Tuesday, October 18, 2011


It's been just over a week now since my cousin floated down the stemmed aisle of the local Unitarian church clad in an ivory shock of matrimonial light, the venison-rich skin of her father, my uncle Larry, who after a dashed decade of spilled calendar squares once pressed the hand of my father into his chest informing us that his staggering cancer-accompanied pulse was no longer bleating out whole notes in this kaleidoscopic vortex of reality, escorting his daughter, his left arm christened like a tourniquet stiffly fastened in euclidean right angles, waltzing through the arterial center of the autumnally adorned house of worship as guests and relatives alighted their pews as if on thespian cue turning in militant unison, facing the sight of a father walking in tandem tempo with his second-born progeny basked in a heavenly heralding tempest-like fugue of baroque music flagellating currents into the front of the building before answering a simple-sentence query presented from a gruff and jovial-countenanced Lutheran minister ( whom when I would ask him at the reception later that night, soulfully shitfaced and two classical music sheets to the wind, what his favorite harvest Lutheran hymn was and to which he replied THY STRONG WORD, to which I drunkenly volleyed back in chirped retort (sounding somewhat like Juno) 'No way dude, NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD or COME THOU FOUNT OF EVERY BLESSING!!!') The limbs of my uncle failing limp as he back-steps, kissing his daughter on the cheekbone before conversely drifting in a stunted half-shuffle ball-chain into his seat. The bride hovering free like a dove into the altar of whatever God there is, released, standing next to the coiffed haired-lad who has been standing with his palms clasped in the center of his torso, sentinel-stationed like a defender in a soccer match trying to thwart the cleated advancement of a corner kick, yet standing and smiling, before accepting the lithe arms of the woman in white, smiling like he is touching the creature of his every waking-wet dream. My cousin. An angel named Shawnee-wanee.

 It was an idyllic autumnal wedding, the crisp zinfandel flavored light of an early October near dusk squinted like a periscope through the century old stain glass of the church in a Keatsian wink, an autumnal bouquet thanksgiving dinner bucolic centerpiece. There was the bride and there was the groom and there was my uncle and there was family. The baritone bullfrog-yawp of Grandpa Salm strutting dignified with sly plywood smile and pinned tie into the cathedral. My aunt Chris looking ravishing, like an opera singer, dressed in her red gown flapping down her back. A bevy of bridesmaids chicly attired in pear-nuanced gowns. My refulgent sister Beth amongst them ferrying a lilac, leading the procession. A flower girl the size of a good year tire tossing leafy harvested remnants in confetti like fashion. There was family, my cousin Matthew (now Rev'd ) and his benevolent spouse Robin and their adorable daughter Lara Ruby prancing between them wild eyed and curious because at a year and a half the world is a bubble of overhead warbling sounds fraught with knee-high wonder. My beautiful sister Jenn flying in with her husband from New York looking striking in a dripping lavender gown, like an orchid pinned south in dyslexic homecoming boutonnière fashion saluting her violin, a tangible treble clef note extended from her chin. The classy peripatetic photographer randomly squatting like human checkers across the contours of the building, clicking the snout of her Nikkon, looking at me as if I just graduated from a gradeschool BOOKIT!! variation of GOOSE BUMPS when I tell her I'm a writer later on that night at the reception. My mother and myself cleaning up the church post-ceremony while outside an encouraging chorus of kazoos (in lieu of sprinkled rice) chauffeurs the newly christened nuptial duet to the reception hall in petite high-pitched puffs, plastic nasal sneezes of joy.

And this is family.

Waylaying my sister/brother-in-law, arriving formidably late to the reception at the Contemporary Art Guild b/c I insist on showing them the contours of my cool writer's apartment exactly one block from the living room where our late father used to read to us every night after dinner (even doing the voices, no one did a better crunchy-andm,unchy riddled gurgi from Taran Wanderer), my thespian brother-in-law informing me that the commodious linoleum panelings of my bathroom alone would run what I'm paying for the unit in its entirety in New York, before surprising my sibling Jenn with a visit with Shannon Moore, who was bartending at the neon-clover that is Champs West, one of my favorite local west-side watering hovels (Can't beat Pam's six dollar daily lunches) arriving at the reception, optically splattering into the lens of the past like a mosquito on an interstate windshield-- wading in a parched pond of visages familiar from a collected childhood of Sunday mornings—The Bremers. The Lelms, My old Lutheran geography teacher Mr. Teske (climate is what you do to a mountain) informing me that after 20 years my eighth grade record in the mile had finally been shattered at the Lutheran school where I once attended (sniff!!!) My cool fifth grade teacher Mrs. Reinhardt. Mr and Mrs. Best. Sue and Reggie Lee. The Button's arriving from Colorado the way they used to every Christmas when we were kids. Candy Schudde. Carolyn Koch who, at something like 95, still clangs away into the keyboard of the organ in liturgic fashion every Sunday. There was family and there was booze (of course) cause when our family congregates we always pray first before stolidly imbibing with an earnest amen. The keg of Sam Adams Harvest ale which, when poured, looks like a carbonated autumnal leaf, not even lasting through the Avanti's catered dinner as we listened to my elegant cousin Amanda alight her chalice while imparting a dulcet wedding toast about her nearest sibling. A keg of Coors light quickly consumed to tapped hisses and wedding-at- Canaan like suds. And wine. Crates of high-caliber ambrosia catered from California stacked on top of each other if in an offertory of succulence, awaiting to be comfortably quaffed as the Jazz trio (led by Bradley Prof. Tim Kelly) chimed in the background and dancing periodically ensued.

