October 29th, 2006

duke-stop

Phone Call and Wedding

I received kind of a scary voice message from my father this evening. Or at least, it scared me... even though it turned out to be nothing of consequence.

To understand my worry, it is first important to note that my dad rarely calls me. He's just not a chatting sort of person, and usually he lets my mom handle schedule-planning and such. So it was strange hearing from him at all.

The message he left on my cell phone sounded deliberately vague. My whole family is planning on traveling to New Jersey this weekend for my cousin N's engagement party. His message was something along the lines of, "Hi Rennie, this is Dad. Your aunt just call me, to talk about N's... affair. I just left a detailed message on your home machine. When you listen to it call me back and we'll discuss... the situation."

I was driving home at the time, and my mind started spinning. The oddity of his calling at all, the way he spoke slowly and without any specific nouns or details, the way he sounded too tired to repeat whatever news it was he was trying to share.....

Well it frightened me. Was N sick? Did they cancel the engagement? Had my 91-year-old grandmother died? Had something terrible happen to the fiance? I eventually decided that the best case scenario was that they had broken off the engagement, and I'd have to pay to have my airline ticket transferred to a happier date/time.

Hating the fact that something was wrong and I didn't know what, I started speeding through traffic, wishing I was already home.

I probably sound like a massive pessimist and worrier right now. But the fact is: these things have happened in my family before. Several years ago, my brother broke off an engagement just one month before the wedding. A few relatives were stuck with useless plane tickets after that. Also many years ago, my fiance died tragically, ten months before our planned wedding.

I've received the kind of phone call I was imagining before. I've made those awful phone calls before. I actually had to call my parents on vacation in Ireland, and they ended their trip early to come home, back when my fiance died.

My cousins and I used to joke about "The Family Curse". There are six of us total in my generation, all descended from my grandmother. We have all had trouble with relationships, and for awhile there we seemed incapable of marrying. Not one of us got married until four years ago -- when the youngest cousin had turned twenty-five -- though there were two painfully ended engagements and several broken hearts. Even today, there are only two marriages among the six of us. N will be number three.

If it all works out, that is. Up until today I had no reason to believe any differently, but once I heard my father's vague and poorly worded message, all I could think about was our silly jokes about the Family Curse. I was so sure that something awful had happened, and I was just hoping it wasn't too awful.

When I got home and eagerly listened to my answering machine, it turned out that my dad just wanted to talk about sleeping accommodations. All that worry for nothing. I was embarrassed but relieved.

I called my father back, saying nothing about my groundless fears. Everything was and is just fine -- but for awhile there, I was extremely worried. It's interesting how your past will affect your present sometimes, in such unexpected ways.