Friday, May 22, 2009

The Dad I Never Thought I’d Have

After Dad died, people made a lot of assumptions about Mom.

“She’ll move to an apartment.”
“She’ll have to get a cat to keep her company.”
“She’ll never drive again.”

The most common sentiment I heard was, “She’ll never get married again.”

I could understand why people would assume such a thing. It was evident Mom and Dad had enjoyed an all-too-rare experience of a truly good marriage. If anyone should know, I should.

After all, I grew up carefully observing my parents’ union, and I can honestly say it was filled with willful selflessness and delighted servanthood.

That’s not to say they didn’t go through tough times.

Their marriage weathered 11 years of infertility, Dad’s crushing four year depression, and a slew of trials that would shake the foundations of any marriage. But their love, dedication, and commitment were the Rock of Gibraltar, and through it all, they remained devoted to one another.

They were a wonderful, unique couple who truly embodied “happily ever after.”

There are those of us who struggle in our marriages. Those of us for whom every small triumph, every light at the end of the tunnel, every shred of selfishness is weighed and measured. Those of us who labor like dogged slaves to make our marriages work and, sometimes, save them altogether.

There are those of us who count every day we didn’t walk away as a good day.

There are those of us who, if something were to happen, would not be so quick to jump back into the deep end of the pool.

This was not the case for Mom. She’d had a good marriage, and her outlook was untypically sunny.

I had another reason to believe Mom would find love again. I know I’m going to sound biased here, but it is the gospel truth.

Mom is beautiful. She has always been beautiful. She was a lovely child, and her school and college photos show the spitting image of Mary Tyler Moore-like perfection. At 54, she was still a stunner who could easily turn men’s heads.

(In this case, I am most DEFINITELY my father’s daughter.)

Plus, I knew my mom better than anyone. She was strong in ways other people couldn’t imagine. Mom had a plethora of qualities that made her a catch. She was blessed with common sense (not that she passed any on to her daughter), practicality, frugality, and a generous spirit. She was loving, godly, and placed other’s needs before her own.

Heck, I would have married her.

So, while it came as a surprise to some, I was not shocked when men began to ask Mom out. I still remember the first man, a divorced man who had once gone to our church. Mom was flattered but confided to me that, “Oh my, it was funny! He was much too young for me!”

That’s my mom, the reluctant Demi Moore of the Baptist set fending off the Ashton Kutchers of the world.

Soon, Mom was being ardently pursued by Gary, a long time bachelor divorced some 20 years prior, who people swore would never get married. It was shortly obvious to me he had simply been waiting 20 years for the right woman.

Oh my, was it ever fun to watch their courtship! Brett and I were ridiculously amused to see sensible 50-somethings suddenly turn as mushy-gushy as high school sweethearts.

The change in Mom’s life changed mine as well. For the majority of my life, Mom had listened as I babbled on about boys, college life, roommates, work, and so on. Now, she had news of her own at the end of every day and bubbled over in excitement to tell me. I could hardly get a word in edgewise.

I found myself drawn in as a relationship counselor. I listened to every single detail of every single date, examined the love letters that came regularly to the mailbox, and couldn’t help but smile as Mom overflowed with the “whys” and “what ifs” that accompany any serious relationship.

Of course, there were adjustments I had to make. I had been the center of my mom’s world for the whole of my life, and now it was apparent I was going to have to share the stage with Gary. It took some time for me to get used to playing second fiddle, but the sacrifice was worth it to see Mom’s effervescent smile resurface.

That was one of the things which drew Mom and Gary together. They both understood sorrow. Mom had lost the love of her life in the prime of life. Gary, barely married, had gone through a painful divorce and later the harrowing death of his 21 year old son in a car accident. They had both sobbed over carefully tended graves in abandoned cemeteries.

They had both lamented the loss of life while giving glory to the God who ordained it.

Mom and Gary commemorated this joint bond in their wedding invitations, part of which read, “Each recognizing the other to be a giver of joy and a sharer of sorrow…”

There were those who questioned if I was okay with Mom getting remarried. The truth is I was secure in the love my mom and dad had shared for over 33 years. I knew without a doubt Mom would always love Dad. He was the husband of her youth and produced the child I knew they both cherished.

