It is a beautiful summer day in Virginia. The skies are blue and not white with haze, as so many summer days in the South are. The temperature is in the mid 80s and I am beginning to get a little nervous. Roanoke is a beautiful city. It's also a city my father has never been in before and he is alone in it, shopping, on some pretty hefty pain meds. It's a wonder he makes it back in time and doesn't end up in the hospital or in jail. But there he is in his tuxedo, smiling his toothy, goofy smile. He is as happy as if he were on medication.
Rewind the tape a few hours and my wife and I are alone in the church with the wedding planner. We are dressed casually in shorts and T-shirts. We have a basin of water and a towel and we wash one another's feet. It's private and beautiful. It's holy.
My brothers are dressing in their tuxedoes. I am sitting in a chair, dressed in mine, wondering what I am doing here, feeling like an observer taking notes, a stranger. I'd felt that way since people began to arrive - like I was an inconsequential part of the process. Like I was luggage. It's who I am. We are family and it is a special day. I don't think anyone knows how to act. We don't really look at each other. We don't really talk to each other. Five years before, my brothers and sister did this. Got married. And here I am following in their footsteps, following in the footsteps of countless generations before me, in a small cinderblock church that is an odd shade of green. It is not a beautiful church, but there is beauty within it.
I stand at the front of the church with my brothers waiting. Bridesmaids walk down the aisle and I start to get emotional. I'm an emotional guy. Don't tell anyone. I start thinking about what I am doing. I start thinking about the implications of what I am doing and I shift my body slightly and then replant my feet. One of my nieces, Emilee, who is three, is the flower girl and seeing her come down the aisle brings tears to my eyes. Perhaps she is the harbinger of my future or the signpost of my past. Regardless, she is Emilee, and seeing her makes me cry - just a little.
Then she is there, the one I had been waiting for all my life. She is beautiful. I waited for this woman to say yes to me. I waited for her acceptance, her love, her walking down that aisle. Forsaking all others flashes through my mind, hand in hand with a gasp of Do you want to do this? Why at this moment? Why now? In a heartbeat the thought comes and leaves and I refocus on the brunette in the white dress. Absolutely, I answer.
We take communion as part of the ceremony and she and I enter into that lonely place again, that holy place. Her father is conducting most of the ceremony and as we near the end he cannot continue. The other pastor with him finishes the ceremony and pronounces us man and wife. I kiss the brunette in the white dress in front of God and everyone.
The reception is finger foods and mingling and a crazy blur. It is our love feast, the consummation of our holy communion.
We change out of our wedding clothes. We spend some time with family. We get in our car and we drive away.
We miss the fireworks that evening. But I am okay with it.