In late June, about nine months after we met, Jack proposed. There was no engagement ring because he didn't have the money and at first this bothered me, but then I read about the evil history of diamonds and decided it was all right. A few days after our engagement, we went over to my parents' to tell them our news.
"They're going to be so happy for us," I said, in the elevator.
"I'm not so sure," he said. "I'm not Jewish, and I'm an artist. I think we should decide now if we're asking them or telling them."
"We're telling them," I said. "I'm 29 years old. That's too old to ask permission."
"Good," he said.
When we got to the apartment, my mother opened the door. "Dad's not here," she said. It was just like my dad to cock-block my engagement.
"What?" I said.
"He's running errands, but he should be home soon."
"Oh," I said.
We sat on the living room couch. Jack held my hand. My mother asked what was new. I started to answer, and then my dad came in the door and disappeared into the bedroom.
"Come out here!" my mom shouted, and finally he did. He sat down opposite us and just as I was about to announce our engagement he said, "Did Mom tell you I saw Spellbound last night? Excellent documentary, about these kids in a spelling bee. There was this one scene where this girl couldn't spell viand. I swear to you I was on the edge of my seat."
"We've decided to get engaged," I said.
"Mazel tov!" my mother said, rising to embrace us. My dad didn't say anything. My mother turned to him and said, "Come over here and congratulate them."
Before we left Jack took a picture of the four of us, using his long arm to hold the camera. My mom, Jack, and me were all grinning ear to ear but my dad looked like he was constipated.
When we got home that night, my mom had written me an email to congratulate me. She said it was obvious that Jack and I brought out the best in each other, and would make each other very happy. There wasn't any note from my dad. I wrote back to my mom: "I'm so glad you're happy," I said. "I hope Dad is too."
The next morning I checked my email as soon as I woke up. "Mom felt I should reply to the implied question. I really, truly, totally feel as she does. If I tell you that running through my mind was: 'But does she know how hard it is to live with someone for better or worse?' you have got to believe that that's how any eyes-open person would feel at a time like this."
My dad had always written like this, in a long, winding style that was hard to decipher—but lately he'd been getting better. Now, one of the most important events of my life was about to occur, and he was reverting to insane syntax. I wished he had some ability to lie, to suck in his feelings when it was for the greater good. Didn't he know how important his support was to me, even if he wasn't totally comfortable with Jack? True, we hadn't known each other that long. But he'd only known my mom a year when they got married. Besides, they knew from reading my column that I'd dated around long enough to know what I wanted.