and he still loves me.
Jam Guy, bearing Splenda-sweetened marmalade, met my dad, and nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was the most fun I've had while with my dad since becoming an adult, I think.
Part of this undoubtedly has to do with Jam Guy's presence. Part of it must have to do with my real love for my dad, which is often obscured by the stress I usually feel when I'm around him. Part of it is most certainly due to the silent vibes of support sent across the dinner table by my sister and her wife, and some of it might even be due to my father's fiancee lightening the mood with her off-color sense of humour. All of that being said, though, I think for most of it we can thank the La Crema vineyard of Santa Rosa, who makes a Pinot Noir so fine and tasty that my teetotaling father had downed his first glass and a half before the food even arrived.
My father, who rarely touches alcohol and never has more than one glass of wine, was kind of drunk. He was great--relaxed, funny, sweet. Certainly anyone who didn't know him would never be able to tell he was tipsy, but the relative scarcity of frowns and career advice was definitely indicative of some sort of inebriation. I liked it awfully.
And my father was charmed by Jam Guy, who was as poised and polite and sincere as I've ever seen him. My father would have loved Jam Guy even if he'd been sober, I know, but I really think the path was smoothed by the Pinot. (Kudos are also due to Jam Guy for selecting said Pinot--when Dad heard that the vineyard was in Santa Rosa, he joked that maybe Jam Guy was getting a commission.)
At one point, apropos of nothing at all, Dad asked Jam Guy what he thought the two most important qualities of a good relationship are. I panicked--he asked it in a ways that implied there were exactly two correct answers, and every other answer was wrong. Jam Guy did not look panicked at all; he only took about three seconds to answer, and then he said "Off the top of my head, I'd have to say trust and love."
That he said "trust" meant the world to me, recovering as I am from my last relationship, where I wasn't even trusted to choose which television shows to watch when alone--ech, but that's a story for another day.
Dad made an expression that implied that Jam Guy had answered incorrectly. He tapped his fiancee and reported Jam Guy's answer. His fiancee replied approvingly. My father blinked a few times, then said to Jam Guy, "I would have said communication, but I guess trust and love are good too."
Midway through the meal Dad leaned over to me and said in a low voice "I think he is good. You can start making plans." I was so happy to hear this that I didn't even stop to think about how I could turn this into something I could be angry about. I teared up a little, kissed my dad on the cheek and thanked him, and then beamed through the rest of the dinner. And I drank my share of the Pinot too, for the first time unabashed to act like something of a grownup in front of my father. It felt like a miracle unfolding.
My sweet, motley, weird little family finished our dinner hours later, laughing and happy. I don't know what this all means. I don't know whether it means that good wine is the simple prescription for healing a historically dysfunctional family, but that's something that I'm going to keep in mind during my next visit with my dad. I don't know whether it means that when I don't come into a meeting with my dad armed to my figurative teeth with defensiveness and rage about my strained and shaky childhood, I allow myself to receive his love in a more real and open way. I don't know if it means that Jam Guy is one pathway to coming to peace with myself and thereby with my family. I hope, and suspect, that all of these things are true and that I am learning how to learn ways to make life better for myself. I know that even though I said it was just a formality and didn't essentially matter, I feel readier than ever to leap into life with Jam Guy as my partner now that I have received my father's blessing.