Listening to every heart
I should have known….
My family had gone on a last “full” vacation with everyone home, before my imminent marriage to a young man from another state. We had already gone past the “silent treatment” of my Mom’s when he had announced he would be whisking me off some 2000 miles, [but that’s another story] and this was the trip of only kin, a few months before the fatal day.
The trip is another story in itself…suffice to say, we’ll stick to the failure part of what I like to call “all the warning signs”. Seems half-way through our trip, my intended’s friend called to let us know that my fiancé would be all right, only the new Opal had been totaled, but since he had fallen asleep at the wheel, he wasn’t hurt, just shaken up and spending the night, ah, in the arms of the Air Force M.P.’s special holding tank.
My folks decided not to break that bit of news to me until we were almost home – since he hadn’t died, wasn’t terribly hurt or even disfigured, they decided I didn’t need to worry about anything until after we got back. [Being a Peter Pan sort of fellow as he was, he was terribly likable – they just didn’t hold out much chance for this to “pan” out, if you’ll forgive the pun…but they also knew that I had already taken a stance of putting up for the underdog, so they continued to hope against hope that I would see the light.]
That was red flag number 1.
Red Flag Number 2 came by two weeks before the wedding. The fiancé decided he would just “take off” for a little trip on his own. No phone calls, no “I want to get away by myself”, no nothing. His friends didn’t know where he had taken off to, his family didn’t know (they were several states away, true, but he hadn’t called them, either) and so, I was a bag of frazzled nerves for three solid days. When he finally drove in, the mix of kill and hug was so strong I didn’t know if I’d kiss him to death…or strangle him in such a hold as I would put on him. Again, his little boy outlook on life swung me over until I forgave him, and put aside the three days of sheer hell I had gone through with worry.
Red Flag Number 3.
The night before the wedding, as I lay in my bed in my parent’s home, excited, exhausted, knowing insomnia would take hold, I tried to picture his face. Nothing but a blank. Nothing. I tried to picture faces of other young men I had dated. Oh, I could see them so clearly, I could even see their pimples and blackheads and cowlicks. But could I picture in my mind, my fiancés face?
Not on a bet.
Which scared me. I wondered what it meant, and finally decided that it must be what they referred to as the wedding jitters. At eighteen, I really wasn’t paying attention. I did think…I want out. But then…what would we do? All of this food. All of these people!! I couldn’t let them down…and the guilt, self laid mind you, but still, guilt, began. Oh, God. Embarrass my folks? I didn’t dare! This wasn’t a whim! This wasn’t something that was just decided last week! This had been two years in coming. I didn’t HAVE to get married, I WANTED to get married, right? Right? Wrong. But the guilt of thinking maybe it WAS a mistake after all…
How could I explain this?
It had to be jitters.
Red Flag Number Four.
The day of the wedding grew glorious. The weather was perfect, the smiles were all in place, Dad was still cracking jokes and Mom lost her voice. Nerves, decidedly, or had she screamed to the heavens the night before to somehow show me a way out? I’ll never know. It didn’t come to me until MUCH later that the scenario laid out above was quite probably true.
So the doctor prescribed a relaxant for Mom [which really kicked in with the champagne…but I’m getting ahead of the story]…and we proceeded on to the church where I would dress.
The first thing my brother, who was one of my groomsmen, said, was “how many people did we invite, anyway?” We figured ½ of the number invited would show. We were not prepared to see the church overflowing. That’s how much my parents were loved. We figured 125-150 as we had sent out 300 invitations…over 250 people had come. Mom refused to figure out how we would feed them all…somehow it would work out. (It did, but I’m getting ahead of myself)…
So, my family is helping me dress, all of the ladies primping the bride in the most modest of dresses, hand made, hand sewn, all on the budget of the day (for Mom and Dad were going through a financial crisis that we had not seen coming down the pike) and the festivities were, decidedly, on the cheap. But it looked good.
Then someone said, “get the bride ready, it’s time.” That’s all it took. I froze. Voices went far and away, down some tunnel that had suddenly appeared. I could see everyone, but I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. I literally froze. My grandmother’s voice came through the fog, it must have been fog, it had gotten so cold in the room.
“Bring the smelling salts.”
The sharp whiff jogged me, and I faltered, and lagged. Arms were under me, getting me to a chair. Suddenly, from somewhere, a sharp resolve that felt like a pin prick bounced me out of the chair and it was “let’s get it done” and I felt as if I were going to a beheading.
I was making a mistake. But I couldn’t back out of it now. Not with the church overflowing. Not with everyone who was waiting. I wasn’t Katherine Ross, and there was no Dustin Hoffman. I was making my bed.
I was going to learn, as time took its toll, you can’t always stick up for the underdog.