Several years ago I went to a friend’s wedding. I arrived at the chapel early. I sat in the front pew while the piano played. It was the best seat in the house. I wanted to see my buddy’s expression when he stumbled over the words “I do.”
The chapel was adorned with white flowers and greenery. The woman seated beside me was the elderly aunt of the bride.
“My name’s Irma,” she said, presenting her white-gloved hand. “How do you know the groom?”
“We grew up fishing together,” I said.
She looked at me like I had cockroaches crawling out of my eye sockets. “Really? I thought he hated fishing.”
That’s when I had a feeling something was very wrong.
And I was correct. When the groom took the altar, I realized I’d never seen him before in my life. I started having chest pains. I was at the right church on the wrong weekend.
Soon, the pianist played the familiar chords of matrimony and the congregation stood. I was going to sneak out the back, but I was too late. The rear doors swung open.
The bride walked the aisle, wearing a gown that was elegant enough to break your heart.
Beside me, Aunt Irma was becoming emotional. “Have you ever seen her look so radiant?”
“Hardly even recognized her,” I said.
We took our seats. The minister asked who gave the bride away. A white-haired man said, “Her mama and I!”
It was a beautiful ceremony. The bride and groom recited vows they’d written themselves. The groom read a sonnet so eloquent it made most women in the audience feel moderately disgusted with their own choice of life partners.
When the bride read her vows, they were so sweet and heart-wrenching that half the congregation was dehydrated afterward.
Aunt Irma was sniffing so hard that I handed her a Kleenex. She hooked her arm on mine. I was looking toward the fire exits.
When the preacher announced the young couple, the congregation applauded. The newlyweds left the chapel accompanied by the song, “Lean on Me.” I’ve never heard this song at a wedding before or since, but it works. And it works pretty well, too, I might add.
While the crowd gently murmured the Bill Withers lyrics together, I was about to make my clean getaway when Irma grabbed my arm and said “Walk me to the reception, I’m hungry, and I have a bad hip.”
“I really need to go.”
“No you don’t.”
I smiled. “I really do.”
“You can’t leave. It’s rude. Besides, I need help walking. And we need to hurry. If I don’t eat something fast I’m gonna have, whaddyacallit, seizures.”
The reception was in the fellowship hall. I almost left Nana by herself, but it seemed impolite somehow. So I stuck around. We ate meatballs, chicken wings, and sipped on glasses of tea sweet enough to take the paint off most municipal fire hydrants.
Then came the father-daughter dance. The white-haired man slow-danced with his best girl. And if there’s anything more beautiful than a father-daughter dance, I don’t care to know what it is.
Later, when the communal dance floor opened, Aunt Irma asked if I wanted to cut a rug. I declined, and reminded her of the titanium hip she was still making payments on. She could hardly walk, let alone Mashed Potato.
She said, “Well, I don’t mean crazy dancing.”
“I really don’t think it’s a good idea.”
She was already getting up. “Well, then it’s a good thing I didn’t ask your opinion, isn’t it?”
So, old Irma and I danced. Although to be fair, it was more like the Nursing Home Shuffle. And when the DJ played “I Can’t Help Falling in Love,” I had to warn Irma to watch how low she placed her wandering hands.
Before I left the reception, I clipped a twenty-dollar bill to the money tree beside the bridal cake. I was almost to the door when I was cut off by the bride and groom.
“You look familiar,” the bride said. “Who’d you come with?”
I choked. Everyone just waited for me to answer.
“He’s an old friend,” said Aunt Irma, grabbing my arm. “He came with me.”
I looked at her.
Before the couple could say anything else, I awkwardly shook the bride’s hand, then pumped the groom’s hand.
And in the young man’s eyes, I saw the same boyish face I used to see in the mirror. He looked like I did on the day of my wedding. Naive, hopeful, innocent. It’s a beautiful kind of ignorance. The ignorance of a young man who has no idea how magnificent his own life can turn out with the right person. I wish I could’ve explained all this to him, but I couldn’t. As it happens, I’m still learning about it myself.
I released his grip. “If you ever wanna go fishing,” I said. “Call me.”
Kathy Painter - June 12, 2022 9:59 am
Thank you. I’ve been married 51 years and still look in the mirror and see that 18 year old smiling on her wedding day 💜. Thank you for the reminder. Hope you are feeling better
Melissa Norman - June 12, 2022 11:02 am
Beautiful story to read on this Sunday Morning before getting ready for church. As a widow anticipating remarrying in the next year to a delightful widower met online, it is a joy to reminisce about my wedding day 31 years ago. The hopes and dreams we had for our life. We accomplished more than we ever dreamed with the help of God. We had more heartache than we ever dreamed, too!!! Good thing God did not reveal that ahead of time. It was not what we dreamed, but, it was a sweet journey with a wonderful, Godly man. I was so blessed to have him step into Heaven while in my arms. What a journey! Thank you for your stories and I pray you are feeling better!!!