Knowing that, it would have been terribly unfair of me to expect Mom to slink off into spinsterhood simply because Dad had died. Not if there was a chance she could find love again. I wanted desperately to see Mom happy again, and Gary brought that much needed spark that kindled Mom’s reawakening love of life.

As Mom and Gary prepared to get married, I was called into service as the Matron of Honor. Just married myself a mere two years earlier, I was still flush with wedding advice and thrilled to put it to good use.

Mom and I visited Vera’s House of Brides to purchase her wedding outfit. Mom had decided to buy a mother-of-the-bride, white linen suit for her walk down the aisle. As we examined mother-of-the-bride outfits, I teasingly pulled out a wedding dress from another rack.

“C’mon Mom, you’ve got to try at least one actual wedding dress!”

Mom happily relented “just for fun,” and soon we were settled into a spacious fitting room. Mom pulled the dress on and stepped on the pedestal. We laughed with each other before looking at the mirror.

As our eyes met in the mirror, our mouths gaped wide open. Mom was resplendent in the designer wedding dress.

As I looked at her in surprise, I knew there was no going back to any boring, old, mother-of-the bride dress.

We spent the rest of the day trying on dresses but kept returning to the gorgeous, off the shoulder, gold ivy bedecked gown Mom had first tried on. By the end of the day, the dress was Mom’s, and the wedding had gone from perfunctory to production.

The day of the wedding, Brett and I stood up for Mom while Gary’s daughter, Camille, and her husband stood up for Gary. We walked down the aisle as couples, each unbelievably happy with the turn of events.

Camille had spent almost the whole of her life with a single dad. She told me she thought he would never find anyone.

She told Mom, “I knew you were the one when I saw Dad hold your hand. I’d never seen him hold anyone’s hand before!”

After the vows were said and Mom and Gary began their descent down the aisle, Camille and I shared a joyful, tear-filled hug. We were both thrilled beyond belief to be getting a new sister out of the deal.

“We should be high-fiving,” Camille joked with me. “I thought we would never get those two married off!”

One of the funniest moments was when the photographer (who had done my wedding) said, “I’ve done mothers’ weddings and their daughters’ weddings years later. I’ve never done the daughter’s wedding first and THEN the mother’s!”

As Gary entered our life full force, I found myself instantly appreciative and grateful for God’s goodness and His grace.

Gary is not my dad. In fact, he’s nothing like my dad. While Dad was impatient (which he DID pass on to his daughter), Gary is infinitely long-suffering. While Dad could make a stone statue cry with laughter, Gary is literal and serious.

But, I was glad Gary was his own man. It negated the need for comparison.

Over the years, we have come to love Gary and accept him as family. Gary has always been there for us. I can’t count the number of times he’s come to our rescue when we were stranded somewhere, often dropping everything to help us.

He’s worked tirelessly, endlessly on projects where we couldn’t have succeeded without him. He’s generous, kind, and loves the Lord with a passion that provokes us to inspiration.

Oh, he’s not perfect. But he’s much more wonderful than any of us deserve.

There are many reasons to love Gary and to be thankful he’s a part of my family. The biggest reason, though, is that he makes my amazing mom happy, and I can’t ask for more than that.

So it is with much love, respect, and joy I wish them both a very happy 7th anniversary!

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Gary!


Alice said...

Awwww, Gary is a such a great guy. The only thing that would make this post better is a PICTURE of your mom in the amazing dress!

Alice said...

I forgot to add--I raise my glass of tea made from an unbleached teabag with absolutely no artifical flavors, colors, or preservatives in it to Gary and Juliet on their anniversary!

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

So wonderful! Now I desperately want to see their wedding pictures!!

The Beard Bunch said...

I am so glad that you wrote this post! It was good to hear about a lady I love from the perspective of her daughter (whom I also love). WOW, that was a mouthful of a sentence. Thanks for sharing and happy anniversary to Aunt Juliet and Gary. So, that means you have been married 9 years?????

Colleen said...

LOL.. I agree with Alice..We MUST see the dress! and Happy Anniversary to them!

Jennittia said...

I must agree with Alice-- I would love to see some pics!!! I have a whole bunch of memories with Gary-- he helped this girl a lot at just a time when I needed a dad's help. The biggest thing I remember is housing my then soon-to-be husband, and helping me pic out my first car!

Juliet said...

You made me cried! Thanks for wishing us a Happy Anniversary.

And Alice does have my Gary pegged! Nothing artifical in his food.