Thirty years ago today I was standing in the clammy, molded basement of Winn’s Baptist Church with my best friend, Al Thomason, listening to organ music, and feeling my heart beating in my chest. For a second I completely forgot what my cue was supposed to be, adding panic to nausea. Then my Dad said, “Ok, that’s us.” It was finally comforting to be the son of a minister. Al and I followed him up the stairs, down a little hallway and into the blinding light of what seemed like a thousand faces. Every living soul who I had ever known was there, dressed to kill, grinning serenely at me as I followed Dad to the spot on the red carpet marked with a masking tape X.
I looked into the crowd, seeing everything and seeing nothing. Suddenly, the piano and organ sounded triumphant and everyone rose to their feet. Then, I saw her at the end of the aisle holding on to her father’s arm. For a brief moment I considered the possibility that I might either cry or flee… neither a consummation devoutly to be wished. I quickly recovered when she began to walk slowly down the aisle. The closer she got to me the calmer I felt.
I had spent the morning playing full court basketball with the assorted knuckleheads who comprised the male contingent of the wedding party, enduring a cascade of slurs attacking my manhood, judgment and intelligence, all informing me that my life was about to be over with the arrival of the old ball and chain. This is the way guys deal with sober, life altering events, with trash talk. When I made the mistake of informing them that I had arranged to have a dozen roses delivered to her house an hour ago, the news was greeted with howls of derision…”Awww, ain’t he just the most romantic guy in the world?? Let’s all go have a wine cooler and watch The Way We Were!” Now these very same knuckleheads were standing all over the platform in tuxedos, jealous that I was the one marrying the beautiful blond walking down the aisle.
The next thing I know, I hear my brother at the piano singing a song that I had written for the occasion. I hardly recognized my own composition, so mesmerized was I by this vision standing next to me in front of God and man. In that moment, before children, before cars and houses, before success and failure, before dogs and cats, there was just the two of us listening to a poorly written but heartfelt love song. For the first time in nearly a month, I relaxed.
The whole thing would be over with in twenty five minutes. I remember little of what happened after that song. There were vows and the lighting of candles and at the very end we stood there for what seemed like forever waiting for Roger Harris to finish singing the Lord’s Prayer. Then it was over. I had married the most beautiful woman in the world and the earth was still spinning round. Despite the predictions of most of my groomsmen, hell had not frozen over.
Of course, getting together is a lot easier than staying together, but thirty years later, here we are. The kids are grown. She’s still beautiful, and I’m still here.
The very best decision I have ever made.