Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tying The Knot, Part 8: The Big Day & The Day After

No matter how long I took to make this post, the details of The Big Day will always be with me. It was such a special day, and I will never forget it.

Sat. Oct. 15

The day started early, as I knew it would. My fiancee had already informed me that she had to be up early, about 5:30A or 6, in order to start working on her hair and get ready to go out to her friend's house to get the full makeup treatment. I had already made arrangements with "Drew" to pick up my uncle at his hotel and then come to get me at about 9:30. I was a little groggy at this early stage of the morning watching my fiancee run around, but I wasn't as wiped out as I feared I might be getting back from the casino as late as I did. I spoke to my dad at about 7A. He called from the airport to let me know that he was on his way to Memphis. Oh, not one of the airports in Chicago. No, he was calling from Atlanta! I didn't even ask. My guess, though, is that he wasn't able to find a decent airfare from Chicago to Memphis non-stop, so he jumped on one of the flights that go from Chicago to Atlanta and lay over before going to Memphis. He once again asked if someone would be available to pick him up from the airport and take him to his hotel to drop off his belongings before taking him to the church. I once again told him that we had no one ready to do that and that he'd have to rely on a taxi. He expressed concern about making it to the church on time, but resolved himself to taking a taxi when he got here. Truth be told, Drew was such a good guy this whole weekend, he probably would have dropped my uncle and me at the church and ran to the airport to get my dad, but I refused to put that burden on him or anyone else. After all, I didn't actually invite my dad. He was going to tag along with my aunt, who has a soft spot for him unlike my uncle and me, but there wasn't enough space in my aunt's truck after loading up her husband, their oldest son, and my playcousin and her mother. At that point, I just took the position that he was going to have to find his way here himself, and if he made it, fine, and if not, great.

There was another mystery hanging out there on the morning of the wedding. As I mentioned in the last post, my friend Cassandra was already listed on the program as one of our speakers during the ceremony. But I had not heard a word from her since I was in Chicago a couple of weeks before the wedding, when she expressed to me on the phone that she was going to do everything it took to make it to the wedding even though she didn't have travel or hotel arranged yet. I had called and texted and e-mailed, but heard nothing. I was already resigned to having to ask someone in my family to make the reading once I got to the church, but I was also kinda hoping that Cassandra would swoop in and show up in Memphis as a bit of a surprise. So I was cool and calm that morning, but still a bit anxious as to how this issue was going to work itself out.

My fiancee left the house at a little before 9A. That gave me the bathroom for a half-hour before Drew was scheduled to come get me. I decided to go for a full bath because I felt it was symbolic of washing all of the other grime and crap that I picked up in my past relationships off of me. Why shouldn't I be fully bathed before I get married? I may not have attained virgin status, as my fiancee had by never dating casually or otherwise before meeting me, but I could at least soak some of the whore impurities from lying down with pigs such as "Karen" and "Sarah" and "Torrie." I said a prayer out loud to my mother and grandmother, who I knew were going to be with me on my big day, then I scraped as much dirt off of my body as I had time to. Getting dressed in sweats and my "I'm Rick James Bitch" t-shirt wouldn't take any time after I got out of the tub; I was worried about gathering all of the last-minute items that I needed without forgetting something. I had to remember my aunt's husband's present, which I re-wrapped that morning; I had to remember toiletries, because I wasn't going to lotion up and cologne myself before getting to the church and putting on the suit; I had to remember my keys and my phone and my wallet and...

Speaking of the phone, Drew and my uncle were already sitting in the house waiting for me to run around gathering my shit, and it was past 9:30, when my phone rang. It was Cassandra. My uncle had already started to talk about how rude it was for her to not even let me know she wouldn't be there for me, and perhaps because her ears were burning, she called at that moment. The news wasn't good. She claimed to be ready to catch the nighttime Megabus Friday and make the 10-hour bus ride here, but she missed the bus. She offered lots of apologies and well wishes and promised to get down to Memphis sometime in the future and treat my wife and me to dinner. I was a little patient with her long explanation of why she didn't return my calls, but once she started in on all the things she would do to make it up to us, I had to gently tell her that I was actually on my way to the church right this moment, so I gotta go. My uncle wouldn't have been so gentle. He had some choice words for her once I hung up. I don't blame him at all, but I wasn't all that upset because Cassandra had displayed a penchant for getting wrapped up in all of the things in her life and being unavailable at times. She's not a bad person at all, just the opposite, but her big heart leads her to being occupied with her mother or her sister or her sister's kids or her boyfriend or a friend who needs her help, and she's very good at letting herself get stretched too thin. I totally believe that she intended to be here for me. I hold no grudge against her. I did feel disappointed, but moreso, I felt a little scared because I now had two and a half hours to find a new speaker, and I was going to have to do it by cold-calling the people in town for my wedding and hoping that they wouldn't say no.

