So there I was… trying to eat a cheeseburger in the shower while contemplating this question: Am I going to make it to my wedding on time? My last day as a bachelor pretty much started the same way as all of the previous days of my life, with me having absolutely no idea of what was going on. My current crisis began exactly three years earlier at Cedar Point Amusement Park when I convinced an unsuspecting coworker to accompany me on date. Our romance blossomed, and now we were preparing to get hitched. As could be expected, there were going to be a couple of minor setbacks that had to be addressed first. The greatest of which had just come to a head (pun intended, as you will undoubtably see).
The day before, everything had been going along pretty much according to Hoyle. We (she) had decided to hold our nuptials in a quaint little tree-lined park near her hometown of Pioneer, Ohio. There was a wooden footbridge that she and her attendants would cross over to join with me and my entourage, the mayor of her town would perform the ceremony, pictures would be taken, and we would all retire to the Pioneer Community Center for the the reception. The plan was simple and foolproof. With a moderate amount of nervous gibes and whispered innuendos, the ceremony rehearsal went off without a snag. Now, it was on to my future in-laws for the rehearsal dinner. That’s where the wedding train would veer off the tracks and almost literally end up down the drain.
The night started out well. Both sides of the aisle got a long look at the other, decided they were of equally good stock, and thus proceeded to rain their mutual blessings upon the proclivities. I could not have been more pleased with the way things were going until one of my very good friends approached with a very worried look on his face. In the measured voice of a man who has accidentally committed murder and needed help getting rid of the body, he confided to me, “I think I broke the toilet.” Supposing that he must have somehow clogged the drain, I immediately brushed past him to investigate the extent of the problem. As soon as I looked into the bathroom, even my untrained eye was able to notice something had gone horribly wrong. Namely, the entire porcelain tank that normally perched behind the seat was missing. Before I could even ask myself where it was, the answer became apparent. It had been shattered into numerous shards that now littered the floor. I then felt my friend’s labored breath over my shoulder. I whipped around, grabbed him by the shoulders and demanded to know how this could happen. Since his reply of, “I hit it with my head,” did nothing to help solve the current crisis, I let him go and considered my next step.
This was soon going to be a serious problem. Probably close to fifty people were in the house, and the only toilet had now fallen victim to a horrible accident (alcohol may have been a contributing factor). To my credit, the idea of an immediate last-second elopement several states away only briefly flashed through my mind. I went and found my soon to be father-in-law to give him the news. He took it better than I expected, which is to say I am still able to walk under my own power. A skilled craftsman of the old school, he devised a way to manually flush the john using a bucket of water poured into a now exposed hole behind the bowl. Obviously, this approach was at best a stopgap measure, so I hastily offered to replace the toilet with a new one. What I didn’t realize at the time was that said offer included me coming over to help put it in at 7:00 the next morning. The day of my wedding.
It was an understandably quiet ride to the local hardware store at dawn as we went to acquire a replacement commode. The nearly hour-long trip was not made any easier by the general lack of small talk as we were all engaged in our own thoughts. The ambient mood did not improve much when we got back because once we started the repairs, that meant the entire household was out of relief options until the job was done. Plumbing work is a pain under the best of circumstances. With scores of cross-legged, tap-dancing, future in-laws peering over your shoulder, its downright unbearable. Trust me, it wasn’t only the humidity that was making me sweat. Eventually, and with the lift-off time for the ceremony getting ever closer, we got the new toilet connected and prepared to begin its humble service. My offer to swap the commode for his daughter as an even trade did manage to elicit a slight smile from her dad. After a handshake sealed the deal, I quickly drove away to the motel to get ready in the ever dwindling time I had left.
