We all know this, yes?
In preparing for a wedding this upcoming weekend, and with weddings being an intense expression of love, family and friends, I think it’s time I told you the story of my family. Before I get into the nitty gritty though, I feel I should mention that writing well isn’t simply being able to string words together in a pleasant and readable way; it’s about being honest. Honest with yourself and with your audience. It’s about not fearing the consequences or the fall out from those who may be offended by your candor.
So here I go.
It starts with my parents. They met in the autumn of 1979 in San Francisco on what I imagine to be a foggy and blustery day. Both were 31 and physically in their prime; truly, they had never looked better and I have the photos to prove it.
Dad was working as the executive director for a nonprofit called Rescue Now, an organization that was sending doctors and nurses to refugee camps on the border of Thailand and Cambodia. If you need a refresher course on the situation in Cambodia in the 1970’s, Pol Pot became leader in 1975 and forced agrarian socialism on the country (essentially, he coerced the majority of the population into aggressive manual labor on farms and in the countryside... thanks, Wikipedia!). As dictator, he believed he was reviving civilization, and through his sadistic impositions, managed to kill about 2 million Cambodians in the process.
Mom was an emergency room nurse at Mount Zion hospital and had heard that Rescue Now was looking to hire medical staff that would be willing to go. She loves to travel, my mom, and decided to interview for one of the positions.
Her interviewer was my dad.
She was one of the selected nurses and had started getting everything in order when Rescue Now told her that unless she could stay in Thailand for a minimum of six months, she could not go. Mom knew three months was the longest she could take a leave from Mount Zion, and had to step down from the program. Being the person that she is, however, she decided to go to the airport and bid farewell to the nurses on the day of their departure.
This is where things get romantic.
My dad had come to say goodbye as well. He spotted the woman he had interviewed weeks prior, the one with the raven dark hair and long legs, outfitted in rolled up jeans, long socks and a pork pie hat, waving to the departing medical staff. He says she looked like Annie Hall. He was smitten.
He approached her and they started chatting. After a while, she offered him a ride back to his place; a date was suggested, accepted and things pretty much snowballed from that point on.
Within a month, my parents were head over heels in love. Not only that, they were still fixated on the idea of going to Thailand (crazy kids!). It was decided that my dad would fly out on his own dime and see if he could find positions for the two of them. He left soon after, and upon calling my mother back home to tell her the good news, threw in a marriage proposal as well.
This is the part of the story that manages to simultaneously shock and delight me. My parents are not the impulsive types. They analyze, they question, they take their time to think about the consequences of their decisions. Typically, they do not rush in. For whatever reason though, they did this time, and three months into their relationship, in a temple in Thailand, my parents were married.
And less than a year later, they would be divorced.