Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Road to California

I saw the announcement in the way that news travels these days, on Facebook. No longer are notices done in calligraphy but instead our thoughts, hopes, and milestones are flung in 140 letter missives into cyberspace which in 2009 seems less like a matrix as it did in 1999 and more like a great pond where these ripples collide and wash up on the shores of people who can be distant not just in terms of physical location but also in the timeline of our lives. Email has become a reality, but long attention spans or delivery times seem to be endangered.

My cousin, Lexy, was engaged.

It was a happy moment, and the further good news was that she was coming out to San Francisco for the week with her fiancé.

She had moved to San Francisco a decade ago and lived first at my parent’s place and then in one of my father’s apartments. He would drive her to work, a journey that consisted of swerving around corners and swearing at Asian drivers. When they arrived downtown he would get a latte which she felt she didn’t need after the adrenaline rush. I like to think that these drives captured my father’s duality - deep family kindness combined with a Republican sense of responsibility. I don’t think that he ever was politically correct - he still thinks it is okay to make fun of germans even though WW II is over - but he loved giving advice to the daughter he never had even if it sounded like it was from a 1955 public service film.

She moved back to New Hampshire a few years ago. It was going to be good to see her again, and I asked the family if we could do a get together for dinner. The only tricky part was that we were worried what my father might say since while his driving was still mostly in the center of the lane his politics had shifted a little more to the right where he remains the possible last supporter of Bush in his zip code. All of which would have been fine expect that instead of Lexy’s fiancĂ© being named Victor she was called Victoria.

My cousin hadn’t left California with such an announced disposition. Her boyfriends never seemed to be great matches: their egos tended to be as large as her beauty. Her best companion was her dog.

When Lexy wrote back she mentioned that she was nervous about meeting my father for the first time since coming out, and I can only imagine the courage it must take to return to your family after doing something that you know wasn’t what they wanted.

We ordered upscale pizza from a shop on my street and brought out as many bottles of wine as we could find. My brother made it over with his wife and two daughters. My nieces played on my parents carpet while the rest of us nervously glanced around. We started with the bottle of red.

I heard a knock at the door and opened it to Lexy and Victoria. They came in and after getting a couple of slices of pizza that had broccolini (a vegetable that has migrated from garnish to ingredient) on it, we all sat down and did our best at conversation.

There were a few good rifts. Victoria is a landscape gardener (something that my mom enjoys) and the two of them want to buy real estate (something my father loves to scheme). Lexy was the one who asked Victoria out at a dance, yet Victoria was the one who proposed on a dock on a bay. They smiled and everyone drank.

Lexy said how much she missed California, and my father said how he missed the drives with her. It wasn’t a time to explore the depths of their dual nature - how they both have parts that swerve around society and parts that care deeply about love ones. But it was a time of welcoming and beginnings. My family grew not just in numbers this past week, but also at a small level of acceptance.