When I arrived, I discovered the shower I planned on using was already occupied by another member of the wedding party. My stomach informed me that I had not eaten yet, and with no clear idea when I would get the chance to again, I ordered a quick lunch from room service. It arrived just as the shower became free, and that’s how I ended up eating a cheeseburger with one hand and conditioning my hair with the other. Despite the hurried pace, I felt myself slowly starting to calm down. The true magnitude of the day was finally taking hold. I was fully grasping the idea that my life was about to drastically change and not just because I would soon be a husband. Along with the matrimonial hubbub, less than two weeks ago I had accepted a teaching position two thousand miles away in California where my wife and I would start our married life together. The stars had finally aligned for me, and all my dreams were coming true. Sure, I was nervous, but it all felt so right. The horizon was filled with only bright, sunny, blue skies as far as the mind’s eye could see. That is until someone gently rapped on the bathroom door and spoke the two words no one wants to hear on the day of their wedding, correction, their outdoor wedding. “It’s raining.”
This was not a possibility I had seriously entertained until precisely that moment. You see, our mid-summer wedding day just happened to be in the midst of a six-week long drought in northwest Ohio. A drought that was about to literally come to an unceremonious end. My ceremony. Quickly toweling off, I sneaked a quick glance out the window to confirm the new information. Yup. It wasn’t just raining; it was pouring outside. At the moment, I promised myself to always have a plan B from now on because I sure as heck could’ve used one then. A series of frantic phone calls ensued which luckily resulted in the securing of the reception hall a few hours earlier than planned, so it could perform double-duty as our chapel, too. More calls followed to the mayor, the musicians, the guests we could reach (remember, cell phones were still years down the line). Helpers were dispatched to brave the elements and post makeshift signs at the original location with maps to the new site. It happened so quickly my hair was still damp upon my arrival at the community center where I was quickly ushered into a secluded coatroom to quietly await my bride.
Since we didn’t have time to do even a cursory run-through, I found myself sitting on a folding chair in a tiny room with no idea of even where I supposed to stand during the ceremony. We were going to have to wing the entire thing. My older brother Mark became my only conduit to the outside world. It was he who first noticed that every time he entered the closet where I had been sequestered, I kept inching closer and closer to the outside exit. Evidently, my nervousness was subconsciously activating my “flee” instinct. Even if I had tried to make a break for it, dressed as I was in an all-white tux, our (her) decision, I would not have gotten far on foot anyhow before being spotted. For what seemed to be both an eternity and only a split-second, I sat and stared at the stainless steel hangers dangling on the racks across from me. Eventually, Mark popped his head in again and said, “It’s time.” And indeed, it was.
My brother escorted me out to my hurriedly assigned spot. The guests were all seated (at tables for the reception, not in rows). The mayor, script in hand, was ready to perform his official duties. My eyes briefly locked onto my mother’s, who used her maternal powers to force my right hand out of its pocket. The entire world held still for just a moment. Then the musicians began that familiar wedding march, and the woman who would be my partner in life entered the hall. It was the only time in my life I ever had to remind myself to breathe. Sublime doesn’t begin to describe the moment I first saw her in her wedding dress. She was absolutely radiant as she seemingly floated up the aisle. Rogers and Hammerstein themselves couldn’t have orchestrated a grander, more transcendent moment. As she took her place by my side, I looked directly in those perfectly-shaped eyes and said, “Nice hat.”
Now, what I meant by that comment has been the topic of much heated discussion in our household. She claims it wasn’t until watching our wedding tape nine years later that it finally hit her that I was really poking fun at her choice in headgear. That I was not, as she had always previously assumed, entirely sincere in my appreciation for the glorious stylings of her chapeau. Not possessing a sarcastic bone in my body, I have absolutely no idea where she arrived at such a heinous and clearly mistaken conclusion. My heartfelt protests have fallen upon deaf ears though, and I fear there is still distrust there. Regardless, aside from her lips quivering during the exchanging of rings to the point where I was afraid her skin would split in two to reveal the head of an alien, and the sheet music to “The Lord’s Prayer” mysteriously jumping off the stand halfway through the song (an ominous sign), the ceremony proceeded apace. We were announced as man and wife, I kissed the bride, then we just sort of stood there as the applause awkwardly faded away. Neither one of us knew what the next step was. Having to do something, we just sort of walked out into the small foyer, waited a beat, turned around, and walked back in to start the reception.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, pretty much sums up the way we’ve led our married lives for the last twenty-five years and counting.
(To be continued…)