After I slapped some baby oil on my head, Drew, my uncle and I finally stepped out of the house about 9:45 and loaded up in Drew's rented pickup. Drew and my uncle really like each other, having met at a sickle cell charity bowling event and then again for my bachelor party weekend, and they had some fun when they called me before coming to pick me up. My uncle joked that he and Drew had decided to drive down to Tunica and play some more blackjack, and they would have to miss the wedding. In no way did I believe him, but my incredulous "What?" provided a big laugh. Then, when they got to the door, I pranked them back by opening it, seeing that it was them, then shrieking "I can't do this!" and locking the door.

So we were definitely a loose bunch heading out on the road. It was the most perfect fucking day ever. Bright sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, and it was probably about 65 or 70° that morning. I was trying to enjoy the whole atmosphere, but I was still worried about finding someone to speak at the ceremony. My uncle then let me know that he actually rode down with a couple of older cousins, Charlene and Claude, and maybe Charlene would like to speak. This was actually the first time I had known that Charlene and Claude were here. They're important in my past as well. After my mom died when I was ten, I was sulking around the house very inactive, and my fam decided that maybe if I joined a bowling league on the weekends, that would be good for me. It was Charlene who made the drive from her North Side home all the way to my West Side house to pick me up every Saturday morning for a 10A youth bowling league back out near her house at the old Marigold Bowl, which no longer exists. I became friends with her daughter Chonda, who was my age. (I sent an invite to Chonda as well, but she couldn't make it.) And I socialized with the other kids in the bowling league, and it was a big part of my life. Not only that, but one Saturday in mid-December, Charlene kept me at her house for like four or five hours after bowling just hanging out with her and her daughter, and I didn't quite know why, but then they drove me home and let me go upstairs to my house first as they followed behind, and when I opened the door...SURPRISE! My family was there with gifts and food and a cake and candles, and that little get-together when I was eleven years old remains the last time someone threw me a surprise birthday party.

My uncle got Charlene on the phone and then handed it to me, and I explained to her the situation and asked would she like to perform this speech, and she said absolutely. Whew! Problem solved. From there, Drew drove to a gas station, not for gas but because my throat was dry and I needed something to drink, and that was where I grabbed the vitamin water that I mentioned in the previous post. The cashier, a cute black girl, chuckled as I paid for the water, and I wondered what the joke was, and she said, "I'm just laughing at your shirt." I had totally forgotten that I was rocking the "I'm Rick James Bitch" shirt. Guess it's a good thing that I didn't go with the "I Have The Dick So I Make The Rules" shirt. But I decided that I couldn't really wear that to a church. The Rick James shirt was bad enough. I threw out a Chappelle-like "I'm rich, beeyotch!" as I left and cracked up the cashier some more.

From there, it was on to the church, and a bit of drama that had nothing to do with the wedding. A large white guy was standing in the basement stairwell as we entered the church, and he asked if we knew who had keys to the meeting room down there. We did not. But this wasn't good enough for our pal, and he explained that usually, the basement meeting room is open on Saturdays for the weekly Overeaters Anonymous meeting, but the door was locked, and he couldn't find anyone with a key. He wasn't exactly searching hard because this would require him to, you know, walk. He actually asked us if we could go look around for someone with a key. Stunned at this request, I believe that I told him sure, and then headed to my dressing room with no intention of looking for someone with a key. I mean, even if it wasn't my wedding day, that's not my responsibility. You wanna find someone that bad, go look for someone, bubba. Drew and my uncle and I burst out in laughter once we were safely inside the locked dressing room.