Anne Arthur - June 12, 2022 11:10 am
You made aunt Irma’s day, for sure.
Well put in scene, the entire film rolled in front of my eyes. You’re the master storyteller, Sean.
Marie - June 12, 2022 11:28 am
Jim Duncan - June 12, 2022 12:33 pm
Seam, your column and Aunt Irma was one of your best. Way to go
Kathryn - June 12, 2022 1:03 pm
Nothing like those small church weddings with the reception next door in the Fellowship Hall and cake and tea so sweet they make your teeth itch! No big productions with lights, fireworks, video and a forty minute drive to a country club or other”venue,” you’ve never been to before and will never see again. Or until the next wedding. I miss those sweet church weddings! Enjoyed your description of this one!
David Britnell - June 12, 2022 1:18 pm
I enjoyed this so much, as I do all your stories!
Amanda Huber - June 12, 2022 1:33 pm
Literally laughing at loud on our back porch drinking coffee before getting ready for church. Aunt Irma’s hands wandering while you’re dancing. 😂
Love it. Thanks, Sean! Hope you recover fully soon!
Amanda in NW Indiana
Evelyn Foreman - June 12, 2022 2:50 pm
This was most entertaining!!!
James Key - June 12, 2022 2:54 pm
You are too talented to write “like cockroaches coming out of my eye sockets”. That is gross. So please stop!
Vicky - June 12, 2022 4:17 pm
Sean, this brought up memories of the day I attended the wrong wedding. Right day, wrong church. How often will two churches, next door to each other, both have noon weddings scheduled for the same day! I told the usher that I only knew the bride’s family and he said let’s get you a good seat down close to the family! I began to feel more and more uncomfortable as people were seated and I saw not one familiar face. Then the mother of the bride was seated and that’s when I wanted to throw up. Total stranger! I found out later that I had attended the wedding of my mother’s exterminator.
Thankfully there was no “Aunt Irma” seated next to me and I did get to the right reception, thank heavens!
Julia Matson - June 12, 2022 4:18 pm
One of your best.
Diane M - June 12, 2022 4:19 pm
Haha Haha, that’s a hilarious story!!🤣
Joanne Lay - June 12, 2022 4:39 pm
Excellent story!! Love Aunt Irma!! (and you!!)
Amanda McKinley - June 12, 2022 5:25 pm
Oh my gosh, I just love you Sean! Your posts are the perfect mix of humor, depth, wisdom, and emotion. I was cracking up as I read this post while sitting on the stationary bike at the gym!
Nancy Walsh - June 12, 2022 6:56 pm
I loved this so much!
Linda Moon - June 12, 2022 7:12 pm
I love the double meaning in your answer to Aunt Irma’s question. Wedding bliss and blissful ignorance can keep couples together for a long time happy time!
AlaRedClayGirl - June 12, 2022 8:46 pm
I can just picture you and Aunt Irma cutting a rug on the dance floor! I once showed up at someone’s family reunion with a baby gift in hand (the baby shower was the house next door). Hope you are feeling better.
Chasity Davis Ritter - June 13, 2022 1:39 am
I was headed to a wedding once and almost signed the r guest book at a funeral!! I mean the people were dressed nice. It was at a church and There were flowers… I supposed one man’s wedding could be another’s funeral??!
Ruth Mitchell - June 13, 2022 1:55 am
I wish I had a story like this from my own experiences. I can’t quit smiling!
suzi - June 13, 2022 3:17 am
Kim Morris Ladoczky - June 13, 2022 4:59 am
I actually liked your cockroach/eye socket line. I think not suits your style & definitely gave me a visual of Aunt Irma’s shocked face… continue on with your own way. Please.
Kim Morris Ladoczky - June 13, 2022 5:01 am
ugh, I hate typos. “I think it suits”
Larry Wall - June 13, 2022 4:25 pm
Sean, I have been reading you from almost the ‘beginning’ days and there have been so very many great stories from your typewriter that I can’t begin to count them. This one sits right at the top with ‘the best of the best’. Just delightfully funny. Tell Irma hello for us.
Debbie g - June 14, 2022 11:33 am
That is the most beautiful funny story I have ever read
Until I read your next one 😀❤️
Love you and Jamie and love to us all
CHARALEEN WRIGHT - June 14, 2022 1:18 pm