Having Coco accept my proposal of marriage was one of the most important things to happen to me in my entire life. It has directly given me more happiness than I had ever hoped for, and it has indirectly given me enough gray hairs to fill two king-size pillows.
I have always believed that one should respect the culture around him, so I told Coco that I probably ought to meet her parents and ask for their blessing. She responded that I had already met her mother, and that she had liked me, and would go along with whatever made her daughter happy.
I pointed out that I really meant her father, since I hadn’t even met him yet.
She began to tremble for the first time in three months. She stuttered something about having plenty of time for that, and that I really should meet the rest of the family first.
I began to sense a potential problem. We left it at that for the time being, and I asked her about the rest of her family. What would they think? Would they accept her marrying a divorced, veteran, Protestant Anglo?
She allowed that she thought all her siblings, and her mom, would be pleased that she was in love, and would support her choice. (was it just me, or was there a noticeable exclusion there?)
I didn’t press the issue. I just filed it away for future reference.
Over the next week or so, I met the rest of her family, with the exception of Daddy, who never seemed to be around when I was. Coincidence? I asked a few times when I was going to get to meet him, but she always sidestepped the question. Finally, I told her one day that I wanted her to set up a time for me to meet her father, or I’d just drop in. She wasn’t thrilled about it, but finally agreed, simply asking me, “Are you sure?”
The day that I was supposed to meet “Papi”, I was driving Coco’s car, and when we got to her folks’ house, she made me stay in the car, while she went in to see if everything was okay. So, there I am, sitting in the car, when a pickup shows up, parks right in front of the house, and the driver (I always found myself thinking of Saddam Hussein when I saw him. I guess it was the moustache) gets out, gives me a double-take, and starts unloading things from the camper shell. Rather than sit there like a bump on a log, while he was carrying 27” TV sets into the house, I got out, grabbed one, and started helping.
He never said a word, never grunted, just glanced at me a few times, and when we had emptied the truck, he headed on down the hall to the restroom, and I waited outside the open front door. When Coco came out and found me standing right outside the door, she almost had a seizure! Sheesh! These people were really uptight! I told her I had already kind of ‘met’ her dad, and had helped him unload his truck, and I thought she was going to faint. We still had about ten minutes before the appointed time, so we sat in the car and had a cigarette (which she really needed about then).
At about one minute before the hour, we went to the door, she pushed me back out of sight, slid through the partially open door, and after a few minutes, came to the door and let me in. There sit Mom and Dad, waiting for me. Coco introduced me to them, and them to me (I never let on that I had already met Mom), and I simply presented myself to dad.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance. I’m Doc Campbell. I’m going to marry your daughter.”
Talk about a Kodak moment. I don’t know what he had planned up to that point. Probably to try to scare me off. In retrospect, it would probably have been better to have said something a little less presumptuous, like, “I’ve come to ask for your daughter’s hand,” or “We would like to ask for your blessing.” Oh, well, at least I didn’t call him “Pop”! Anyway, he seemed a little off balance, so it may have been a good thing.
We proceeded to discuss my military history, my religious background, my heritage, my marital status (or more accurately, ex-status), and values in general. At one point, he made some conditional comment about if he were to give his blessing, and I simply told him that as far as I was concerned, both of us were adults, and we were going to get married, but that since his blessing was important to Coco, it had seemed appropriate to meet him first. The implication that it didn’t make a damned bit of difference to me wasn’t lost on him. Ah, what the hell, he didn’t like me much from the beginning.
All in all, I thought it went rather well, and when we were finished, Pop mumbled, “Está bién.” (loosely translated: Okay)
Having already had some experience living and doing business in Mexico, it seemed prudent to ensure that we understood each other, so I asked him, “Then you grant your blessing for our wedding?”
Well, that was less than clear, so I pressed the point. “I just want to be sure I understand. You grant your daughter permission to get married?”
The fact that his non-committal grunt didn’t suffice seemed to irk him, and he snapped, “Sí, sí! Está bién!”
Well, at least I had an intelligible answer, so I pumped his very limp hand, then mom’s, and assured them that they had made me very happy, and that they would see that I would take very good care of their daughter. Dad seemed in a hurry to go, and made his way down the hall to the restroom again. Mom winked at me, and Coco and I took our leave. Being the fool I am, I walked out feeling as though we had put another milestone behind us.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Our journey had barely begun…..
The Catholic church is very powerful, but particularly so in the Latin American countries. For a marriage to be legally binding in the eyes of the Mexican government, there must be a civil ceremony, performed by a government official. However, for the marriage to be socially acceptable, there must be a church wedding, performed by a priest. It’s not as easy as simply getting a license and agreeing upon a date with the priest, however. There are a number of tramites (trá mee tays), or prerequisites, to be fulfilled, as dictated by the church, and the process can be as easy, or as difficult, as they decide to make it.
We made contact with the local diocese, and were informed that before anything else, we must attend the platicas (plá tee kas), or seminars. These are designed to give young couples some food for thought as to the responsibilities they are accepting, some of the resources available to them, and some special considerations. They cover everything from legal, financial, emotional, sexual, and spiritual issues, to child rearing, community participation and health issues. Typically, you attend as a couple for two consecutive weekends, and the cost is minimal. Presumably, once you have completed the platicas, you simply have to demonstrate that you are legally and spiritually able to enter into matrimony, and bingo! You’re home free!
We completed the seminars, and were rapidly approaching the date we had set, so all we had to do was meet with the Cura and answer his questions satisfactorily, and we could then go see the Padre at Plateros, where we had decided to wed, and schedule the day. Coco was working, so I took care of this chore.