(Bubba wound up representing one more woman whom I dated in the past. I've never told this story on the blog before. But before Karen and after the one-nighter with my high school girlfriend, there was a year and a half drought where I had lots of internet prospects and no success at all. During this drought, in the summer of 2002, I started going to Overeaters Anonymous meetings. This was suggested to me by a therapist I had when I was 19 as a way to be around others like me so that I wouldn't feel like I was on my own planet. And finally, at age 26, I saw that there were meetings at a hospital a block and a half from my house on Saturday mornings and decided to check it out. It was an interesting mix of old and young, black and white, thin, medium, and obese, quiet and verbose, almost all women but a couple of guys every now and then. I never felt like I quite fit in there either, but I kept going because at least it was one hour out of my week where I was surrounded by people who I felt understood me a little. I even spoke up a few times to talk about my week of coping with food and people.

Well, one Saturday around November or so, this stunningly beautiful white girl with a U. of Michigan windbreaker sat in a meeting, saying nothing, and I definitely took notice, but I didn't want to approach her because this was not a singles bar and I didn't want to be the creepy guy trying to pick up chicks. But I did wonder why she was there. She wasn't fat at all, nor was she anorexic, which a couple of women were--OA wasn't just for fat people, it was for people with food issues one way or the other. She was a perfectly healthy looking woman, about 5'9", 150 lbs. Then she finally spoke at a meeting with a slight accent and explained that in her native Germany, she had two sisters who were much thinner than her, and they always called her fat, and that's why she thinks she needs to attend OA. Her problem wasn't so much food, it was her perception from back home that she was the fat one and didn't fit the mold. I guess if the sisters saw the others in the OA meeting, they'd faint at the sight of how big we were. I felt compelled to approach her after the meeting, as others did, and my words of encouragement were along the lines of, "Whatever your sisters think doesn't matter because you are very beautiful regardless." I will never, ever forget her response. She smiled brightly at me and said, "Aw! That warms my heart!" I could have melted right there in front of her. We exchanged phone numbers, and I bounded home with that same new-love feeling you get when you meet a hottie at a club.

She wasn't at the meeting the next Saturday, and I called her to see what was up, and she said something about having to wash her car and run some errands, and I asked if she was busy that night, and she said no, and I asked her out, and she said sure. I don't remember why she didn't pick me up, but she gave me the address of I think her cousin and told me to meet her there that night. I was so nervous because she was so out of my league, but she must have liked me a little just to say yes. I was on the phone with Drew and "Ronnie" for like three hours that afternoon trying to figure out what I should wear, how I should act, etc. I ventured out into the December snow and met her at the address she gave me. Four women were sitting around hanging out when I walked in with a rose that I bought her on the way there. "Aww!!" they all cooed. I took my date and headed out the door, not knowing where we were going or what we were going to do.

She wound up taking me a couple of blocks away to a laid-back jazzy club. The date went about as well as I could have hoped. We spent two hours sharing everything about ourselves. She turned out to be a Mormon who didn't drink or smoke, which only made her more angelic in my eyes, and she didn't get very deep into details, but I got the impression that she was either a virgin or had not dated very much. She was in college trying to get into theatre. We sipped on our bottled waters and talked about many things. Then I walked her back home. She wore my gloves because it was cold. It was a clear, crisp night, the stars were shining, and I took her to her doorstep wondering if I should go for a kiss because the date went so well. This is where things went south. She was going to turn and go into the house without giving me a kiss or anything else. Then I reached out for a hug and she actually said the words, "Oh, hug," like it was the most surprising development she'd ever seen. Then she gave me the quickest little hug and smiled and bounded into her apartment. And that was the last time I saw her!

She never picked up her phone when I called, she never answered any e-mails, and she never returned to another OA meeting. Trust me, I showed up for the next six weeks straight. I would have seen her. I have no idea why she dropped off the planet like that, but I really don't think it was anything I did because every interaction between us seemed perfect up until that awkward hug. But I found myself not caring about anything happening at the OA meetings, just showing up, waiting until the end, asking the regulars if they had seen her, and then leaving dejected. And once I realized that I wasn't caring at all about OA, I decided that indeed, I had turned into the creepy guy at the OA meetings trying to get laid, and I stopped going.)

Back to the wedding day. I had a vision of all the guys hanging out back in my dressing room before the wedding helping me stay loose by playing cards or just shooting the shit. Drew did stay back there with my uncle and me for the most part. He left for about twenty minutes and came back with donut holes from Dunkin Donuts. I may have been the only one to have some, but that was because I don't think I had breakfast. Drew also presented me with a congratulatory cigar while back in the dressing room, and I still have it, and I still haven't decided if I'm ever going to attempt to smoke it. It's not like I know how to enjoy it if I did decide to smoke it, and it's not like I know exactly how to take off the tip and light it up properly. But the point is, Drew was a mensch. He provided the transportation, he provided the necessary snacks before the ceremony because I may have passed out if I didn't have some food in my stomach, and he even had a cigar ready to light up, not to mention providing a ride out to the casino the night before, allowing me to make some honeymoon cash. And of course, he provided the cash for the bachelor party present featuring "Ambrosia" and Lavinia.