And there was family.

Hanging out with my cool brother-in-law Dr. Dan O'Brien (who I always boast that mom won the son-in-law lottery when Beth snagged him) drinking beer and laughing in a convivial tilt while talking about the latest Ken Burns documentary, talking with Kevin (who named both of his dogs after a dual titled JD Salinger novel) and Hannah and Rachel and Kristen. Uncle Albert who always looks like a Scottish dignitary, toasting a beer like a scepter while toting a smile across his raspberry countenance. My aunt Linn, the mother of the bride, who taught us all piano when we were young. Hanging out with cool Todd (a bad-ass marine with a cool Harley Davidson-slash- PBR fetish) and his wife, my favorite cousin and fellow biblical black sheep of the family Brianna in which the following conversation duly transpired:

DVB to his favorite cousin Brianna (trying not to overtly ogle her pronounced cleavage): Did you get a boob job??

Cousin Bri to DVB: No, I just had a kid.

DVB to favorite cousin Brianna: Oh, so you must be lactating then.... (note: I accidentally called Little Gracie May L'il Reba inadvertently by mistake...a very homeresque Simpson like “D'oh!!”)
There was other highlights of course, chief amongst them the bride herself brandishing a translucent electric guitar in lieu of a bouquet, looking like a blindingly white keyhole, a luminous metaphysical socket to the locked door of heaven as she stood in front of the audience and caroled forth a song she composed herself to her life-partner, her heart, somehow, reverberating through her lips with every solitary strum (Us damn Von Behern's can't do anything without writing a song, or a play or a poem—the day I meet a female who writes me a song or a poem is the day I get hitched). A wedding cake where the perfunctory caricatured bride and groom saluting the top were configured out of enlarged leggos (it was cool. Trust me). My dearest Mom handing me a rubber band to wound back the stem of my feral long-haired recently dyed tresses, so damn crimson it looked like I just bobbed for apples in a vat of menstruating-seasoned cranberry juice endorsed by Pippi Longstocking. My beautiful cousin Jayma pummeling me in front of the sexy bartender, her fist the size of a human heart or four month old gestating embryo who has just sloughed his fins, pelting me three times in a row in the face after I made a flippant comment regarding her former inamorata (you know I love Evan). And then somehow it happened. All at once. As if swathed in stuttered slow motion applause. It was that moment when somehow it all happened, all at once, time collapsing in on itself like a pyramid of self-wrought poker cards. Somehow, in that moment, it happened. The bride dancing, delicately pinching the front of her wedding gown as if harnessing the reins to some unknown carriage destined for propitious coastlines of greatness. The family skirting across the dance floor buffeted by an electric breeze in a jostle of limbs and calculated movements. My sister Beth making lasso like movements with her arm leading the bevy of kin while Rev'd Matthew contorts his facial muscles in jest every time someone tells him to smile as the author grappled a filched bottle of vino by the glassy esophagus of its neck, taking intermittent swigs as his recently dyed hair bats against his cheekbones, suddenly, realizing in a state of almost cathartic-like awakening that suddenly, this corsage of cousins, a gaggle of Lovable Lutheran nerds who all wore thick glasses and were shuffled into a church pew as if in the back of Grandma Bev's old Buick, this blood nest of cousins who all ran track and played in marching bands/orchestras and performed pantomimes and (insufferable) plays for the adults every thanksgiving and donned dated acolyte gowns and sang in youth choir; this group of cousins whose television was books and who were rendered in drafty houses with parent's harboring open bibles and who budgeted yet devoutly tithed bowing the stems of their necks and prayed in devotional deference before every meal, somehow in that moment, under the variegated-stutter of the dance floor, there was family and we were one and there was an interior awakening that the purloined incubation period that is adolescence and we had hatched into identities we were somehow destined to become. Not that we were quote “adults” (ick) but that, together, our family, the phuckin' Von Behren clan, had finally become what we were supposed to simply , as individuals, to be and will invariably continue to stretch, unfold and somehow become.

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