Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Best Of FriedOkra: How I Met Your Father, Part VII

Not everything about my engagement to Al was magical. My family's reaction, which ranged from a simple lack of enthusiasm to overt, confrontational disapproval, to our pending marriage, left both Al and me disappointed and sad. Not that it was a surprise, but sometimes neither of us faces brutal realities until they are upon us, and we both tend to be a bit naive and starry-eyed when it comes to family and love.

I wasn't comfortable going directly against my family's wishes. Not because at 36 I felt I needed their approval, but because my vision for my life includes a very close and loving relationship with my family and my husband's family, no matter what. Knowing that marrying Al would create tension, I was deeply burdened and torn about going through with the wedding. I cried, and prayed, and spoke with my ministers and other trusted people in my life, seeking guidance and peace.

In late November, Al found a good position at a reputable firm, and part of the stress we'd felt about our future dissolved, to a degree. Conditions at my firm, with new management taking over Al's role and resenting my very presence, became nearly hostile. I needed to leave. But with our marriage pending and Al not yet settled into his new position, I just had to stay where I was and try to make the best of a really awkward situation. Once we married and consolidated our lives, we'd evaluate what to do about my career.

Gradually, we talked through all of the issues facing us and made the decision to go forward with our marriage, and to deal with the fallout from that together, as husband and wife. We planned a December wedding, on the 13th. The ceremony would be just the two of us with our pastor, in the tiny, quaint historic chapel of our church. We chose to be alone to speak our vows. Having both gone through divorces, we wanted the focus of the actual ceremony to be on what we promised one another, and not on the pageantry of a public wedding.

Afterwards, we decided to have another surprise party! Only this time, the attendees would be surprised, as the party we billed as a holiday gathering would actually be our wedding reception. We organized an intimate gathering in a private room at another of our favorite restaurants, with plenty of food and wine, music, flowers and a wedding cake that looked like a Christmas present. We sent out invitations to a special holiday celebration of love.

A few days before the big event, I contracted a miserable case of the flu. Sicker than could remember having been in my life, I lay in bed feverishly opining that I'd never be healthy and presentable in time for the wedding. The morning of the 13th, I awoke feeling worse than ever. Unable to stand for more than a few minutes at a time without growing very dizzy, I slowly worked on getting myself ready to meet my friend Kim for breakfast and shopping, as we'd arranged to spend this day months in advance. But even that was a struggle. Al arrived to find me sitting on my bedroom floor, coughing and crying.

Al took over. He firmly (and loudly) demanded that I get back into bed, and handed me the phone to call Kim and explain that I needed to rest before the party and would unfortunately not be able to see her that day. He sternly pointed out that I was "not Superwoman!!" was horribly sick, and that if we were going to get married this afternoon (which he very much wanted to do), I was going to have to rest until the last possible minute so I could make it to the church and then to the party. Well, something in the way he handled the situation - something in how he handled ME, just undid the last little buckle inside my soul. Once again, he'd done the perfect thing.

I am a stubborn woman, and very determined to do what I want to do, no matter the circumstances. But Al knew this about me, and knew my determination. And he managed to say and do exactly what needed to be done to get me back into my bed and asleep. And just before I drifted off, I realized again that Al and I were absolutely meant to be together. No one had ever been able to lead me the way he led me. It felt good. Safe.

I awoke somewhat rejuvenated in time to get dressed and ready for the wedding, and we drove to the church together through a steady cold drizzle, Al looking gorgeous in his black suit, and me looking somewhat disheveled with my ivory dress wrapped under a rumpled black raincoat.

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At the church, we met our pastor, the very sweet, gentle, quiet Margaret. In a chill, dimly lit, hushed little chapel, with rain falling and wind howling, we spoke our vows. The atmosphere may sound dismal or ominous, but to us it was absolute perfection. In the midst of all the dreary grayness, we were alone - just us two, cozy and safe, speaking the words that would bond us in warm togetherness forever.

And after that, the party! We arrived at the restaurant before our private room was ready, so, still in our wedding attire, we sat in the bar together and toasted one another with our first cocktails as married people. Amazingly, I was feeling good after my day of rest, and was able to enjoy the whole party, perhaps on an adrenaline high, or maybe just from the pure joy of being my best friend's wife!