I'm not supposed to see my fiancee the morning of our wedding according to some folklore, but not only did I wake up next to her, but I saw her for a split second in her makeup about an hour before the ceremony. Her cousin, working as the wedding day assistant, came to our dressing room to drop off the boutonnieres for me and my uncle, as well as bring over an iron for us to touch up our dress shirts. I answered the door, not expecting my fiancee to be standing right there next to her cousin. I quickly accepted the boutonnieres and the iron and sent them on their way. In that haste, I forgot to have the assistant pin the boutonnieres onto our lapels because we're clumsy men and we were not going to be successful trying to perform that task. So my uncle got the idea to call my aunt and have her make her way back to the dressing room area to pin the flowers on us. But my fam wasn't yet at the church, so we were going to have to be patient. While we waited, unc imparted some stories about married life and words of wisdom, which I knew he would have for me before the wedding. His most important message? Don't let anyone else into your marriage, meaning whatever disagreements we may have, don't run to third or fourth parties trying to rally support behind us. This marriage is between us two people, and no one else.

We started putting on our suits just after 11A. I was trying to put it off as long as possible so that I wouldn't be sitting around uncomfortable in a suit forever and ever. My uncle chuckled as I struggled to bend in my suit to tie my shoes, then he bent over and tied them for me. He didn't have this problem he because he's worn suits every day for years, and he has learned to put the shoes on before putting the suit on. At about 11:15A, the officiant, the fabulous Sonia Walker, made her first appearance to check in on us. Drew took this as a sign that the shit was about to start getting serious, and he wished me luck and went to the sanctuary to take a seat. My playcousin's mother arrived not long after that, because my aunt had appointed her to go back and see what this boutonniere situation was all about. She was able to apply the boutonnieres after a few efforts. We didn't have safety pins to keep the sharp part covered, so I made her put the pin in several times until I was sure that the point wouldn't stick me accidentally. We could faintly hear the music that my fiancee chose for the pre-wedding seating. I knew that it was about a half-hour of music, so right at noon, we should hear the song that would be the cue for the family to be seated by the ushers. So I wasn't planning to be in the side hall waiting for that music until about 11:50 or 11:55. Sonia had a different plan. Literally seconds after my uncle suggested that we take off the sportcoats because we were starting to perspire, Sonia came back to the dressing room and said, "It's time." My uncle and I looked at each other wide-eyed, then shrugged and put our coats back on. One last check that everything fit right, and a last deep breath, and we went to stand in the side hall behind a door that led out to the sanctuary.

I did not see who was in the sanctuary, so I wasn't worried about who was there, who wasn't there, did my dad make it, etc. I had one thing worrying me over everything else as I stood in that side hall, and it wasn't pre-wedding jitters. It was the fact that I absolutely could not stop sweating. The side hall was warm, the outside weather was warm, the monkey suit was warm, and besides, I was about to get married, so all of those things explain why I was sweating. There was another factor--that baby oil that Sarah gave me that I felt the need to apply to my dome in order to avoid having a dry scalp. All of these things added together resulted in me just drowning in perspiration. Several paper towels were retrieved from the bathrooms by me and Sonia. They helped a little. I tried to stuff some dry ones in my pocket in case this issue followed me out to the ceremony. Sonia thought that standing back there waiting for our music cue wasn't helping, and besides, my uncle is limping, so she opened the door and calmly grabbed a couple of chairs from the sanctuary and set them up behind the door for my uncle and me. This was greatly appreciated. I did seem to control my sweating a little better as I sat there chuckling with my uncle. Sonia declined to take a chair for herself.

