My sister’s current husband has succeeded to endear himself to everyone in his extended family including in particular me and my partner. In defence of such effusion I should add that we rather admire him for having endured both his wife and his two daughters for the past 30 years or more, not always a trifling enterprise. In recognition of his stoicism we offered to spring for a corporate lunch to celebrate his upcoming 62nd birthday, his choice of venue. He chose a Vietnamese place in a sparkling new commercial blip in the centre of the City, a place located not far from where he and my sister live. So we agreed upon that and submitted to the reservation which he took the liberty of making for noon today.
The original plan had been to meet at my brother-in-law’s house, park the car then walk together to the restaurant. I always welcome an opportunity for some exercise prior to putting on the nosebag. Upon arriving at their house shortly after noon today it was however instantly apparent that the athletic feature of the luncheon had been jettisoned. My partner later told me that my sister told him in confidence that she insisted upon driving to the restaurant; and, that if they had anything to drink (an almost certain eventuality) I could drive home (being the upstanding teetotaler that I am). Even though this modification of our luncheon invitation amounted to an expropriation of one of its theses, we are nonetheless conditioned to this sort of usurpation particularly by those who have a history of monopoly (usually married people with children). There appears to be a presumption that bachelor men really haven’t the capacity to formulate intention of their own and therefore need to be guided by those with experience in manipulation.
Balancing this inimical posture was my over-riding conviction that one should insofar as possible acquiesce to whatever the “birthday boy” prefers. It is after all the core of the celebration that the person in whose honour the event is held should be the centre of attention and be given as much leeway as reasonably possible. Accordingly I dutifully assumed my position in the rear seat of the automobile and, as we headed in the vague direction of the restaurant, sought to divert the conversation to matters pertaining in particular to my brother-in-law. One such topic was his anticipated retirement which turned out to be an inflammatory subject upon which my sister instantly muscled in and I could tell that further enquiry risked opening wounds so I let it go.
Following a somewhat extensive search about the neighbouring residential area for a free parking space, we proceeded to the restaurant and were soon seated at table. The Asian server fortunately knew enough to volunteer suggestions about what we should eat even to the point of contradicting us (which I personally applauded since it legitimized her authority). Indeed we were treated to a very favourable number of small plates, superb soup and perfectly palatable “main” course followed by delightful sweets (which we initially resisted but which we subsequently commended). There was Japanese green tea for us all; and my brother-in-law and sister each had a glass of white wine (their usual tonic). I honestly can’t recall the details of our conversation but unmistakably everything went swimmingly. We embroidered the meal appropriately by taking a picture of my brother-in-law in a silly Vietnamese “coolie” hat (a gift from the proprietor) and immediately emailing the photo to his children. This vulgar conduct appeared to placate the inclination for exposition of untamed commemoration.
Upon quitting the restaurant we separated from my sister and brother-in-law and detoured to my elderly mother’s digs for a brief visit. We subsequently rejoined them at their house (where we had left our car) and took in a moment of “Saturday Night Live” spoofing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (from whom it is currently impossible to escape). We parted upon agreeable terms, hugging and blowing kisses to one another since it may well be the last time we see them before returning to Canada next April. We leave in three days.