One by one and two by two our friends began to arrive and as they did, we explained our wedding clothes and let them know we were married. It was a fun surprise for everyone, and they all seemed thrilled to celebrate with us and enjoy a wonderful Italian feast, cake and champagne toasts and to take home the little gingerbread men we gave each guest as a thank you gift. It was an amazing evening of laughter and so much love.

I am so very lucky to have been found by Al. I'm blessed to have seen beyond a conventional way of thinking about life and taken a calculated risk on falling in love with him and becoming his partner. I adore him. I admire him. I trust him with everything that I have and everything that I am. He has helped make me the mother, wife and person I want to be in Christ, and has allowed me to do the same for him. He is my husband. My love. My best friend.

And he is truly, truly a gift from God.

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  1. Had I not had 9 interruptions from my little scout, I would have been in tears by the end of this story. How romantic. I am glad you felt well enough to enjoy your party and wedding.

    I always said, if I had to do it all over again, I would have gotten married in the old north church of boston and had a dinner for 20 at the Union Oyster House - upstairs.

    I love your dress by the way. Georgous!

  2. So wonderful to read this story once again! It all worked out so beautifully and God has blessed you so much!

  3. Beautiful. I'm crying. Beautiful picture, too!

  4. How beautiful you looked!! Wonderful story!



  5. sniffle sniffle. I love this story - and for a sick woman - you sure did clean up mighty nice. ;)

  6. It was such a fun surprise, and I beam to this day at the thought that I was invited and able to take part in two of the most special days of your life, the engagement and the wedding reception celebration. I am so honored to have been a part of those special days!! Thanks to you and Al for including me!! Love Ya!!!

  7. YEA! I feel like raising my glass (er, coffee tumbler) in a toast. Having read each chapter in the story makes this happy ending so much more meaningful.

    May God continue to bless your lives and your union with laughter, love and joy.

    And a baby who weighs no more than 7 pounds, 2 ounces. ;-)

  8. I purposely waited for the final installment to come over here and read all of it. So now, I can say that I really love your story!
    And this: "we wanted the focus of the actual ceremony to be on what we promised one another, and not on the pageantry of a public wedding."
    If more people could get that from the beginning, the divorce rates may not be nearly as high....

  9. You don't look the least bit disheveled, my dear. What a wonderful picture, you both look so fabulously happy! You tell such a great story, thank you for sharing it with us. Wishing you many, many more happy stories with Al, Bean, and the soon to arrive Peanut!

    Take care,

  10. What a beautiful picture of a very happy couple! Loved the story, post a picture of your wedding cake if you have one, I'm curious to see what a cake shaped like a present looks like.
    P.S. Would your Dr induce you, based on your elderly status, (snickier snort) your degree of discomfort and your momma being here soon?

  11. Beautiful. Such a wonderful telling of the beginning of your marriage journey and your love for one another. Thank you for sharing it with us! And, Honey, y'all are lookin' some kinda FINE in that picture!

  12. I can't believe how beautiful you looked, even with the flu!!! The story was beautiful, but you had me worried there with the sick part... whew.

    What a sweet, sweet story, and you told it perfectly. I felt the "coziness," and it was just right!

    I hope the family came around eventually - I look forward to reading about that soon.

  13. What an amazing story! Both the story itself and the way that you relayed it -- unbelievable! Thank you so much for sharing your journey, and that Al, he sounds like an amazing man.

  14. this story is just as sweet as the first time.


  15. I lurve this story. And the picture! I've nominated you for a Kick Ass Blogger Award - you have to come see me to get it. Thank you for your blog!

  16. Just read the whole story and loved it. He's a hottie and you're gorgeous. :)

  17. Your wedding picture is so beautiful - your smiles say it all, I think.
    And this post made me cry. Wonderful!

  18. A great way to get married and celebrate with friends. Your kids will love your love-story

  19. My heart melted.
    i love it

  20. What a beautiful couple you make! I am so sorry your family didn't put your wishes ahead of their own feelings. I'm glad you made the best decision!

  21. I remember that day like it was yesterday! what an amazing surprise!! As always i'm still waiting for you to write a book. You truly are sooo talented.

    Love always and miss you,