“How lucky to have been twice blessed in marriage! It has been my belief that one loves only once. I am happy to be wrong.” –Harriet Smith, Emma
This Saturday, my husband and I will be among the friends and family watching as my father-in-law, Mike, ties the knot with his new love, Yvonne. Theirs has been something of a whirlwind courtship, but when I look at them together, I have no fear that they are taking on this commitment lightly, no worries for their future. Dad’s eyes are glowing again, you see. I haven’t seen them lit up like this for … well, a long time.
Four years ago, after a prolonged struggle, we lost Paul’s mom to an especially aggressive form of breast cancer. She was an amazing woman. She lived with her whole heart, and her life was intertwined with those of all the people she knew. She prayed over them, worried for them, cried with them, and lifted them up with a thoughtfulness and fervor that left no one in doubt of how much she cared. There is hardly a person who knew her who didn’t receive at least one card, if not many, written in her flowing hand and full of hopefulness and encouragement. Of course, there are those who remember her as nearly perfect, but they are forgetting her quiet, mile-wide stubborn streak, and her rare, but impressive, fits of temper. These things, as much as any other, make her memory real and beloved to me, and the hole that she left when she went home still yawns wide.
After Mom’s death, Dad mourned in his own quiet way. I think he had started mourning a long time before, in the weeks and months of Mom’s illness, and when she passed on, a stillness descended, like the one that comes after a big storm, when the pounding and the noise have stopped and everything lays dripping in the sun. Somewhere in the midst of those days, peace crept in, and the sun rose and set and rose and set, and life stirred again.
Time passed, and Dad learned the ins and outs of being a bachelor, something he hadn’t been for over thirty years. Flowers appeared in his front yard, lines of color skirting the sidewalk in front of his house, and he took visible delight in rigging up an automatic watering system for them. He bought a small catamaran and began visiting the lake on every obliging sunny day, bringing back fish and no fish with equal satisfaction. Weekend camping trips allowed him to explore the backcountry around the Pacific Northwest, and he started returning from long weekends with stories and pictures from trails he hadn’t hiked since his boyhood. He took up motorcycle riding. He kept house. He was something to watch, this man, as he reached down inside himself and kept coming up with answers to the question: What now?
And he seemed okay. And he was. But something was missing. Bringing back pictures of glorious sunsets is all very well, but it doesn’t hold a candle to standing beside someone looking at the same sunset, sharing the experience.
What now? The answer was surprising, unexpected: eHarmony. In his same quiet, unadorned way, Dad prayed, reached out across the internet, and found Yvie.
When we first heard of her, it was several months after they’d met. In typical Dad fashion, he didn’t tell us anything until he was sure there was something to tell. They had visited each other’s hometowns, spent hours and hours on the phone, and sent hundreds of emails back and forth, and before we’d even had a chance to digest the news that he was dating someone, he mentioned, almost casually, that it was “pretty serious.”
“Pretty serious” is the Dad equivalent of skywriting and balloons and flashing announcements on the JumboTron.
So she came, and we met her, and I have to tell you: she is wonderful. On the day of that first meeting, she was nervous, and sweet, and the kids warmed to her instantly. (Well, almost instantly; Caleb spent a good minute and a half looking flirtatiously out from under my armpit before he decided it was safe to approach.) We spent quite a while talking, Dad and Yvie sitting close to each other on the couch, holding hands like teenagers–when they weren’t busy juggling flying kids. I kept sneaking glances at Dad’s face, which wore an expression that I would like to see a lot more of. And I think I will. After that weekend’s visit, Dad proposed.
So here we are, the week of the wedding. Yvonne arrived Tuesday, packed and breathless, and yesterday she and I spent the day together, running around buying punch ingredients and ordering extra cake and doing other last minute wedding stuff. She showed me her dress, which she sewed herself (I am in awe of that), and some of the gifts she got at a wedding shower her friends threw before she left. She was so excited and so in love that I don’t think her feet touched the ground all day. We stopped for lunch at Wendy’s and, while Caleb nibbled on a cheeseburger and played with the toy pig that came in the kid’s meal, we had the best talk. I realized then that we are going to be good friends.
Inside, I felt something let go. It might have been the very last trace of my concern.
Tomorrow, we’ll decorate the church and ready the reception room, attending to all the details of a simple, elegant wedding. We’ll drape the tulle, cover the tables, set out the guest book, and arrange the flowers. We’ll make sure there are enough chairs and that the sound system is in working order.
And the next day, a new chapter will begin in the lives of two people who know they’re not anywhere close to the end of the book. I wish them happiness.
Congratulations, Dad and Yvie!