Home > Uncategorized > The Day Before The Wedding, Dad’s One Question, and The Meaning of Love

The Day Before The Wedding, Dad’s One Question, and The Meaning of Love

Frenzied activity best describes the day before our wedding twenty years ago.  Last minute arrangements were being tended to, family and friends were arriving, everyone seemed to have a question or a comment, and we still hadn’t gotten to the wedding rehearsal.  All the activity left little time to consider the fact that in less than twenty-four hours I’d be married.

Married!

Me married!

I didn’t have the first clue on how to make a marriage work.  My parents divorced after I finished the second grade.  Mom remarried, but then divorced again three years later.  Dad never remarried.  Nearly all of my friend’s parents were divorced.  How was this thing supposed to work?

Angela and I took part in six pre-marital counseling sessions and those helped us talk about marriage, but we were just talking about it.  We weren’t married.

The thoughts consuming me had little to do with whether or not I loved this woman, that was a given, but I didn’t have the first clue on how to make this marriage thing work and make it work forever.

People kept offering advice, most of which I think they believed was helpful (and it might have been for them) or wished that someone had told them.  Yet, I wondered if they considered the message about marriage they were conveying to me with their words.

“The first year is hell,” multiple people told me.  How was this supposed to help me with marriage?  Did they want me to go with my guard up, armed for combat in the most intimate relationship between two people?   Were they trying to tell me not to get married?

Others said, “Marriage is work.”  Again, really?  I’m going to need to work at this relationship?  Some of them even added, “You need to go to conferences and read books on marriage.  It’s like working out, you have to keep at it.”  People were not making this relationship, this life-long commitment, sound all that appealing.

I don’t say this to discount or invalidate their experience.  I know that the first year of marriage has been hell for some.  I know that marriage has been a challenge for others and that some have worked diligently and consistently to work out their differences and issues with their partners.  Everyone’s marriage is different.  Each marriage is made up of two unique people with different views and backgrounds and problems coming together.

Yet if these descriptions of marriage were going to be true, I wasn’t sure that I wanted in.  I wasn’t nieve enough to believe that feelings and romance and infatuation would last forever.  After all, we’d been dating for nearly three years.

But, I wanted to be with this girl more than anything.  I’d never found a person like her and I wanted to find a way to make it work.

Maybe I didn’t get it and maybe I didn’t understand and maybe everything would change when we did get married.  But to me, it seemed like a person’s view of love dictated how the relationship would go.  I heard a lot of “I did this and this is the response (negative or total lack of) that I got.”

I decided to release any quid-pro-quo expectations.  I let go of any thoughts of “If I do this, then she will respond like this and do such and such.”

To me, the novice, it appeared that the meaning of love and the basis of marriage was “I will love you without expectation.  I will try to give you my best and my all because I want to give it to you.  I give you my best because I want to give you my best.  I surrender the outcome.  I do not choose to love you in the hopes that you will love me back or that you will be similarly nice and generous to me. I act in love towards you out of love.”

But what did I know, I wasn’t married yet.

****

Dad and Jason, my younger middle brother, arrived.  I took them over to the townhouse I’d rented for the three of us for the night.  We wondered where Mom and Rob, my youngest brother, were.  In the days before cellphones, we couldn’t call them to track them down.  We sat around and waited.

They finally arrived an hour later than we’d expected.

“You gave me the wrong directions,” she said to Dad.

“No, I didn’t,” he replied.

And for the next five minutes I was transported back to when I was seven years old, watching them argue, this time about the directions and who had given the wrong directions or who had not followed the directions.

I looked at my watch.  “We need to go to the church for my wedding rehearsal.”  I got in my own car and drove to the church by myself.  I kept thinking about the advice people had given me and my own lack of experience and my own thoughts.

The rehearsal was a rehearsal.  Stand here, walk there, now stand here, kiss the bride, and walk down the aisle that way.  I was tired and kept yawning, a fact that my friend Lisa kept chiding me for (the things you remember).  Even though we’d spent a year planning this wedding, I didn’t care who did what or if the whole thing went out of order.  As long as the minister signed on the dotted line, we would be married.

From the rehearsal, we went back to Angela’s grandparents for the dinner.  We’d graduated from college two weeks prior and were flat broke so we’d asked her grandparents if we could have the dinner at their house.  I ordered as much barbecue as two hundred dollars could buy.  The highlight of the dinner was David, my best man, throwing Rob into the swimming pool.

After the dinner ended, everybody went their separate ways for the night.  When I got back to the townhouse later, Dad was still awake, standing in the kitchen.  Jason had gone to bed or was watching TV.  I sat on a stool in the kitchen across from him.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

He nodded his head and took a drink from his iced tea.

“Do you love her?” he asked.

“Yes, I do,” I answered without hesitation.

In the three years that I’d been dating Angela, he’d never once asked about the direction of the relationship or did I think she was the one.  Even when we became engaged, he said nothing beyond offering his congratulations.  He’d waited until this night, the night before the wedding to ask me about my impending marriage.

“Well, I wish I had some advice to give you, but my marriage didn’t work out so well.  But if you love her like you said you do, then that’s good enough for me.”

And that was it.  He didn’t expound on the nature or the meaning of love or even how it might be expressed between two people.  He didn’t even ask if she loved me.  He only wanted to know if I loved her.  Since I did, he gave me his blessing.

*********

On May 23rd, we’ll celebrate twenty years of marriage.  My Dad had it right.  Did I love her?  Yes.  Then I could find a way and the way that I found was to let go of the outcomes and let love be love because of love, not to act lovingly because I wanted something or because of what it might get me or how it might cause her to respond or to change.

*********

PS- Now kids, that’s a totally different story.  There are days where that feels like work, hard work.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Yvonne Dailey
    May 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I love that! “I will love you without expectation. I will try to give you my best and my all because I want to give it to you. I give you my best because I want to give you my best. I surrender the outcome. I do not choose to love you in the hopes that you will love me back or that you will be similarly nice and generous to me. I act in love towards you out of love.”

    What a great message and lesson for all of us. And Happy Anniversary!

    • May 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm

      Yvonne-
      Thank you!

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