16 Candles

Sunday evening Jon and I along with my sister and her five kids joined my mother and step-father for a late afternoon protein-packed lunch to celebrate the installation of my mother’s new kitchen countertops. My mother being the eternal optimist that she is (or, denialist, if there were such a word to describe someone with an almost superhuman power to ignore anything that is going wrong) remodeled her kitchen at exactly the same time my step-father was scheduled to undergo heart surgery. At Sunday’s lunch you never would have known that in less than 12 hours my step-father would be lying on an operating table about to have a toggle bolt injected through his groin up to his heart to patch a hole that was supposed to have closed 58 years ago. Who really needs to think about surgery when the countertops are so seamless, so granite-like in appearance and texture?

I know that deep down my mother was horrified. She’s a silent-sufferer, very good at pushing everything into dark storage places so that over time the pain and terror become so overgrown with cobwebs they eventually become unrecognizable. She is also very good at enlisting the help of God in dealing with pain, and so she invited two men from her ward (her local Mormon congregation) to come over after lunch and give my step-father a priesthood blessing. This would also enable her to show two more people her new countertops.

Although Jon and I don’t necessarily believe in the power of a priesthood blessing, we understand just how important God and Faith are to our families, and we support them in their practice of it. In return they are fairly good at leaving us alone, although I know for a fact that my father asks Heavenly Father every night to personally prevent his youngest daughter from joining the cult of Michael Moore. And so Jon and I sat in my mother’s living room and closed our eyes during my step-father’s priesthood blessing, both of us hoping for his well-being and quick recovery.

It was a pretty heavy afternoon, what with all the roasted chicken and countertop amazement, and worrying about whether or not my step-father would have another stroke before his scheduled surgery. After saying our goodbyes to my mother and wishing my step-father well, I walked over to my Granny who had been sitting in the corner for most of the afternoon. She had cried through most of the blessing, and as I approached her I noticed that she still had a few tears on her face. I leaned down to give her a hug and she pulled me closer, tightening her grip on the back of my neck as I embraced her.

“Do you know what the most beautiful thing about you is?” she whispered almost inaudibly in my right ear as I tried to pull away, her grip indicating that she didn’t want me to leave without hearing this. In the split second before I could say, “What?” I thought about how far we’ve come as a family, how remarkable it is that we respect each other and support each other’s decisions despite our radically different ideas about God and politics and the notion of eternity. Just as I thought she was about to say that she appreciated my support of my parents she pulled my forehead to hers and said without the slightest hesitation, “The most beautiful thing about you is your new beautiful breasts.”

And she was totally, religiously serious. I didn’t know whether to feel violated or vindicated. Was she crying because of the blessing or because the beauty of my new beautiful breasts was just too overwhelming?