My Father's Wedding
By Benjamin Adair, 6/08/2001
Look, I'm not one of those sons. I'm not the kid who never forgives his dad for waking up one morning, walking downstairs and announcing that heís leaving. For good. That evening.
Iím not going to blame dad for momís depression, my own failed relationships, or my siblings' inability to get close to anybody, really.
That's not his fault, okay? I've worked this through.
So, I wasnít upset. I wasnít angry or hurt. I was actually happy when dad called with something to say. Four years and who knows how many girlfriends later, he was ready to settle down. Again. He was getting remarried.
This is exciting news.
. . .
I arrive in Chicago a day early. I need time to acclimate, you know? The next morning I fetch my sister from the airport and then we drive to the mall to buy her earrings - and makeup...my sister owns no makeup. I use the ladies' mirrors to admire the lamb-chops I've grown to mark this joyous occasion. In my tux I look a little like Wyatt Earp. Okay, a lot like Wyatt Earp.
. . .
Six o'clock, Cocktails. I catch up with old family friends I haven't seen for...decades. Some man I don't know - Steve Stevenson, or something - he keeps asking about my mom. At my dad's wedding. "How's your mother?" he says over and over. "How's your mom doing? She was so beautiful, your mother."
This whole time, my grandma's holding court in her suite. The family filter through - adjusting hair, make-up, straightening bow-ties. Everyone tells each other how nice we all look. At one point Grandma leans over - I've had a few cocktails now, but I'm not making this up - she tells me: "I know I'm not supposed to say this, but you and your sister would make the cutest little couple."
. . .
The ceremony is good...nice...short.
We go upstairs to eat. Matchmaker Grandma stops by the table and asks me what I think. I look over and see dad sitting with his new wife - eating and talking...glowing. "It's great," I say. "He seems so...happy." I'm surprised because...I actually mean that.
On to the ballroom. When Dad and new wife appear, they're...goofy. Someone's piled glow sticks, glow necklaces, glow glasses on every table and dad's wearing it all. He's got the glow-glasses on over his glasses. He's wearing three glow-necklaces and a glow-string tie.
I set up in the corner - out of the way, and from my perch there, I watch him chat up the guests...he's dynamic. Everyone's laughing and having a great time. I'm having a great time, even where I'm at.
Smiling, I get up to grab another drink. And that's when it happens. I get trapped. Some guy stops me and introduces himself: corporate attorney from Reno...worked with your dad on a few deals. Wifey's on his arm and they're both beaming at me. Expecting something.
"You're the son, right?" Yes. I'm the son. Ben. Good to meet you.
"Your father's a brilliant man. You must be so proud." This is really wonderful. The three of us look out at dad hamming a tango to the band's Richie Valens cover.
Wifey speaks up. "You know, I would have never imagined your dad like this...I mean, the way Brad talks about him, I expected him to be larger than life. Not friendly. Not such a fun person."
"He's a great, great man."
"You just must be so proud."
I think about it. And I say, yeah. I tell them again: this is really wonderful.
I finally get to the bar and I look again. Dad's now with some old lady in a bright blue dress and he's totally charming her. I think about what that guy just said, what I just said, and I'm surprised again.
See, not even for a moment have I ever thought of my dad as "brilliant." Or, "fun" or "a great, great man."
And, standing there at the bar, looking out at him, I start to get a little sad. I rub my lambchops and think that after almost 30 years of my life, after my parents' divorce and now his remarriage, I still have never seen my dad as anything other than that - anything other than "a dad." I remember in high school, I used to scream at him to just once, treat me like an adult, like a fellow human being.
And now here, at his wedding - with the dance floor between us instead of our usual continent - I think, maybe it's time I started treating him like a fellow human being. And then I get sadder because, with just the dance floor between us, I feel like it may as well be a continent. He's out there and I'm here, in my corner, and even though just 30 years have gone by, I feel like maybe, it's already too late.
. . .
Walking out, at the end of the night, Steve Stevenson stops me. "Tell your mom my wife is dead. Tell your mom that I'd like to see her. She was so beautiful your mother."
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