Whew, glad that’s out of the way!Okay, so about 12 years ago, my agnostic sister Oakley and her now-husband were planning to get married. She was living in San Francisco at the time, and wanted to have a somewhat “non-traditional” wedding in Berkeley, meaning that it would be outside, not in a church, and not with too much religious affiliation.
My mother had the great idea to call Cousin C who lives in Santa Cruz. C is an ordained minister, but very low-key. Oakley would be married by someone who legally could marry her, Cousin C would be flattered to be included, and Mom would get the religious component to the wedding that she was hoping for. Win/win for everyone.Did I mention that Cousin C is somewhat of a distant cousin? No? Well, he is a swell guy, but he is actually my mom’s cousin, more the type that she probably used to see once a year growing up at family functions, and me and my siblings saw … never. (“Who is Cousin C again?” I remember asking my mom when she first brought up the whole wedding thing.)
Oakley felt a tad bit uncomfortable calling Cousin C out of the blue to ask him to do this favor for her. Never fear, Mom said she would make the phone call (Mom was always very good at this sort of thing, chatting with people and making them feel at ease), and within a week, Cousin C had called Oakley to set up a preliminary meet and greet.Oakley tells me that the conversation went something like this:
Cousin C: I am free next Saturday if you want to drive down and get together for lunch.Oakley: That sounds great. You know, my fiancé and I love camping, so we will check out camping areas close to you and make a whole weekend of it.
Cousin C: That sounds fun! Hey, so let’s go ahead and set up a time and place then to get together. Why don’t we meet at Henry’s Grill on Third Street right at 1 pm. Does that work? It is a nice restaurant, your mom tells me you are vegetarian and I know they have a lot of great salads on the menu.
Oakley: Perfect! Let me just write this down. Okay, it’s a date. Thanks so much for doing this. We are super-excited to have you doing this.
Oakley loves to camp. She and her fiancé decided to pack up all their special gear, drive down on Friday, camp overnight, spend some time hiking and exploring, stay over again Saturday night, and then drive back to San Francisco on Sunday.
This was the plan.Saturday came and went, and for some reason, Oakley and her fiancé did not show up at the restaurant at the appointed time, nor did they call Cousin C to tell him they were running late.
In her defense, this was back in the days before everyone had cell phones, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because Oakley would probably have turned hers off, or maybe not even had reception since she was camping.When an hour and a half went by, and then two, poor Cousin C finally went back home and started frantically calling my mom because he was worried sick that something terrible happened to Oakley. He was ready to call local hospitals.
As soon as Mom answered the phone, she knew exactly what had really happened because she had been Oakley’s mother for 25 years. She knew all of Oakley’s quirks and frailties. She knew every aspect of her personality, the good and the bad.Turns out, Oakley just …
(wait for it)… forgot.
She and her fiancé had a marvelous time camping, and simply forgot all about the meeting (which, if you remember, was the entire point of the visit).Even though Oakley is absolutely the most brilliant person I know and graduated from Georgetown at the top of her class and went on to earn her master’s degree and then professionally lobby Congress for cleaner water and stricter environmental standards, she is somehow prone to forgetting day-to-day things. Things like haircuts or dentist appointments.
As Oakley re-tells the story now, she had a nagging feeling all day that something was wrong. “You know when you forget to lock your front door or you worry you left the stove on? It was kind of like that. This weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, like I forgot to feed the cat or something.”When she got home Sunday afternoon (after a leisurely bike ride at the beach, I might add), she was greeted not with a hungry cat, but with her answering machine light blinking like crazy. There were calls from Cousin C (first politely inquiring about traffic, then a little worried, then more worried), interspersed with several calls from my mom (“Pick up the phone, Oakley, are you there?!”).
Oakley did not call Mom. She did not call Cousin C. She called me.“Crap, MOV, what am I going to do?” She was panicked. “I just forgot! I swear, it was not intentional. Oh, geesh. They are all going to hate me and never speak to me again!”
I wanted to be the supportive sister, the one who says the exact right thing at the exact right time, the one they make Hallmark cards about as being “The person I can always count on to help in my time of need.”But what I really, really wanted to do was laugh. I thought it was hilarious that she went to Santa Cruz and had such a good time that she forgot why she went there.
“Look, Oakley, it is an unusual situation, but you just have to call Mom and apologize and call Cousin C and beg his forgiveness. He is a minister, they’re good at forgiving.”I heard a muffled sob on the phone.
“MOV, I am soooooooooo sorry I did this! I didn’t mean to, I swear! I just forgot! I am so embarrassed. I don’t want to call him, he’s going to hate me.” Her voice was full of remorse for inconveniencing Cousin C.My compassionate side came out, and I tried my best to soothe her. “Oak, it will be okay. Really. Just pick up the phone and call.”
“Will you call for me?”“No.”
“Then what should I do?” More sobbing.“Listen. Why don’t you call Mom first, then have Mom call Cousin C and explain. Maybe that will soften the blow a little. But afterwards you still have to call yourself.”
And that is what happened. She called Mom. Mom called Cousin C. Mom called Oakley to say she could call Cousin C. She finally called him herself.If Cousin C was the teensiest bit annoyed that he had given up his Saturday afternoon waiting for her, only to be stood up, he never let on. He accepted her apology with grace and finesse.
And Cousin C did end up performing the wedding for Oakley and her husband (although he joked around that he hoped she remembered to show up on her wedding day).So letter F is for “Forgetful.”