At about 11:55, we heard a voice. It was a male voice, and it was coming from around the corner where one of the building entrances was located. It was the entrance near our dressing room, so my first thought was, is this Bubba still looking for someone to open the basement meeting area? I heard the voice bellow a short, "Hello?" I know the voice. It's the voice of someone sorta close to me, if you count coming from his loins as close to me. It was the unmistakeable voice of my father. But when I told this to my uncle--who, remember, can't stand him almost as much as I can't--my uncle's response was, "No it isn't," and he just shook his head quickly and turned back to the sanctuary door, almost as if he was hoping to hear our song cue right then and there so that we'd have to hustle out there. He answered so definitively that I guess I believed him and started to ignore the situation. Sonia was on alert because whoever this was had some bad timing and was a threat to disrupt the ceremony if he kept poking around. Then he said a little louder, "Anybody back here?" Absolutely no doubt, it was my dad. I turned to my uncle and said, "I would have lost a lot of money betting that he wouldn't get here in time!" Sonia scurried around the corner to meet whomever this was and make sure that he didn't wander any further. I got up to see if this really was my dad. I had some emotion at this point. The timing was incredible, right when I was about ready to go out there and get hitched, and I was a combo of pissed at the timing, shocked at the fact that my dad made something on time, and sorta happy to see him, since he really should be here on my wedding day after all.

I get to the corner and look dead into the eyes of my father. It's really him. I was astonished. When I tell you that the man has never made anything on time except to beat me when I was a child, I'm not even fucking kidding. I was told that he was late for my birth! Yet here he was. Then I noticed some fashion choices that he made for the occasion. What little hair he has was slicked back like a '50s greaser, and I have never seen him try to do that. His "suit" was okay, just a sportcoat and pants and tie, nothing outlandish. His shoes...well, they were a different story. They were some kind of light brown crocodile lace fabrication. Never seen those either. Hey, no accounting for taste. He spoke for less than a minute, explaining that he wanted to see his son before he went out to get married. He wished me luck, and I told him that I was glad he was here, and he said he'd never miss his son getting married, as if he was just a mortal lock to make it here on time even though he's never been on time and several hours ago his ass was in Atlanta, GA. I'd like to think my mom facilitated him making it, because he'd have almost no chance otherwise.

He circled back around to the normal sanctuary entrance to take his seat while I sat back down next to my uncle, who was as shocked as I was that my dad was here on time. Then Sonia heard one of the songs that we're on alert to hear as cues that it's about to start. There was a jazzy-sounding song with piano that cued the seating of the family, and that was when Sonia, my uncle and I were to walk out. But with the drama of my dad playing out, Sonia got a little flustered, and she heard another jazzy song playing, which was "In A Sentimental Mood." And she rushed my uncle and me out the door and into the sanctuary as my uncle and I looked at each other a little confused. My uncle followed behind me as I slowly walked out. I was so nervous about making this first appearance that I didn't look up at the people until I got all the way to my standing spot. I adjusted my suit all the way to my spot. Only then did I feel comfortable enough to look up at the people. My fiancee had way more people on her side of the aisle, but the wedding's in her hometown, so that's to be expected. I looked at my side and tried to make eye contact with all of my peeps one at a time. My playcousin snapped pictures. I saw Jacob and Alice and waved, and said a little inside joke to Jacob, the same one he said to me at his wedding. I saw Monica, a lovely woman I used to bowl with, and her boyfriend. Monica was witness to a lot of my craziness from seven and eight years ago. She was there the weekend that I found Karen's website and was consoled by Sarah. I brought Sarah to the bowling alley with me that Sunday to bowl my regular league games, and I did that because otherwise, I would have stayed home and skipped my league. I couldn't have done that alone. I also talked to Monica about all of my drama, so she's another one that's been supportive throughout the years. I saw my older cousin and her husband, the cousin who agreed to speak during the ceremony. I saw my playcousin's mother, who's always been a little insulated and introverted, and I was surprised that she decided to come down from Chicago. But she helped raise me, and I was very happy to see her.

The ushers (who were my aunt's husband and their oldest son) started to bring the family members down the aisle to their seats because the groom was already out there, even though this wasn't the song they were supposed to go on. I became a little worried because at rehearsal, the song that the fam and maid of honor used ran a little long, and we wound up standing there waiting for the bride's song to cue up. The guy running the computer where the music was stored was a young adult interning at the church, so I wondered if he would be able to adjust and get right to the bride's song after the maid of honor came down. I reminded myself a couple of times that this was the bride's day and that after everything else is done, I needed to take in the moment when she comes down the aisle and block out anything else. The sweat started running down my face again, and I ignored it as best as I could. The family came down and smiled at me and my uncle, including my aunt and my fiancee's mother lighting candles with an electric lighter. It took them each a while to get the thing to work, so that provided brief moments of levity. Then Judy came down with her black pantsuit, looking very...unique. Then Sonia gave a hand cue to the intern, and he got right to the bride's song, which was "Pachelbel's Canon in D Major."

