Most girls have dreams about how their wedding will unfold. I wonder how many realize their dreams, and how many laugh at reality. I hope that the majority have a hearty laugh at the things that go wrong that can make weddings, and sometimes marriages, go absolutely right.
It’s a good time to talk about weddings because of Aunt Jenny’s pending nuptials, while leaving a few words for you to remember when your time comes.
The ability to laugh at ourselves is one of the most important skills we can learn. I call it a skill because it was a really tough lesson for me. I needed to learn to separate the funny parts of life from those critical to survival, take a good look at them, strive to understand them, and finally, laugh. Laughing at myself never became a natural response; I still need to evaluate and then laugh, but these days I laugh often.
Weddings are important, but not nearly as important as the marriages they celebrate. When you decide to embark on the journey of marriage, sweet girl, be honest with yourself. Once you are honest with yourself, be honest with your partner. Hide nothing. Love or do not love everything, and be honest about those things. We can love without loving every part of our partner. We can’t love without being honest about it. We can’t live that lie. It always comes up or out or falls on our head, while jeopardizing the most important relationship we will ever have.
I know these things because I lived them. Your Grandpa and I were not nearly as honest about things we did not like about each other as we should have been. Perhaps if we had been, we would have been able to keep our marriage together. I like to think that we could have.
Never forget that a broken relationship comes from the actions of all parties to the relationship. Your Grandpa and I were both wrong many different times and we didn’t fix it. We let things simmer. Don’t do that. Talk, argue, holler, and do it honestly. Do it with the love that we still had when we fell apart, but that we forgot to put into play.
Remember to laugh. We did laugh and, for that, I am proud of us.
The first laughs came from the day of the wedding itself. Too much was going on in town, and we knew that traffic would be a problem. President Ronald Reagan was going to be speaking at Notre Dame University Commencement the same morning as our wedding, so we tried to plan well. Grandpa Frank would be coming from the far south side of town to the far north of town, to a church near our house.
We had already faced difficulty with a church and a pastor to officiate, and were being married in a Protestant church, by a Presbyterian minister. We were okay with that. The minister was replacing the regular pastor that had had a heart attack just days before the wedding. The organist waited until the day of the wedding to become very ill, but the church found a replacement.
I was at home getting dressed and being nervous when Grandpa Frank arrived at the house. He went to change clothes and realized that his pants were not on the hanger with his shirt and jacket. He was always so organized and prepared that everyone was stunned. He hopped back into his 1970 Volkswagen van to make the ten mile trip back south, through Notre Dame traffic, to get his pants. I got myself dressed—there was no hair to be done; I had my regular pixie cut—while people were working on getting Grandma Cecelia and Dodie to the church. Everyone was in cars and took off for the church—early, even!
The one person they forgot, was me. I came downstairs and into the kitchen to—no one! The house was empty. I got into my Oldsmobile and drove to the church. Everyone was surprised when I arrived, because everyone thought someone else had me in their car.
Grandpa Frank made it back to the church in time (but close) for the ceremony. Just as we had wished, Grandpa John and Grandma Beanie walked down the aisle with me, and Grandpa Frank Sr. and his wife, Fran, walked down the aisle with Grandpa Frank. We lit two tapers from one unity candle.
Everyone looked wonderful and the ceremony was just as I had imagined it would be. My siblings were all in the wedding. I wanted it to be special and it was.
We laughed at the reception when the champagne cork worked itself out, slowly, during toasts, and then popped up and hit the ceiling, coming right back down on Aunt Linda’s head. We laughed about the day’s traffic and Grandpa Frank’s mad dash to get his missing pants. We laughed about the bride being the only one left without a ride to the wedding. We were giddy, as was our right on our special day. We celebrated until we just couldn’t move any longer, then made our way to Grandma Beanie’s home in our two vehicles—my Oldsmobile and Grandpa Frank’s VW van.
I arrived at the empty house first. The empty locked house. I had no purse and I was still in my wedding gown. There was a window that we all used when locked out, and I thought, why not? I did climb in through that window in my wedding dress and tumbled a bit into the living room. It was somehow fitting that this tomboy couldn’t remain a lady, even on her wedding day. We laughed at that, too.
Grandpa Frank arrived shortly after and we began to laugh at all of the crazy things that had happened on our way to marriage, things that helped to cement our bond.
We laughed. We should never have stopped.