About a year ago, I received an extremely generous offer from the owner of a blog that I enjoy. Loretta allowed me to write a guest entry for her blog "Observations of a Misfit" once a week. She edited my stories, made me look much better than I really am, and taught me a great deal. In fact, anyone who is displeased with the fact that I write now, you may blame Loretta. After all, she started it. I probably wouldn't have started writing anything more than a grocery list without her encouragement. Now that I've got my own place to ramble, the entries that I first wrote for "Observations of a Misfit" will be posted here at "Life's a Funny Thing." So here is the first entry I ever wrote, "The Perfect Groom." And Loretta, thanks for everything. You're the best.
January 21, 2005
The Perfect Groom
For those among us cursed with the burden of having a perfect sibling, I have some advice. Wait. That’s it. Just wait. Because when he (or she) finally goofs up, it’s totally worth it. Nonetheless, while you wait, placing an ad in the local paper listing his car for sale is always enjoyable.
When we were growing up, my brother, Ryan was what I liked to call the golden boy of the family, the super overachiever. I enjoyed calling him these things for two very good, not envy motivated at all, reasons. (The envy motivated name was, “Mama's Boy.”) First, I did it because it was true. Second, and I think you’ll agree that this was the more important reason: it really annoyed him.
Not only was he the sole child in our family spared the nightmare of orthodontia; he was the perfect student and the model child. He was the only child in our family to possess a modicum of athletic skill or physical coordination. More than once my other brothers (known as favorite
children numbers 2 and 3) and I (known to spend vast amounts of time in my room as unfair penance for various infractions) heard from one of our parents the confidence boosting remark, “Ryan is the only one of my children who walks properly.” Okay, I admit that the rest of us tended to walk quickly, leaning forward slightly as if facing a strong wind. But seriously, isn’t that carrying comparison a bit far?
Ryan? Well...he strutted. There’s really no other way to describe it. Of course, we inadequate walkers had deep concerns that our infirmity would somehow prevent us from achieving any success in life. Okay, not “deep” concerns, but more than a little irritation.
His most notable skill was his gift for manipulating our mother. This is where Ryan and I are vastly different - that and all the other stuff. Ryan was like a believable Eddie Haskell. I couldn’t lie to Mom. In my defense, it was not for lack of trying. I just always got caught. Ryan, on the other hand, could tell her he’d met three leprechauns for lunch that gave him permission to skip school in exchange for the dryer lint he had in his pockets. Mom would just smile. If I tried skipping school with a very believable, albeit completely fictitious illness, I’d be subject to a little mother/daughter time that would rival the Spanish Inquisition. Apparently Mom gave certain children extra points for originality.
While I was a socially phobic, library-lurking geek, he was outgoing, friendly and cool. In high school, he was the coveted date for every dance. In a nauseating, though hardly unexpected, pattern, Ryan was beloved by his teachers at school, his leaders at church, and pretty much anyone who met him. So it’s understandable, really that I resented him enormously.
In college Ryan was able to get a highly enviable campus job that consisted mostly of meeting dignitaries at the airport, and guiding campus tours in a golf cart. (Okay, the golf cart wasn’t bad, because I did get a ride to class now and then.) So it came as no surprise, really, when he introduced us to the girl he intended to marry: Kimberly is beautiful, intelligent and talented.
The day of the wedding arrived; the bride was gorgeous, the groom was handsome. Some people say there is no such thing as a perfect wedding, that something will go awry somewhere. I’d like to point out that these people are completely wrong. Ryan’s wedding day went perfectly.
The ceremony took place in a town about an hour away. At the time, our dad owned a car that seemed more appropriate for the occasion than Ryan’s mountain bike, so Ryan traveled to the wedding with our parents in Dad’s car, and after the wedding, Mom and Dad rode to the reception in Provo with hubby and me. Everything remained perfect. Being the good sister I am, I assisted others in the effort to completely cover Dad’s car, since the happy couple were taking it to the airport following the reception. It was quite a work of art, really: Oreo’s on the windshield, balloons everywhere, messages beautifully written in shaving cream script. When we were finished, I don’t think there was a visible square inch of the car beneath the decorations. We were so proud.
I could tell by the way Ryan punched me in the shoulder just a little too hard that he was duly impressed. He has since claimed that when he said he was going to track us down and throttle us, he was only kidding.
The newlyweds got into the car and disappeared through the country club gates into the night, as all of us waved and cheered. The guests and family stood in the parking lot chatting about how lovely the day had been, and a few minutes later Ryan came back through the gates, alone, on foot, and furious.
“There’s something wrong with your car!” he announced. In extreme irritation, he waited while enough men were rounded up to push the car back. Fortunately it hadn’t gone far. Dad stalked over to the car to investigate, while Mom bustled around, attempting to settle Ryan down. I stood watching, spellbound. Finally Dad announced, “It’s out of gas, Ryan. Didn’t you put gas in it?”
“You said there was enough gas in it this morning!” Ryan came back. At this point, I expressed my deep concern and compassion for Ryan's plight in the form of a snicker. I caught my husband's eye and saw that he, too, was cracking up.
Dad’s fuel habits are legendary. I don’t know exactly what he thinks will happen if he puts more than two or three gallons of gas in the car at a time, but whatever he's worried about, it must be awful. I have never known him to spend more than five dollars at a stop for fuel. I do know that the first time I filled the tank in one of his previous cars, the gas needle went into shock and the gauge never worked again.
Dad tapped the computer screen on the dashboard where flashed a three inch high picture of an empty fuel can. Low Fuel! It warned in ominous red letters.
“No,” Dad reminded him, “I said there was enough gas to get to the temple this morning. I didn’t say you could just drive around all day and never run out.”
In a brilliant strategic attempt at diverting blame, Ryan said, “Well, I don’t trust your car. There something wrong with it.” Mom interrupted her breakdown to jump in assuring him that we would send someone for gas, and then they could be on their way. Ryan continued to blame the car. Kimberly backed him up with her corroborative observation: “I think there’s something wrong with the car because on the way back today, this light on the dashboard kept flashing.”
To this day, I don't know if she was serious. I prefer to believe she was just trying to be supportive. “You mean the light that is a picture of an empty gas can and the words Low Fuel? That light?” asked Dad.
Mom came to Ryan’s rescue by offering to allow him to take her car. Ryan and his bride accepted the offer immediately, moved their luggage into Mom's car, and once again drove away.
While my husband was sent for gas, my car was loaded with the wedding gifts we had just removed from Mom’s car. Mom and I then departed in my car, while my husband and my dad stayed behind to take care of Dad’s car. What no one stopped to think about was that Dad and my husband were left, in their formal wear, to take a heavily decorated car to a gas station, and then share a twenty minute drive home together. For reasons I still don’t fully understand, it didn’t occur to them to remove any of the decorations, either.
My husband told me that all the way home people honked and shouted congratulations, only to get closer and see two tuxedoed men inside. My husband was driving, which was a shame since he really would have preferred to duck and cower on the floor. But he's nothing if not a good sport. Dad, oblivious to the reason for all the extra attention, simply smiled and waved to everyone. “It was kind of like being in a parade!” he recalled.
In the end, Ryan and Kim got to the airport in time to make their flight. They have gone on to have a very happy, though imperfect marriage.
My brothers and I had the very great satisfaction (petty, but great) of seeing Ryan in a flawed moment. Although we never did learn to walk satisfactorily, I’m pleased to say we have still managed to live reasonably successful lives.
Mom recovered well from the whole drama. The favoritism changed, though. Now we all equally embarrass her. As for Dad and my husband, they were delighted to receive complimentary nachos from the gas station attendant.