She walked down the aisle calmly, and everyone rose to greet her. I knew that she was going to have a flower in her hair. I had been sitting in this computer room for weeks with the dress sitting on the bed, although she put tissue paper over the front so that I couldn't see it. I had gotten a brief glimpse of the makeup job. Mentally, I thought I was ready to see my fiancee come down the aisle.

Emotionally, I wasn't anywhere near ready.

I started choking up a little just hearing her song begin, knowing the moment was finally here. Then I actually looked at her. The dress was very slightly off white, as close as you can get without it being totally white. It was cut midway and showing the girls, but in a tasteful manner. The sleeves were all light and elegant. The white flower was the perfect size for her head, not tiny but not too big. The red bouquet was a perfect accent to her entire presentation. She was stunning. She was my blushing bride. And I was her blubbering hubby. I put my hand to my mouth and started crying almost uncontrollably. My uncle didn't help, saying in my ear, "That's your woman." That just made me cry even more. I couldn't even tell if she was crying when she made it to me because my eyes were so filled with tears that I couldn't see much of anything. So the first three minutes of the ceremony were filled with me sniffling and wiping tears and trying to be discreet and pull out some Kleenex to blow my nose during the prayer.

The ceremony rolled along, and it came time for my fiancee's friends to read their reading. It was a Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13, but it was hard to understand. Lots of thous and forsooths and whatnot. My fiancee later told me that they chose a different version of the reading than she was intending. The version they chose was a very literal translation, so it didn't come out sounding like anything resembling today's English. Plus, the readers had soft voices. The ceremony continued, and it came time for my cousin to do the reading that Cassandra was supposed to do. And she got up there and put on her glasses and belted out "Union" by Robert Fulghum, and she killed it. Think of the black police captain on Law & Order. It sounded that good. I was very proud. No pinch-hitter in history has hit a home run that far.

Then we walked to the middle of the aisle and took the candles that our families had lit and we both lit one candle in unity as a symbol of both of our families and us committing to this marriage. I was happy to do this because it gave me a chance to walk and stretch my legs. The sweat kept pouring throughout the ceremony, but I just played through it. My uncle handled the ring exchange flawlessly. I don't know how my fiancee felt, but that was a powerful moment to be able to have that wedding band put on. Sonia presided over everything wonderfully. She wrapped things up with, "You may greet your bride," and the kiss is now my Facebook profile pic. Then Sonia announced us as Mr. and Mrs., and we took each other by the hand and strutted down the aisle as "I Can See Clearly Now" played, and everyone stood and smiled and applauded. We were finally, after five and a half years of sizing each other up and imagining a life together and wondering if we were right for each other, a legally married couple.

Looking into my wife's eyes after it was all over, I got the sense that she was feeling what I was feeling--glad that it's finally all over. There's such a build-up to that big day that no matter how much you love your spouse, there's a big sigh of relief when it's done. The work of being a married couple immediately takes precedent, and the wedding planning and worrying is now an afterthought. As we stood in the corridor in the receiving line, I didn't even pay attention to our songs playing. I just wanted to get through and take some pics and go eat with my wife. My hurting mouth wasn't even in my mind all day. It didn't matter that I had two teeth removed only three days prior. The receiving line was memorable because some of my wife's family members, specifically her uncle's daughter, decided to make it a picture-taking occasion and held up the line for quite a while. It got a little uncomfortable. But eventually that was over, and despite both me and my wife being ready to have a seat and get off our feet for a moment, it was now time to make our way back into the sanctuary for pics. The camera girl was my wife's uncle's stepson's daughter, if you can keep all that straight. She did an awesome job, but she's a college student, so she had the energy to stand up there and make us pose for several minutes at a time while she found the right angle. It was torture for us, as well as my uncle on his bad knee. It took about an hour, and it felt like a day. The most interesting part of the picture session was how many other people stood behind the camera girl taking pics with their own cameras and camera phones for their personal pleasure. I felt like Tom Cruise posing for the paparazzi. Just a sea of folks with cameras snapping away and yelling, "Hold that pose!" And the whole time, I'm dripping all over the fucking place. They couldn't provide me with enough paper towels for all the sweating I was doing. And it had nothing to do with being married! It was all the standing, the humidity of the sanctuary, and the monkey suit. But everyone had a joke for me after the ceremony--"Sweating bullets there, eh?"

