Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
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my niece's wedding last weekend
I could scarcely recognize my stepbrother’s boyfriend last Saturday night at our niece’s wedding party. After only a few months, the intense chemotherapy has hit him hard. His entire body is swollen up and his head is turning bald with a bare monk’s crown of thin, blond strands where there once was a full head of dark hair.
But he was happy to be there at the wedding, and seemed to be enjoying himself. I did not see much of him, as he sat at a different table than I did during the dinner. Yet of all my memories from that lovely event, seeing him is the one event that stands out in my mind. He’s had a really rough time in recent months, but in spite of my shock at his appearance, my gut feeling is he will recover and live rather well for at least another ten or twenty years.
After that I try to think of other things. Of how I actually began to cry when I saw all those lovely young women and men marching down the aisle. Of how the organ music sounded within the old cement walls of Saint Paul’s episcopal cathedral. How my sister in law (well, step-sister-in-law) spent half an hour complaining that the cathedral is cold and barren, compared to when she was a child, when all the walls were hung with warm, color-rich tapestries.
How my stepsister, the mother of the bride, looked absolutely stunning with all her long, full hair pulled back and pinned up behind her head, revealing the magnificent beauty of her cheekbones and ears, a vision rarely seen because as long as I have known her – thirty-three years now – she has always insisted on keeping her thick hair pulled down into a very long mat, a huge pile that completely hides her head under a full set of chestnut brown branches.
How my mother refused to wear her coat until she was positively shivering in the chill, and then began to complain that we should not go to the reception, or leave before dinner, or leave right after dinner, or before the toasts were offered, or before the coffee was poured. I kept urging her to be patient, and not make us leave yet. As grandmother of the bride, she was seated at a more honorable table than mine, with the bride’s parents in fact, just one table from the central table of honor for the bride and groom and their nine groomsmen and nine bridesmaids (that’s right, nine each). I was off in the far corner of the great hall (there were twenty tables). Every now and then I would walk over and ask Mom how she was doing. Towards the end I sent my son over to ask, and he came back after a while to report that she was still hanging in there but making noises about going soon. Then, after the dancing began, she slowly walked over herself to our table in the corner and told me in no uncertain terms that she was ready to go. When I saw her making her way towards us, I knew that our time was up.
Since I was driving I could not make much advantage of the open bar. Only two glasses of wine, one before dinner, and one with dinner. Oh, and coffee, of course, which helped a bit to keep me awake when we finally left after nine o’clock. The wedding was absolutely stunning. I was very impressed, and very happy for my niece and her young man. They are both professionals, with good jobs, and so I suspect that they will only be paying for the wedding for the next ten or twelve years. For their honeymoon, they fly to Fiji.
Perhaps the one regret I have is that I forgot to take my camera. So I have no videos or photos to share of that magnificent event. But, on the other hand, I was absolutely free just to enjoy the experience without any need whatsoever to snap pictures or record video. Indeed, I wonder if perhaps I almost forgot the camera on purpose – I am not really sure.