“Let’s not mention grandchildren right now. I’m only just grasping that my little Tori married her middle school Sweetheart!” I replied to my new father-in-law.
Holy Sh*t! I could soon be a grandfather! Noooooooo! This does not make me feel invigorated, or young, or ready. Her mother and I didn’t marry until I was 35-years old and she 25-years old. Why, why, why did she start two months into 21!? Her new husband is only 22! Who in their right mind thinks they’re truly ready for marriage so young? Really?
Then I met and spent time with the groom’s parents and family… and the laughter almost never stopped.
* * * * * * * * * *
Rewind Several Months and Hours
Over Spring Break 2014 my daughter and son were with me and my family. What we all suspected was confirmed by Tori: she and Riley would indeed marry in May 2016 after they both finished undergraduate studies and received their Bachelor’s degrees. Everyone thought it a very good idea, especially me. I wanted to talk about so many things because I’ve essentially missed out on the majority of my daughter’s life due to our 2002 divorce and then their mother remarrying and moving over 300 miles away with both my daughter and son. I’ve missed out on 14-years to be exact, and counting. I had been LONG WAITING for the days she and I could become closer, talk more, without the subtle influences and distractions of her maternal family and religious fundamentalism. Now I must share her again and more. No, not what I had in mind!
But how does one compete with deep young love? How can I compete with a boy — now a man — who’s had my daughter’s heart since 10th grade? I am a little jealous. He has no idea how long I’ve been waiting for her! I raise my arms to the sky and let go a roar and scream that would make Tarzan cower!
Then the summer rolls around and SURPRISE! “We are getting married this May!” she tells me on the phone and everyone else. My jaw hits the table, my eyes bulge and I don’t breath. The very first thought that comes to mind as to WHY they feel they must rush it and push it up a year is… well, all of you are probably thinking the same thing I’m thinking.
Tori begins to chuckle, “No Dad. I am not pregnant.” Whew! I didn’t even have to ask because given her mother, her father (me, not step-dad), and BOTH grandparents, out-of-wedlock babies run rampant in our families. Apparently we are all highly sexually energized and she has had this driven into her brain most of her life! 😮
Unplanned difficulty #1 avoided. Long exhale. Now for #2: I am so not ready for an expensive wedding a year earlier! I am a long-term but Substitute teacher working two other part-time jobs just to make ends meet! This is not going to develop well… for me. Traveling over 300-miles, lodging, meals, gas to and from, are not cheap especially on my meager wages. I’m stressed for the next several months, cutting more corners financially to save… somehow. I have no clue how.
Cats, Dogs, Cows, Elephants, and Even Whales!
Fast forward to May 22, 2015, the Friday before her wedding weekend. Not since around 1989-90 has north Texas — and many parts of the state — seen such record rainfall in a matter of hours and consecutive days. Getting 7″ to 10″ of heavy rain in two hours is unheard of in the annals of Texas weather. As I’m preparing for the trip down toward Houston, the local police and fire departments are explaining all the evacuation procedures for our park. Most all the lakes including the one I’m living on and near, are less than 1-foot from spilling over their dams. The river basin they pour and dump into runs all the way into downtown Dallas, beyond Houston, and into Galveston Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. My park, our RV park sits less than 1,500 feet from the banks of this river. Meteorologists are expecting the heavy storms to last until the following week. If I leave, I may return to a flooded out (or floated away) RV. I can’t miss my daughter’s wedding. I decide to go anyway. Saturday night is her (non?)rehearsal dinner.
The trip to Conroe is about three and a half hours down… down river that is. My ex-live-in-girlfriend, who spent much time with my kids when they still lived in the Dallas area, is also going with me. For the first two hours we drive in such heavy storms that I can’t see more than 45-yards in front of my car. To say it was raining cats and dogs is a gross understatement! The entire animal reserve was coming down on us, even sperm-whales! Yes, that was an intended family pun. The highway (I-45) is normally a 65-75mph speed limit. During three different long phases of the trip, we move no faster than 40mph. We left the DFW area at such a time as to allow us two to two-and-a-half hours to check-in, unpack, shower, and relax before the huge dinner. Two hours until the dinner begins, we are not even halfway there… still on the interstate. My wonderful ex-girlfriend/soul mate suggests calling my mother and we quickly shower and change in her room since their hotel is much closer to the restaurant. Fantastic idea!