My dad veered off course a little during the pictures. One pose was my wife leaning over the end of a piano while I sat at the keys and pretended to play misty for her as I looked into her eyes. It's a very sweet pic. It's also misleading because I can't play piano for shit. So my dad decided that this would be a good time to play a musical piece for us as a tribute, I guess. I wasn't in the mood for his showboating, so I told him no, and he was relentless. He must have asked me around a dozen times! And he was taking it personal, too. "You don't think I can play, is that it, son?" No, dad, that's not it, it's that it's my fucking wedding day, not your gig at Kingston Mines. By the time the pics were over, he and I were the last few stragglers out of the sanctuary, and he was still asking me. I kept saying no. However, I've since seen a pic someone took of him at the piano by himself, so he must have skipped coming straight to the reception in order to tickle the keys. Like a moth to light, my dad saw a musical instrument and couldn't resist the urge to make the day partially about him. SMH.

From there, it was upstairs and on to the reception. I enlisted Jacob to be our announcer and introduce the wedding party. There was a little commotion as we nervously looked around trying to find Judy, who had disappeared. But someone located her, and Jacob handled the introductions with a personal flair, saying our last names twice as if he were auditioning for the Yankees P.A. gig. "Now getting married, the shortstop, #2, Derek Jeter. Jeter. #2." I'm sure I was the only one in the room who understood the gag. The wife and I entered the room to a standing O with big smiles on our faces, and our ironic joke song cued up on the computer--"The Thrill Is Gone." As most of the room raised eyebrows in confusion, we headed straight to our tables and got ready to eat. But first, my wife's uncle was going to bless the meal. No problem, except his daughter insisted that Jacob formally announce him by name. A little unusual, but okay.

I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful food provided by Chef Erik Waldkirch of Maximilian's Catering, even with the mouth issues. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, too. Not long after finishing, my uncle started to act weird. He said out loud as he sat next to me, "Oh, um, okay, guess it's about that time for the speech," as if he was all of a sudden very nervous about giving the best man speech. I was surprised by this because my uncle is very smooth and polished and has had a management position for many years, so giving a speech is nothing new for him. I would be informed later that this was also the doing of my wife's uncle's daughter, as well as the "wedding day organizer." They directed my uncle to get up and do the speech, as if we were on a strict time schedule. I never saw them do this. But his speech was great, very heartfelt and touching. He briefly addressed the number of frogs I had to kiss before finding my princess, and he let my wife know how proud he was to welcome such a classy woman into the family. I said, "My man!" and gave him a big hug. I knew he wouldn't let me down. Judy spoke next about the times she and my wife talked about finding that right guy, and how happy she was that it finally happened. My new mother-in-law said some very nice words, and so did my dad, though I must say that I held my breath when he stood up in anticipation of him saying something totally inappropriate.

The music didn't go exactly the way we planned. My wife had three playlists for the reception--dinner, cake-cutting, and dancing--but no one bothered to change playlists when we cut the cake, so at some point we heard "The Thrill Is Gone" playing for a second time, and my aunt asked if I could do something about the music because it seemed to be repeating, and I got up and changed the playlist to dance. I was kinda shaking my head as I did this because I had fended off the urge to say that I would handle the music at my own reception. I felt that was a little too controlling and I needed to let go and let someone else worry about it. But the intern who did the music at the wedding wasn't at the reception, so in the end, my wife and I wound up being in charge of the music. Not long after I changed the music, the "wedding day organizer" struck again and said that we needed to say a speech to our guests, and it had to be right now. Fine. I took the mic and had my wife stand next to me as I thanked everyone for coming out, especially my out-of-town people. I said that they helped make this the greatest day of our lives. I didn't know that my wife would break her shyness and say anything, but she took the mic and thanked everyone who helped set up the big day. I then turned the dance playlist back on.

