Today makes eight.
For years I went to bed early. As an elementary school teacher, I had an extensive morning routine involving exercise, prayer, and a 30-minute commute. I arrived at work by 7 a.m. – well before the kiddos who often wanted to share household news as soon as they said good morning. Because I require 7-8 hours of sleep to function well, I observed a strict bedtime of 9 p.m. My friends knew this and generally avoided calling past 8 or 8:30. From time to time an acquaintance would call too late, so I turned off my ringer at night just to play it safe.
That is, until Daddy admitted his health was fading.
It was shortly after Mama died. His prostate cancer wasn’t a secret, yet he seemed to be doing well. But y’all know how (some) men like to hide shit. Reality didn’t exactly align with appearances. I told him in no uncertain terms, he wasn’t allowed to die any time soon. His reaction, some mixture of exasperation and acquiescence, was disconcerting. He said okay because that’s what I wanted, but he hinted there were no guarantees.
I began leaving my ringer on at night.
My parents eloped when they were 23. As a little girl my mother offered me several thousand dollars if I eloped, too. I can’t remember what prompted her to mention it at that moment. The only possibility that comes to mind is Princess Diana’s wedding, grand affair that it was. I was too young to have heard about the bride’s family footing the bill for weddings or other such traditions. I’m serious, she said. I shrugged. I tucked it away for later.
As a teenager I thought I’d get married shortly after college. My 20s came and went and I remained single throughout. I was grateful, honestly. I hadn’t met “Mr. Right,” and by the time I hit 30, I’d evolved into a completely different woman.
My dad did his best, as much as one can wield control over such things. He held on another three years. My phone rang just before dawn. I sighed awake, already shaking my head. No good news comes at this time of day. The voice on the other end was Daddy’s but softer in tenor. I instantly recognized my uncle, Daddy’s identical twin. Did I call at a bad time? he asked. I pressed him to spill the news. Daddy was en route to the hospital. He wasn’t breathing on his own.
I arrived at Grady Hospital eight years ago today. I didn’t see Daddy that morning. Nor any other since. Following my uncle’s lead, we both left without seeing his lifeless body. I wanted to say goodbye, but I did not want the image of death burned into my memory. I had made that mistake with Mama.
Toward the end of my 30s, I met my future husband. When we spoke of marriage, I told him I didn’t favor a big wedding, and, in fact, eloping was fine with me. I was down for a courthouse ceremony, or a small gathering on the beach. I don’t think he believed me the first few times we discussed it, but the seed Mama planted nearly three decades earlier bore fruit. I had never planned or even considered a “fairy tale” wedding.
A few months after my 40th birthday, Blue proposed.
I remembered the brides who cried in the days leading up to their weddings. I vowed not to be one of them. As spring melted into summer, we played around with wedding dates, sizes and locations. Nearly every Friday from June through August, we considered jumping in the car and heading to the courthouse. In September we settled on an intimate October affair.
If we had eloped, we would’ve escorted each other during the ceremony. But the venue we selected encouraged something a little more traditional. I decided Daddy’s twin, my “DNA Daddy,” might be the perfect choice.
He later told me it was one of his greatest joys.
During our ceremony, we invoked ancestors and loved ones who were not present, and that, of course, included my parents. Although neither were present in body, it was a loving comfort to hear Daddy’s voice and witness his smile through his brother.
Said our officiant, Who presents this bride?
My uncle replied, I do.
I’m still waiting for the latest to sink in. Awareness comes in flashes, but it hasn’t quite settled in.
Maybe in a month? A season? I dunno. But seven days hasn’t been enough.
A week ago today Blue and I were married! I told him every day of our honeymoon it feels so surreal. I’m a wife now. And a stepmom. Wow.
Perhaps I’ll spend a few posts digging into these as I try these labels and responsibilities on for size.
The ceremony was short, sweet and intimate, and remains quite hazy in my memory. I was in a fog most of the proceedings, despite the clear, sunshiny day. Dina, our photographer, offered suggestions for poses and she had to repeat them all. I could hear her, but somehow she was talking to… someone else.
I didn’t feel nervous beforehand, despite the group of teenagers who walked by just before the bridesmaids went down the aisle. “Are you going to trip?” one asked. I’m sure I gave her my infamous side eye, but I responded with a shrug and something like, “who knows? I don’t plan to.”
When my uncle escorted me out the double doors, I found Blue and gave him the biggest smile. He matched it with his, waiting. I’d never experienced tunnel vision before that moment, but aside from the blur of guests standing, I didn’t see anything else. I wanted to get down the stairs safely and stand next to him, so I concentrated on that. Even the music – an upbeat tune from Earth, Wind and Fire – is hard to hear in my memories.
Friends and family posted a few snaps of us on social media, or emailed and texted us their faves. I’m floored to see them. That was US! We’re THEM! Each picture helps me recapture the moments I lost to the fog.