With about 20-minutes to spare, we arrive at her hotel, unpack our suitcases, grab the key they left at the front desk, shower, change, pack our stuff BACK into our suitcases, run back out to the car, repack the trunk, then roll into the restaurant only 10-minutes late, somewhat dry and out of breath. My hands are sore from holding the steering wheel so tight. Simultaneously, my ex and I both say, “I need a DRINK!” We don’t mean water! We’ve had enough water for one full day. We’re about to devolve and grow ‘effin gills and fins!
The (Non)Rehearsal Dinner
My ex and I walk up to two rows of tables of 40 guests each. Our empty chairs are across from my Mom, her boyfriend, my sister, my paternal aunt and uncle, and next to the step-dad who is next to my ex-wife. Further down to my right is the maternal grandparents and two of the uncles and wives. To my left are cousins of the groom and their family. Everyone has started on drinks and appetizers. My daughter is the first one to stand and hug me. Her fiancé shakes my hand, they both hug and greet my ex-girlfriend. “I’m so glad you both made it!” she tells us. “We swam some of the way” I grinned. Then the groom’s father stands from across their table to shake my hand; we reaquaint ourselves from my daughter’s high school graduation three years earlier — in the back of our minds we’re thinking drinks, DRINKS please, as we smile and chat. He introduces his wife to my ex, they exchange greetings. We can’t seem to sit down just yet.
Then my son grabs me, gives me a huge hug “You two finally made it!” It seemed he had grown another inch or two since last Xmas. Ethan gives my ex a big hug too; he really liked her when we were together. My ex loved him immensely and missed them both. She too was amazed how tall he had gotten. We turn toward our chairs, but then face more family to greet and exchange formalities with — grumbling in my head, we still have no drinks. We can’t sit down to even order them. Meanwhile, everyone else seems to be on their second or third cocktail.
After we’ve said hello to all of my family, I turn to my kid’s step-dad and shake his hand hello. Quick and pleasant, like it should be. Now we finally get to sit! But there are no staff to take our drink orders because they are serving appetizers to everyone. My ex and I look at each other with crazy-eyes, “are you kidding?” as we both laugh. We’re both ready to steal drinks from family or guests gone to the bathrooms! Clubbing someone over the head is not out of the question either!
Minutes later I finally corner one of our waitresses and order four margaritas, two for both of us. When they arrived not soon enough, you would’ve thought we were inhaling the finest nectar on Earth as we moaned with pleasure. My ex leaned over and whispered “I want to gulp my down, but I don’t want to look like a lush or alcoholic!” I looked at her with this puzzled expression, “Don’t worry” I explained, “the divorced-in-laws (i.e. my ex-wife’s family) probably think we drink too much and have too much fun anyway. I’ll gulp if you’ll gulp!?” Ahhhh, we both smiled setting our glasses down. She whispered again to me, “Did you bring in the bottle of tequila?” If it wasn’t so big, I would have!
Though those were very stressful hours on the highway — what highway we could actually see — the drinks, dinner, conversation, and food were superb. Unless this post becomes 4 to 5,000 words long, I can’t go into detail of just how much we enjoyed the evening. Those two-and-a-half hours were a lot of fun, especially as the groom’s father moved around talking with everyone and making us all laugh. He encouraged us all night to order whatever our hearts desired. It was exactly what we needed after the boat-ride down in the USS Professor.
The Wedding Ceremony
Some of you who know me well know that my ex-wife, the step-father, and the maternal family are ultra-conservative evangelical Fundamentalists. The wedding ceremony and vows was most certainly going to be representative of my ex-wife’s beliefs and as such my daughter’s and how she was raised by her mother. My daughter by now may or may not have the full picture of how… how can I put this(?)…
over-bearing “over-seeing” her maternal grandfather is and interjects his and his own family’s long-line of beliefs into her mother’s life as well as her own. But I knew preparing for this wedding she would get a more pronounced idea.