I battled with my wife in the weeks leading up to the wedding about having a first dance. I was all up for it even though I can't dance, and she was totally against it because she "hates to be the center of attention." Um, it's your wedding day. We even practiced a slow dance once, but we were so clumsy and tired afterwards that we never got around to practicing again. So our one dance at the reception was the following: I spontaneously shook my tailfeather when Heatwave's "Groove Line" came on, and I raised the roof a little, and everyone laughed and hooted and hollered, and I grabbed my wife and held her hand while she did one twirl. And that was that. I was sweating too much to keep going, and she wasn't interested. Not long after that, I went to the restroom and had a couple of minutes of alone time to take in the day's activities, then I went to drop the marriage license back in the dressing room, and when I made it back to the reception, my wife was missing, tables were being cleaned off, and people were getting ready to leave. "Come Go With Me" by Teddy Pendergrass was playing when the computer was turned off, so at least my mother's favorite singer made an appearance, but most of the other songs that we fought and argued over never wound up being played. My wife returned dressed in regular clothes, so she was anxious to get out of that dress and those shoes, but not in the honeymoon suite to get busy with me. She just wanted to be comfortable. Can't blame her. I kept the suit on the whole day despite losing weight in perspiration and having to towel off before every single picture. One last bit of drama came when I went back to the dressing room and found it locked up and the lights turned off, meaning whoever shut it down was in there with my wallet and other valuable items. But nothing came up missing.

From there, it was off to our room at the Doubletree Hotel mere minutes away, where we already knew no action would be happening thanks to our weariness as well as Aunt Flo. But I still treasure those minutes lying in the king-size bed with my wife, looking into her eyes and reliving our wonderful day before nodding off for an early evening nap. Then we woke up and got some drive-thru Chick-Fil-A.

Sun. Oct. 16

I remember this day as being so perfect because our families met at my wife's uncle's house and we had a big brunch together. And it was just awesome to see my people together with her people hanging out and having a great time. My dad became our responsibility on this day. He was able to hitch a ride back to the Doubletree after the wedding with I believe my aunt and her family. But they claimed to not have the space for him to go out to the brunch, so my wife and I put him in our back seat. And afterwards, we took him downtown to the Amtrak station, where he caught a train back to Chicago instead of flying back to Atlanta or something. At the brunch, my uncle gave me another big hug and just looked at me with a huge smile on his face. I think he was seeing me through the prism of being there when I was first born and watching me through all of life's phases, and seeing how I've become the man I am today. And I made sure to tell him all weekend that he's the reason I am the man that I am. I needed a strong male figure because my mother made an unfortunate choice to father her baby, and my uncle has always stepped in to be that man and show me how things are done by real men. I didn't always apply those lessons, but eventually, I got it together. I hugged everyone in my family individually and thanked them for making the long trip, and they all hit the road directly from the brunch. My wife and I hung around until after 3P because as we were pulling out to leave at 1P, the couple who spoke at the ceremony pulled in, and the wife stopped the car to give them some conversation time. I watched football while they chatted. In the evening, we had a very nice dinner at Carrabba's and enjoyed the Bears whooping the Vikings on Sunday Night Football.

The honeymoon consisted of us visiting Graceland and getting the big bus tour of Elvis's estate; eating breakfast at Memphis's most revered breakfast restaurants, Bryant's and Brother Juniper's (both awesome!); dinner at Rendezvous and Gus's Fried Chicken (Rendezvous ribs were great to me and average to the wife, Gus's chicken was great for both of us, but be warned, it's spicy); and a night at Roadhouse Casino & Hotel back in Tunica, MS (room was tremendous, complete with in-room whirlpool, but I lost back the money I won the night before the wedding). The wife believes she got food poisoning somewhere in the middle of all this, but she wasn't vomiting or in the bathroom nonstop, so it was mild. Maybe it was just realizing that she was married to me.

And one more funny story of drama: We knew we had received many cards from our wedding guests, but when Judy and my mother-in-law took the gifts back to our house, we had a hell of a time locating the cards. And we were quite panicked about this because, of course, those cards didn't contain just cards, they contained money. I even called my aunt while they were driving back to Chicago to ask if she left a gift, as tacky as that sounded. She wasn't happy about that, and then she was almost furious when I told her that we seem to have misplaced all of the cards. She confirmed that the $250 she was going to chip in for the rehearsal dinner was inside her card, so between Sunday and Monday, it became a scramble inside our home to find these cards or else drive back to the church and hope that someone there found them. Monday morning, we were at our wit's end searching through bags and boxes two, three, four times, and my wife was submitting to the possibility of someone walking through the unsecured reception area and taking the cards, which I refused to believe. Finally, finally, we opened the guest book and found the cards shoved inside. Crisis averted, cash saved, mass murder of innocent churchgoers thwarted.

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