I stood in the back of the church, my manicured fingers rested on Daddy’s arm in a fantasy fog. I’m really getting married. How crazy is that?
There he stood, the groom…my groom, in line with his friends; buddies he all but abandoned a little over a year ago. I smiled at his minuscule squirm when Daddy leveled a stare in his direction…the final look.
My bridesmaids stood like models in their coral gowns and fancy prom-style updos. My heart wrenched at the thought of our lives on different paths. We were no longer little girls in the junior high locker room afraid to dress in front of our peers.
The Wedding March began. I choked on the memories like half-chewed food, not really ready to be swallowed. No matter how tasty that bite seemed, dessert stood in front of me. The crowd rose. I lost sight of him and panicked.
“Here we go,” Dad whispered.
“Beth, Mr. Perkins…” The photographer called our names and shot a rapid sequence of pictures.
Every nerve-wracking step brought me closer to him. The moment I touched my groom’s sleeve, fear eased away and made room for peace and confidence.
In unison, we repeated the final words of our original vows: I pledge my love, ‘til Jesus comes. After all, who wants to think about death parting you on your wedding day? I’m not superstitious, but to even say: ‘til death us do part, gives me the heebie-jeebies. I came up with this vow because I always said: I don’t want Jesus to come until I experience true love.
“You may kiss the bride.”
Infamous words, our nuptial vows sealed with a tummy-flopping, passionate kiss. Fear, joy, excitement, and love mixed with the now appropriate measure of desire…a grab bag of emotions. I’d be okay if Jesus came soon.
The rest of the night was heavenly.
After the honeymoon, real life hit fast and hard. Barely scratching the surface of wedded bliss, we discovered the error of our inexperience…I was pregnant. Single income adjustments stretched us, but the night we held our wailing Jason, money worries became insignificant.
My groom kissed me and I whispered in his ear, “I pledge my love ‘til Jesus comes. I’d be okay if He came soon, I always said: I don’t want Jesus to come until I experience becoming a mother.”
We cuddled in the twin hospital bed, a family of three, and the rest of the night was heavenly.
Every time we blinked, a chunk of life disappeared.
Walking…potty training…baby sister.
Graduations…college orientations…mother of the groom…mother of the bride.
Blonde hair…too dark of brown…too red…bimbo blonde oops…gently brunette…white.
Up forty pounds…down thirty…up thirty-five…down twenty…up twenty-five…ugh, just give up.
His knee replacement…heart surgery…hearing aids.
My breast cancer…dentures…cataracts.
“To my Bethy,” my groom raised his glass shakily. “She’s the one constant in the stormy seas of my life for fifty years. She deserves much more than I ever could give her.”
I raised my glass, “I pledge my love, ‘til Jesus comes.”
We danced slow, drove home slow, loved slow.
I slid our wedding album into bed with us, an annual tradition. He pointed to the series of rapid shots of me with my father immediately prior to the walk down the aisle. “These are my favorite.”
“You’ve never said that before in our entire fifty years of marriage,” I studied them carefully. “Why are they your favorites?”
“Look at your eyes,” he pointed a trembling finger to each picture. “In just thirteen quick clicks, the photographer caught every emotion you felt that day. It’s like a baker’s dozen. A grab bag.”
“Funny, I always thought they looked the same and couldn’t figure out why you chose all thirteen. I don't believe in bad luck, but thirteen? Why not six, or ten, or even a dozen? Something symmetrical.”
“You look scared to death in this one, but see, by the last one you relaxed.”
I sat the album aside and snuggled into the crook of his arm. He kissed the top of my head and whispered, “I pledge my love ‘til Jesus comes…and I’d be okay if he came tonight.”
“Hey…that’s my line.”
The remainder of the night was heavenly.
Crowded house…casseroles…black clothes...wadded handkerchief.
“Are you going to be okay tonight, Mom?”
“Yes, Son,” I touched Jason’s graying hair and smiled. “I always said I wanted to live a love-filled life. I’d be okay if the Groom came tonight.”
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