Monday, July 1, 2013

Meeting the In-Laws

I recently returned from a quick trip to Augsburg, Germany which, despite US Airways best attempts to ruin the experience on both the trip over and the return flight, was an unexpectedly good time.  I say "unexpectedly" because I'm a homebody who doesn't enjoy travelling anymore, and honestly I had been anticipating the journey with more trepidation than excitement ever since the necessity of the trip became apparent.  There are not many things that would get me to embark on a trans-Atlantic flight for a 5 day stay away from home, but the marriage of my older son is one such inducement.

It's been almost a year since Joshua moved to Germany and got married to Daniel in a small, private ceremony, so an occasion to bring the families and friends together to celebrate the marriage was long overdue. Making arrangements for such an event is never simple and when the guests are scattered around the globe (literally) with a variety of commitments and obligations finding a date that works for everyone can be nigh impossible, but finally June 19, 2013, was settled upon and I packed my bags for the journey. Josh's brother, Alex, would fly with me and we would join their mother in Augsburg the day before the celebration, with plenty of time to settle in and get ready for the big event.

You know what they say about "the best laid plans..." - our flight was delayed by several hours and when we finally arrived in Munich our luggage, with our clothes for the dinner party, was nowhere to be found. Subsequent investigation determined it to be still in Philadelphia, the departure point of our international flight, with no prospect for arrival in time for the occasion. "Plan B" was quickly formulated - it so happens that Josh and I wear clothes of about the same size, and Danial and Alex are both tall, slender young men who can share a wardrobe, so there was no need to  purchase new clothes, we would simply borrow some. Problem solved.

The weather was another matter. The day we arrived it was sunny and hot, as was the next day but the forecast for the evening, when the celebratory dinner was to take place on the restaurant's outdoor veranda, called for "class 2" storms - whatever that means. Well, for once a weather forecast was accurate and just before the appointed time the skies opened up with torrential rains and golf-ball sized hail, accompanied by high winds - the very definition of a "class 2" storm, apparently. Those of us already in Augsburg arrived on time, but wet. The guests coming from Munich were delayed by a loss of power on their train, and those coming from elsewhere faced a variety of challenges depending on their location and their mode of transportation. Eventually, though, everybody arrived and the party was moved to an indoor dining room that had been reserved for just such a circumstance. Problem solved.

The dinner, as arranged and paid for by Josh and Daniel, was elegant with multiple courses of food and drink all carefully selected to appeal to the tastes and sensibilities of the diverse guest list - maybe you "can't please all of the people all of the time" but they came pretty close and if there were any complaints, I didn't hear them.  But the food and drink, good as they were, paled in comparison to the company.

Josh and Daniel's circle of friends, many of whom were in attendance, includes a fascinating array of young people engaged in a variety of projects and adventures. For me, though, nobody was more fascinating and interesting than Daniel's parents, Mono and Paul. Both are international music stars in their own right, but perhaps Paul is better known in the US because of his appearance on records with the likes of Freddy Mercury, Eric Burdon and Sting. There was no formal seating arrangement for the dinner but I found myself, through a stroke of sheer good luck, sitting directly opposite these two fascinating individuals, and since the marriage of our sons has united our families we had much to discuss. And talk we did, mostly about the '60s, music and old hippies since those were topics to which we could all relate and about which we all had something to say. This was an opportunity to get to know one another through small talk rather than discussion of serious matters, and to this end I think we enjoyed great success. By the time the dinner was over we had a sense of what "the in-laws" were all about, and Mono and Paul invited my family and me to come to their home later in the week to continue to get acquainted.

Saturday afternoon the two families, joined into one by the marriage of Josh and Daniel, came together for light refreshments and enjoyable conversation at the residence of Mono and Paul on the outskirts of Munich. It's been a long time since I had a more enjoyable afternoon; we were welcomed with the warmth and hospitality usually reserved for close family members or long time friends, and we had a free-wheeling conversation that ranged from Freddy Mercury's tuna salad recipe (which was delicious) to world politics. By the time we had to leave to catch our train for the return to Augsburg I was confident that my son had married into a family that has an abundance of love and kindness to share, and don't we all need all the love and kindness we can get?

Every marriage involves two people certainly, but it also involves the circle of people close to them - their families (the in-laws) and close friends who support the marriage and help the couple make it through the hard times that every relationship inevitably faces. I take great comfort in the fact that Josh and Daniel live close to Mono and Paul, who have the wisdom, experience and love to help see them through whatever difficulties they may face.

Now that I'm back home, thousands of miles away from the newly weds, I can only hope that they will find the joy, peace and happiness of a secure marriage - and that if they hit turbulent times that they will have the good sense to seek the counsel of those who love them.

All any dad wants is for his son to find true love, and to experience the peace, happiness and fulfillment that love can bring. Josh and Daniel, this is my wish for you.

Apropos nothing in particular, I love this from Paul:

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