I learned the phrase “it’s a wedding day” as a sixteen-year-old girl who was obsessed with meeting Prince Charming and watched way too many wedding reality shows. One of the featured brides explained to her dad as they waited outside a perfect white chapel on a pretty spring day that the weather was that of a “wedding day”.
“When it’s sunny and warm, but not too warm,” she told him, “you say, ‘it’s a wedding day.’ Because the weather is perfect and what you hope to have the day you get married.”
Eleven years later, I was graced with the good fortune of having a “wedding day” on the day of my wedding, which happened to take place in late December. Seventy-five degrees, sunny, low humidity, a pleasant breeze, and positively unheard of for that time of year.
On this wedding day, inside the bridal room of a perfect white chapel, I sat next to my grandma on a vintage couch that featured a delicate, purple damask pattern, tracing my french-manicured nails over the filigree as my hair was pinned up in curls, and she spoke to me about life and love.
“I stepped off the train at Union Station with a pillowcase full of clothes and a white, patent leather suitcase that I bought when I was planning to run away to New York to become a famous Broadway star,” she said, laughing in that elegantly self-deprecating way she always did when she recalled the wild days of her youth. “Instead it went with me from Oklahoma to Washington DC to marry Grandpa after we’d been dating all of one whole week.”
“You guys were crazy,” I told her, and she laughed again because this faux-catty teasing is a secret language that only she and I speak.
“We were,” she agreed, shaking her head. “We were stupid. We were so stupid. And we did a lot of stupid things that made us poor and crazy, and we were just so stupid. But…” She paused and lifted her palms. “Here we are now. It all worked out somehow.”
I was twenty-seven years old and because of the secret language we shared, Grandma had already told me all of the harrowing details of the 52 years they’d been married. The brief homelessness, the extreme poverty, her own battles with alcoholism and anorexia, temptation of infidelity, taking in several orphaned children when they could barely support their own–but the point, she always told me, was that they remained. Despite all these trials and tribulations, she and my grandfather remained. Remained together, remained committed, remained steadfast in the promise they made the day after she stepped off the train with her pillowcase of clothing.
And on my wedding day they were steadfast and in love as they’d ever been. And sitting on that purple damask couch, with my nail tracing the filigree, I was staring down the barrel of God only knew how many years of marriage, and I considered the ultimate end, and I had to ask her.
“Grandma, what will you do when Grandpa dies? Do you think you would ever try to find someone else?”
She was quick to answer, “No, never.” No. Never. “I’ve had everything I ever wanted and had to work for that every day of my adult life. There’s nobody else I would ever even consider doing that for or with.” I knew that was Grandma’s way of saying soulmates or the love of my life, but she’s too nonchalantly dignified to use such trite phrases.
She lifted the curtain and we basked in a sunbeam as we watched my groom and her groom line up with the men, all handsome in suits and smiling for photos. And it was late December 2010, and the weather was sunny and warm, but not too warm, and I smiled as I thought, it’s a wedding day.
The photo my groom and her groom posed for is framed and sits on a shelf in my grandparents’ bedroom, along with dozens of others, and it is late December 2016, and a blue norther blows through North Texas. It is so frigid that the leaves have turned to icicles, tapping on the windows as if to demurely inquire if someone is at home, but nobody is.
Grandpa is in so much pain from shingles and age-induced injuries that won’t heal that the only thing they could think of to ease his discomfort is to go for a drive. He reclines in the passenger seat and can’t find any relief, and in desperation Grandma drives to the hospital at midnight on Christmas Eve.
It is eight degrees, pitch black, and the bitter cold wind howls outside. It is the polar opposite of a wedding day and there they spend the fifty-ninth and final Christmas of their marriage.
Alone in a hospital room, but together, she holds his hand and tells him, “I’ve had everything I’ve ever wanted. Here we are now. It all worked out somehow.”