Because my husband, Jonathan, and I are from different parts of the United States, my parents offered to throw us an engagement party in my hometown of Tucson during Jon's spring break from teaching. You see, I am obviously from Arizona, where my parents still lived, and Jon is from Wisconsin, where most of his family still lives, except his parents who moved to Utah. To make matters slightly more complicated, at this time I was living in Charleston, South Carolina, working at my first job after completing a surgery residency, while Jonathan was still in Wisconsin teaching full time and getting his Masters.
Mom and Karen, close family friend and my godmother, had been helping me plan the engagement party long distance, since they were local. I was really excited about it because I still had a lot of friends in Tucson and Jonathan really wanted to have the wedding in his hometown of Chippewa Falls. So this was our chance to celebrate with a lot of the Tucson folk. Mom had reserved a reception room at the Arizona Inn, one of my favorite historic venues in town. It was one of the places I used to meet my grandfather for lunch when I was in undergrad at UofA, and held special memories. Not only that, but it is a well kept up property, kind of a little oasis in the midst of a busy part of the city, with classic style but still true to its Southwest environs. We had settled on crudités, smoked salmon, cheese and fruit platters, and passed trays of hors d'oeuvres with coffee, chocolate covered strawberries and iced tea or lemonade. Mom had invitations made and sent out, and it was going to be very nice.
Of note, our engagement party would also be the first time our parents had met, as Jonathan's parents, Sheri and John, were driving to Tucson for the better part of a week for the event. As they had not been to the area previously, nor had Jonathan, we planned a mini tour, starting in Bisbee where we would meet them and had reserved rooms at none other than the historic (and haunted?) Copper Queen Hotel.
My dad had been in and out of the hospital for a few years with some complicated health issues. About a week before the party, I was talking to him on the phone and realized he needed to go back in. So he put Mom on the phone, and I told her to take him in on emergency. When they admitted him for kidney failure, we thought seriously about canceling the party but Mom said she thought he wanted to go to the party and so we decided to wait and see. One of the things about kidney failure is the circulating toxins that aren't being properly eliminated can really affect the brain's normal functioning. So Dad could recognize me, and even Jon, but was just not able to do most things, in part because he also had trouble with disorientation, apparently common in intensive patients.
In the midst of all this, our house in Madison, Wisconsin, where I had lived during my residency, was closing on the real estate market, in Dad's name. In order to close on it, we needed the account number of the mortgage on that house, but of course he was in no shape to deal with any of that.
Shaping up to be heck of a meet the parents weekend, right?
My mother's sister was also flying in from the Northwest, and we had booked an evening for all of us at the Gaslight Theatre, a fun comedy theatre that does costume spoof musicals which are always a riot. You can order pizza and ice cream sundaes to your table during the show, and afterwards they do an old olio show.
So after visiting my dad in the hospital, Jonathan and I drive down to Bisbee to meet his parents. We spent the night there, after dinner laughing at his dad's stories of hitchhiking across the US when he was a teenager. The next day we went antique-ing and then drove the short way to Tombstone. I had never been to Tombstone, but is was so cliche! So touristy! The most interesting thing we saw there was the world's largest rose bush. We poked around a bit and had delicious barbecue for lunch before driving toward Tucson. I had found a winery on the internet, so we stopped there for a tasting, but it was like a ghost town and we the only customers for who knows how long.
By the time everyone had arrived in Tucson officially, Mom and I knew it was too late to cancel the engagement party. We also knew Dad would not be coming, sad as it was.
So instead of meeting my parents, John and Sheri met my mom and Richard and Karen Parker, my godparents. The whole Parker clan got together and cooked for us that first day at my mother's house, like a catered meal. It was really great and also worked as a perfect icebreaker. John and Sheri settled in at their hotel and had been really understanding when we explained the situation with my Dad.
The next day we met Jon's folks for lunch, I always try to get in as much real Mexican food as possible when I'm home, then went on to the Sonoran Desert Museum. Then everyone met up at Gaslight for dinner and a show. At first I think poor John and Sheri weren't sure what to think, but part way into the show they seemed to start to get into it.
The next day was the party, and, as anticipated, it was lovely and everyone had a good time. Mom and Karen had done a great job and it showed, everything went off with out a hitch. Jonathan's parents headed out the next day to do a little more exploring on their drive back to Utah. Jon and I and my mom met Richard and Karen the next day at the hospital, ironically just a block or two away from the Arizona Inn. Richard had worked in real estate and knew what things we needed to close on the house. Despite being moved to a hospital room with a window, Dad's disorientation was not improving. So after dinner together that night, the Parker's took my mom on an errand and Jon and I drove to the house. Our mission: find the mortgage number. We hunkered down in Dad's office, me at the computer, Jonathan on the floor in front of the filing cabinet. We went through everything, but no mortgage number, not even as a document on the computer. So I logged on to Dad's online baking account and began to go through the bill pay. Jonathan was now looking in the closet, from which he emerged with a small rifle stored in a long sock. I had a little bee bee rifle as I kid, so I thought maybe it was that. Jonathan sat back on the floor, behind me, as I was still working online, and he was checking out the gun. Now, I can guess what you're thinking. Still, these were difficult times, and obvious as it was, I didn't think I was in eminent danger.
Boy was I wrong! Of course the rifle discharged, at which point it becomes painfully clear that this was no bee bee gun, but rather a shotgun! I was no longer on the internet, but screaming at Jonathan, "what the hell are you thinking?"
To which he indignantly replied, "I checked the chamber and it was empty."
"Well, clearly not!" I said, sharply, also pointing out that it was clearly a shotgun. By then, I think he was more scared of me than the shotgun, which turned out to be my Dad's 22 gauge. I then went on to say, "you never fire a gun inside a house, sitting behind another human being! This is how people die in gun accidents!" I think it might have still been more of a spoken comment than a yelled one. I told him somewhat more quietly, to put the gun away and not to touch it again, while I finished with the online banking. Then, I went to the closet to look for the round. I never did find it, though I did find bullet holes in three of my dad's coat sleeves. Turns out, the round had gone up into the ceiling and come out through the wall in the adjacent guest bedroom. The walls had to be patched and my cousin Jason had to climb up on the roof to make sure there was no exit hole!
We haven't been back to Arizona since, but more importantly, Jonathan is no longer allowed to handle firearms, at least not when I am around.