What a happy weekend the marriage of my mom and Dan was! I couldn’t sleep for four nights leading up to it; I was so full of anticipation! It was special to share some quiet time with mom on Friday in her home and to cherish for one last time our past “solitude” together – the 22 years we'd spent in that home while she was a single mother, and I was being homeschooled and nurtured under her wing. Now there would be no more solitude for her, but companionship in a loving, marriage relationship.
Two deer ran across the road in front of Dan’s car as the four of us (my mom, Dan, my oldest sister and I) drove home after Friday's rehearsal. It was April 27th, the anniversary of my father’s death 22 years ago. I immediately said it was a sign from Dad. He and Dan’s wife were gazing on from heaven in joy for this marriage to take place and were close to us in spirit. The next day, my other sister, who was not with us at the time, saw two deer run across the road in front of her car and thought of Gene.
Saturday dawned, and my sister, mom and I went to church to get dressed. I walked down the aisle with Ben, my new step-brother. Mom was a gorgeous, happy bride beside Dan, both of them so in love. As I had witnessed their love story unfold, so now I stood to witness their marriage vows.
“It’s not often that one gets to choose one’s sister or one’s father. In this case, Dan’s daughter Rebekah and I chose each other to be best friends and sisters since we were little girls – hardly dreaming that one day we really would be!” …so began my wedding speech at the reception dinner.
“Rebekah was my neighbor, three years younger than I, who lived just two houses down the road. When her mother died and Bekah was four years old, my mom started taking care of Bekah in our home while Dan was teaching. I was so happy to have her for a playmate, and since I was homeschooled, it was fun to have her over during the day.
“I’m not sure when the idea first occurred to us both, but we thought it would be perfect if our parents got married, because then we’d be sisters, and I always wanted my mom to get married so I would have a living father. It was very simple in our heads. What we didn’t know is that Dan promised his wife he wouldn’t marry until the kids were grown up. Dan is faithful, a man true to his word. Coincidentally, it happened the year Rebekah graduated from college that he fell in love with my mom.
“I remember the day when the phone rang in December 2010. I was working in the dining room writing and after my mom hung up the phone, she turned around and said, ‘Dan asked me if he can come over so I can teach him how to ballroom dance for his niece’s wedding!’ We looked at each other in surprise! She was excited and a little nervous. Little did Dan know that after only a few lessons he would be hooked - not only on ballroom dancing but on my mom!
“It’s been a pleasure and pure joy to witness your love story, Mom and Dan. Since I was living at home at the time, you had to put up with me being around during dance classes in the dining room and then when those dance classes turned into dates, sometimes I was a handy chaperone. I really enjoyed hearing your laughter, seeing you grow closer and falling in love. Dan never seemed like an outsider. With Dan in our home, life seemed whole again.
“Dan has been the closest father-figure I’ve had growing up. Dan had me over for dinner more times than I can count, taught me how to bat a baseball, how to throw a football (though I still haven’t mastered that one!) and took Bekah and I on many fun car trips to Holy Hill and the Milwaukee Zoo. Some of you might be wondering why it took this long. I guess Bekah and I wondered the same thing… Welcome to our family, Dan. I’m so proud to have you for a dad.”
I turned to hug mom and Dan. After I was through, my brother stood up and said, “No one can follow that!” And so he gave a short congratulatory toast. Throughout the rest of the afternoon, family and friends told me how they wanted to cry during my speech, how they didn’t know all that, and how touching it was. I felt, in carrying out that action, to be fulfilling part of my mission in life, that which gives my life meaning: to inspire others, especially through writing and my words...
Strangely, I had envisioned this years ago. I had imagined somehow at my wedding speaking up in front of others to say how grateful I was for all the father-figures in my life, including Dan. Later, I thought how overly sentimental and superfluous that would be. Well, lo and behold, I had the opportunity here at Dan’s own wedding to say how much he’s been a father to me being our neighbor, and to thank him.
Dancing filled the afternoon hours, and mom’s ballroom dance partners swept me away for dances, raving about how special my mom was. Then last of all, Dan took me in his arms and swept me across the floor in a waltz when the afternoon was almost over. It was a moment I’ll remember forever.
The wedding day was filled with so much love and happiness; I can hardly find words to do it justice. I was aware of the love of mom and Dan for each other, the love of all guests gathered there for them two, my love for God and His love for all of us poured out at Mass, the love of my boyfriend, the love for my brothers and sisters as well as my new family. The night closed with just our "two" families having supper together and leftover cake.
“So much love!” I exclaimed to my boyfriend on the ride home. And I went to bed fully quenched in love.