Sunday, January 15, 2012

Up And Down, Part One: Saying Goodbye

I look in the rear view mirror, and I see the day just past. And I'm glad it's gone.

It didn't start in a way I wanted it to at all - with a funeral. Joy's best friend's daughter died while I was playing at Boomtown. She could be a sweet girl when she wanted to be, but her demons led her to a lot of dark places, and eventually to oblivion. I could say a lot more, but I choose not to. To be totally honest, the service wasn't what was bothering me - where it was being held was. Allow me to explain.

It's 1994. Joy and I are madly in love, happily engaged and planning a wedding for April Fools' Day. And believe it or not, Joy was actually a Christian at the time. When we got together, she was attending this small Baptist church here in town. Joy's first marriage had been a civil service in the County - City Building in Tacoma, and she wanted a church wedding this time around. I was fine with that, so long as she registered to vote. So we went to to the church's pastor and asked if he would marry us. He asked us a few questions, then went back to his office to meditate and pray on it. Five minutes later, we had our answer:


Joy was crushed, and almost immediately in tears. I was gobsmacked - why would he possibly say no? Well, he explained. In his little weltanschauung (that's 'world view' in German, FYI), because Joy had left her first husband - never mind that at the time, he'd done some pretty bad things which I shall not mention, enough that Joy left him for all the right reasons - she was no longer fit for marriage in the eyes of God.

I vaguely remember him offering to be our witness at a civil ceremony, but I was too busy pushing Joy to her car while keeping us both from tearing that smug redneck bastard into bite-size chunks. The next day, I called my best man Adrian, and he suggested his church, a Foursquare church in the Sequim Valley. After meeting with his pastor, and kind and gentle behemoth of a man who moonlighted as the offensive-line coach for the high-school football team (and someone my mother knew and respected, even though she's the next best thing to an atheist), he not only offered himself and his church to us, but offered us a bargain-basement rate for renting the church on one condition: that we submitted to be the guinea pigs for a marriage-counseling program that the Foursquares were developing.

Allow me a brief departure. If you know me, you know I despise organized religion. It was instilled in me at a very early age, watching my dad turn off my cartoons to laugh mercilessly at Jerry Falwell and Ernest Angley. This distrust served me well in the era of the cartoonish televangelists of the 80's. Yet the Foursquares' gentle, kind, and understanding guidance in those months not only helped us learn more about each other, it helped me to learn a little something about myself, something I know is there, but I still can't quite put my finger on. I do know that the program certainly saved our marriage a few times. Despite my distrust, the Foursquares helped us immensely, and to this day still hold a certain fond place in my memory. And had it not been for the combination of distance and shitty cars, we could very well have remained in the Foursquares - I was that okay with them.

So here we were, the counseling program going great guns, and the wedding plans moving on pace for that First of April date. When we sent out the invitations, there was some debate on whether or not to invite Pastor A and his family. I wasn't thrilled about it, but we sent it - forgive and forget, and all that bullshit. Bad move. The Sunday after they got their invite, friends of ours that still attended the church told us that Pastor A spent his entire sermon bitch-slapping us for our crime of wanting a church wedding, calling us - and I'm quoting here - 'godless heathen sinners', and calling Pastor B a 'fake Christian who only wanted to get butts in the seats' (meaning: make money off of suckers). Remember how I described Pastor B? While Pastor A was a small, wiry guy at the time, B was an ex-jock - and I don't think he would've taken being called a 'fake' very well. I'm glad I never told that to B.

And the final insult came months after the wedding, when against my advice, Joy fairly dragged her kids and I back to Church A. A made nice, but after the service, couldn't be bothered to drop the hammer on us himself, and delegated his wife to inform us that we were no longer welcome there, accusing us of talking badly about Church A. So long as I live, I'll never forget that stiff-legged walk of Joy's as she grabbed me by the first available appendage and yelled at the kids to get in the car, telling me we'd never see the inside of that church again as she explained what had happened out of my sight and earshot.

Back to 2012. Back to the funeral. Joy was dead-set on going and supporting her best friend. I suggested that a red-hot poker in the ass would be preferable to entering that vipers' nest. But I went, if only to make sure that if Pastor A or his wife gave either of us the stinkeye, that their asses were grass, and I ran the lawnmower. It turns out I needn't have bothered. The best friend's son, himself a pagan like Joy, and with his own issues with A, laid down the law before we'd even left the house. That said, I still sat quietly through the entire service, eyes closed, with my mp3 player blasting nothing but the angriest, most hateful, blatantly Satanic music in my collection (tips of the proverbial hat go to Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth, and Old Man's Child). But nobody noticed us, no stinkeyes were detected, though my heart nearly jumped out of its box when A's wife came right up to Joy and chatted amiably with her for several moments, before Joy's bad hip began to flare up and we quietly took our leave. We'd scarcely been there an hour - though to me it felt like the longest hour of my life.

And there were many hours left in my day, more than I care to talk about right this minute. Let me get some sleep, I'll explain the rest of my Saturday to you then.

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