.