Friday, July 27, 2007

To Have and To Hold

Twenty-nine years ago – a couple of lifetimes, actually, at 5:00, I put on a beige caftan and hung it with my turquoise jewelry. Hubby put on his favorite jeans leisure suit. It was 1978 after all. His best buddy put on a lovely three piece black suit. We climbed into our little used Toyota and buzzed down the street to the local Methodist church.

Hubby’s sister and mother met us at the church, along with a family friend. The minister was a no-show. After 20 minutes, in panic, I called him only to find him having dinner with his family. “Oh. Was I supposed to meet you tonight? Well, sorry. I’ll be right there.”

Thirty minutes later the ceremony began. The minister examined the paperwork. He smiled at Hubby and then asked the bride and groom to hold hands, as he happily tried to join my hand to Hubby’s best friend. We explained the mistake.

“Dearly beloved . . . do you Susan take this man . . .” Oops. No Susan present. My mind frantically began to wonder just how wrong this wedding, seemingly impromptu, was going to go wrong. Would it be legal if the minister continued to use the wrong name and actually married Hubby to Susan?

Hubby grinned when he looked at my face and stopped the ceremony. The minister peered at us for a moment or two in consternation, shrugged and began again.

Two weeks earlier Hubby’s best friend had arrived from Louisiana to be the witness at the wedding. After all, he thought that he was the cupid that had finally gotten Hubby to agree to marry me.

Five years earlier Hubby and I had met when I joined his choir. I couldn’t sing well, but I could read music and in that choir that was an advantage. I’d been smitten from the start. Hubby was as well but it took us six months to connect. From the first date we’d never been apart. Hubby had two previous marriages; I had one.

Our “courtship” really was a non-event. We had all the ups and downs of a couple that immediately start living together when they really don’t know anything about each other. My parents were horrified. His family had seen him through so many girls that they didn’t even bother to get to know them any longer. His sister has no memory of me in the first year of our relationship – I was just one of a long line of conquests.

After five years, my family was still irate but his had finally welcomed me into the flock. I wanted a visual commitment to show the world that Hubby was indeed, a “taken” man. Grudgingly, he finally agreed and so the best friend was invited to attend the wedding, arriving in mid-July. After two weeks of waiting for the big event, best friend finally told Hubby that he was going home that weekend. So on a Thursday at 6 p.m. we were at the church, formalizing our five year relationship.

Vows taken, papers signed, minister paid, we drove a couple more blocks to Hubby’s sister home where we had a blue Baskin Robbins cake and opened our one wedding present, an electric skillet. Hubby sat around long enough to have some ice cream and then he and best friend went off to play pool, their favorite evening activity and I went home, alone.

The best friend is now a full professor of music at a prestigious Louisiana college. The minister became mayor of our city is now a congressman in D.C. representing our district. Will’s sister moved to Houston where she lives and we spend every Christmas with her. Their mother died of cancer in the 1980’s – she was one of my dearest friends. My parents never reconciled to the wedding. The turquoise jewelry was stolen, along with almost everything we held dear, in a terrible robbery in the 1980's. The old Toyota was replaced with a variety of new cars until new cars began to cost more than our house had originally so now we're back, driving the old beaters -- just in much bigger format. No children graced our union but the fur babies have increased our lives ten-fold.

Four years ago Hubby’s sister flew to us for a month, and with the help of church friends, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a concert raising funds for the church. With the help of our friends and family, I got the perfect wedding event. Folks came from near and far, the music was incredible, the concert with accompanying reception full of red roses and long gowns and tuxedos. The best friend flew in to duet with his pal. And Hubby sang to me, a song of his choosing. The song is not highly romantic. It is not full of passion and glitz. But it speaks to the love we have shared all these years.

“If ever I would leave you, it wouldn’t be in summer. . . .”

Thirty-four years ago we began our life together; twenty-nine years ago we were officially united. How lucky we have been to have had each other through the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the ups and the downs. We promised in that ceremony to love each other to the end . . . and that promise has been kept.

“Summer, winter springtime, or fall! No, never could I leave you at all!”

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