Yet, even I was amazed how super Fundy and overly-biblical the ceremony turned out to be. All sorts of Paulian theology and New Testament quotes were flowered into the marriage-ideals and vows as her maternal grandfather was the presiding minister. That surprised me greatly. I expected one of the staff members of her own church to do the honors! In hindsight, I can probably explain why the grandfather did it: he happily did it for free since the “biological father” couldn’t afford the expenses of the wedding. With equal reason(s) the evangelical Fundy beliefs had to be presented.
It was a VERY serious wedding. Fortunately, the reception afterwards was not as… stuffy? (wink) I have included a few pictures of the ceremony here because my daughter looked amazing! Her new husband Riley is also a big futebol/soccer fan. We always have tons to talk about when together. I like that! Score major points there Tori. 😉
Groom’s Father and Family
Now I’ve reached the most pleasant, the most enjoyable and relaxing part of the wedding weekend: the groom’s father and family. Correction, the second most pleasant, enjoyable, relaxing part. Being with my daughter at her wedding and having my ex-girlfriend with me was clearly the first! But me and my Mom were wonderfully surprised by how much fun and how moderate the groom’s family turned out to be by comparisons. They knew how to have fun and laughed so easily!
They were all staying at the same hotel with my Mom, her boyfriend, my sister, and my aunt and uncle. Consequently, we had an opportunity to spend some time with them away from wedding-stuff and post-wedding. My Mom had the chance to spend much more time with them — my hotel was 30-minutes away in the next town, sadly. But we did manage to chat with them Sunday night.
As it turns out, my daughter’s in-laws are not so religious and serious. Or to put it another way, they are not so heavily convicted or obligated(?) to preach or “share the gospel of Good News” with everyone, especially sinners — which turns out to be good because me and my family are jovial “well-known” sinners. We were quickly drawn to them and as it also turned out, the groom’s father and my Mom’s boyfriend had a lot in common. Both of them grew up on the farm in the country. He up in the state of Iowa, my Mom’s boyfriend here in Texas. They both knew a lot about hunting, guns/rifles, and gutting, skinning, and cooking your kills. Listening to them all talk and laugh, I realized that they were just regular people who seemed not to care much about anyone’s religious beliefs or non-religious beliefs. It was so liberating to discover! For the last ten or more years I had assumed that my daughter, along with the close help of her mother and step-dad, would have to date a “like-minded” like-committed boy/man, especially to marry him. This may not be the case.
However, I can’t jump to certain conclusions, yet. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve missed out on the last 14-years of my daughter’s life. Riley’s personal beliefs and those of his family’s might be as hardcore as Tori’s mom and her family. They just didn’t show it over the weekend. Nevertheless, this was a fantastic start, from my perspective, for my daughter’s new life… and perhaps my future grandchildren.
* * * * * * * * * *
Above in the slideshow of wedding pictures, there is one with my son walking Tori down the aisle. That is when my eyes welled-up and I started sniffling. When she arrived up on stage, I had to wipe away one or two tears. Yes, as any father would say about his daughter at her wedding, she looked stunning. But not only do I mean it, but she truly does/did! She has inherited some great genes! Not only genes of beauty, but of high intellect too. Tori is indeed a fabulous
girl woman and Riley, as well as his Dad, told me how lucky they feel to have her in the family.
Toward the end of the wedding reception, Tori was making her goodbye rounds before changing into their traveling/honeymoon clothes. We looked at each other, took deep breaths, smiled, and I told her…”And it begins.” I grabbed her and didn’t want to let go holding her for several lengthy seconds. I felt as if I might have to wait longer now. She chuckled at the thought of trying to escape me.
But then again, how long can a single, twice-divorced father hang on to his daughter when “a lifetime of love” awaits? What a strange funny thought. But for a husband and/or father, isn’t that life?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
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