It’s a morning wedding. A simple one. There is Spanish moss in the trees. The birds are out. This is John’s first marriage. He’s forty-five years young. It’s the biggest day of his entire life.
And I forgot a wedding gift.
This is his cousin’s hunting land, a place John thought would be a perfect spot for a shindig. He was right.
John’s new wife has two kids. Boys. They are pure energy, but well-behaved.
John has no family at the ceremony. No mother, father, uncles, aunts, cousins. There are only two older men standing for him. They are wiry and weathered.
They used to work on oil rigs with John. He calls them the only family he’s ever had. They treat him like a sort of son.
The bride’s family is in attendance. They are salt-of-the-earth folks. Khakis and button-downs, cotton dresses. Simple.
“I look forward to being a dad to her boys,” says John. “I grew up without one, I know how bad kids need a father.”
John knows a lot more than that. Two years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer. It was bad. He went through surgery, chemo, nausea, hair loss, weight loss. The works. He’s been in remission ever since, but it’s changed him.
“Scared the you-know-what outta me,” says John. “Now I wake up each day and think, ‘Man, is it gonna come back?’ It plays with you mind.”
She is the picture of loveliness. She was married once before. Her husband left her. She and her boys moved in with her mother.
John was working on a concrete crew, laying a driveway for her mother’s rental house. Her kids befriended John right away.
“He was all they could talk about for days,” she says. “I thought, geez, I’d better get to know this guy.’”
She asked him to stay for supper; John sat at her table that very night. This woman is fast.
“She surprised me,” says John. “Ever since my diagnosis, I kinda thought life was over. I mean, no woman wants a single, middle-aged guy with cancer. But she proved me wrong, I mean, ’cause here we are.”
Here we are.
The kids stand between John and his bride, underneath a tall oak. They are wearing neckties. When the preacher gets to the do-you-promise-to-love-hon
“We do,” they all say.
The reception is tame. It’s on the porch of the cabin. There is sweet tea and casseroles. Someone bought chicken tenders from Winn Dixie.
One of John’s friends stands, removes his cap, and starts a prayer. He has special words written for the occasion, but he changes his mind. He decides to wing it.
He closes his eyes.
“Dear God, thank you for my friends, we are grateful you let them find each other…”
Amens from all.
“Thanks for coming,” John says to me. “It’s weird, I’ve been smiling since last night. This whole day has gone by fast, I kinda wish I could write it all down so I don’t forget.”
I think I understand what you mean, John.
Consider this a late wedding gift.