I’m at a wedding for my friend. His son is getting married. On stage: eight former Little-Leaguers wearing rented tuxes.
They still call my pal, “Coach”.
I used to help lead his son’s practices. The boys never called me anything but “HEY, HEY, HEY!”
Anyway, conversations at weddings are happy ones. And this is reason enough for attending. Because at weddings, nobody talks about jerk-bosses or politics. Plus, they have free beer.
I’m sitting beside a woman named Miss Rhonda, who has snow-white hair. She tells me about her granddaughter, studying biology at Alabama. The fella on my right is Uncle Of The Groom. He sells scratch-and-dent appliances in Atlanta, and begins each sentence with “Let me tell you somethin’ right now.”
Then, the back doors shut. The music changes. And let me tell you somethin’ right now, I love weddings.
A flower girl first. Then siblings. Next: the cast of The Golden Girls. They’re wearing entire rose gardens on their lapels.
My friend’s son is an All-American groom. His whole life was a ball game because of his daddy. A cracker-jack pitcher. Driven student. A few wild high-school nights, but nothing serious.
He decided not to play college ball. Instead, he went into the arts. He’s a bar musician now. He loves it. His daddy does not. They haven’t spoken much over the years. Not even during the World Series.
Today, however, the coach is proud.
Coach is smiling so big his cheeks must hurt. It’s an Atta-Boy look I’ve seen before—even though we’re not on a field.
Funny. It wasn’t long ago the groom was eating ice cream on my tailgate. He and his friends used to fight over who could make the loudest bodily noises.
Now they’re old enough to disappoint their daddies.
Piano music plays. Doors open. The audience stands. Men button coats. Women smile. Let me tell you something right now, we’re a reverent bunch of Baptists.
The groom sees her. He swallows. Smiles. Swallows. Wipes his eyes. Tugs his collar.
Sorry, Ace, no relief pitchers today.
Miss Rhonda is crying. So am I. She hooks her arm around mine and says, “Aren’t you a little softy?”
The bride and groom recite their own vows. Thus, before God and Alabama, he promises to love her through bad health, pitiful finances, unemployment, AC repairs, bad dogs, parental problems, and whatever else the Devil throws at them. Even death.
They have no idea what they’re getting into. And that’s how it should be.
When it’s over, the coach blows his nose and wipes his eyes.
I have never seen this man cry.
“Man,” he says. “That’s a good boy I got. A damn good boy. You think he’ll ever forgive me?”
If you tell him what you just told me, I believe he will, Coach.
With all my heart I do.