The man in the garlic tuxedo

Note: This column appears in the 11/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/4 issue of the Peoria Times

We traveled back east recently for my brother-in-law’s wedding. A great time was had by all, although we did experience our fair share of minor stresses.

For starters, my father-in-law wasn’t feeling well. This was cause for concern, because it takes a major bout of sickness for him to even reveal he’s not feeling 100-percent. He could be battling the bird flu and he would still go spinning at the gym in the morning and then claim he had thrown up afterwards due to “bad water.”

As in all cases of sickness involving my father-in-law or his family and friends, the solution was simple—garlic. He boasts an entire menu of garlic-based, home-health-remedies. He once had me chew straight garlic cloves for a severe sore throat and also famously forced my wife to ingest a garlic-lemon-honey concoction to treat a scorpion sting. There is literally no ailment, in his mind, that could befall a human and not be adequately treated with garlic. For his own purposes he had developed something in liquid form, although the ratio of garlic to liquid was at least 10-to-1. He consumed a shot of this, it seemed, every 20 minutes.

Also, my brothers-in-law, including the groom, had rented tuxes that didn’t fit, and the new ones were slated to get in the day we were leaving for the upstate NY wedding weekend. By the time my father-in-law and I had time to go try on our tuxes, they needed to fit because we’d be leaving the next day.

The car ride to Men’s Wearhouse, though he had proudly warned us it would, reeked of garlic like nothing I could have imagined, and I could almost see the fumes penetrating out of my father-in-law’s pores from the back seat. I was praying the tuxes fit for the sake of both the wedding and the Men’s Wearhouse employees, who would have had their hands full with my healthy perturbed father-in-law, much less my sick, breathing-hot-garlic-fire father-in-law.

It was a battle before even entering the fitting room, as my father-in-law, by just looking at the bagged tuxedo shoes prepared for him, expressed his disdain for them and claimed he’d be wearing his own. The workers pleaded with him that he should take the shoes just to be safe. One helpful employee reminded him that most brides prefer everyone in the wedding party to look the same, to which my father-in-law responded, “What bride? Pfft. I’m the father of the groom.” He then kindly added, “I don’t like your shoes,” and that was that.

My tux fit okay, but when I walked out of the fitting room, my father-in-law was standing outside of his, rolling his eyes, with tuxedo pants that ended around his calves. The workers insisted it could be fixed with some minor tailoring. I imagined how pleasurable it must be to do on-the-spot tailoring for a skeptical, annoyed, Italian man protruding garlic fumes, but such was the predicament they had placed themselves in.

The tailoring sufficed—in retrospect, they were lucky he wasn’t feeling well, because if he were on his game, he would have made them tailor him a new Armani suit at no cost for his troubles. We all eventually managed to receive tuxedos that fit, and my father-in-law bravely forged through his sickness to the point where he was eventually dancing with a small plunger-like device on his head during the wedding reception. He danced in his own shoes.

After the festivities he reluctantly made it to the doctor, where he was prescribed some actual medicine. This was good, since he and my mother-in-law were traveling with us back to the Valley. One of their first stops upon getting here was Albertson’s for some fresh garlic. After all, among the litany of people my father-in-law doesn’t completely trust are tailors and doctors.