I've been looking around on etsy for little gifts to buy for RockerBoy's family. Probably not the best thing to do before bed, but I needed ideas. Found a couple of cute things and then the "father of the bride" stuff started popping up and now I can't stop crying. As excited as I am to get married, I can't keep ignoring the part of me that is dreading it. Not because I don't want to be married, but because my dad isn't going to be there. I don't know how I'm going to get through the day without him. I don't know how I can walk down the isle without feeling his arm around me.
I never gave a shit about weddings, never fantasized as a little girl what my wedding would be like someday. I wanted four things: a house, land, lots of animals and my family close by. Over the years, I developed this sort of bitter distain for anything wedding-related, and I fully admit it's because I'm jealous. Not for "bridezilla" reasons. It's just that I hate other women for having their fathers there to walk them down the isle. I kept thinking to myself, "I'm glad I'm going to die alone; if I never get married, I'll never have to worry about who's going to walk me down the isle." It worked for a long time, and when RockerBoy proposed, I said yes without hesitation. My dad is never far from my thoughts, but he has been more so lately, especially in the last couple of weeks. I'm getting married in a little over two weeks, and every time I think, "Dad won't be there," I feel like I've been punched in the gut.
As time goes on, you adapt to life without someone who has passed away. You never fully recover, but you move on because it's the only thing to do. I was okay for a long time because I never really hit any of the major milestones normal people do. When I moved to Oregon, I thought, "If Dad were still alive, what would he say? Would he come with us?" When I did the Warrior Dash for the first time and there was no one waiting for me at the finish line, I stumbled through the mud thinking, "Dad would be waiting for me with two beers and a big grin on his face." When RockerBoy proposed to me, I knew it was right to say yes not only because I love him but because I know that my dad would have been proud to call him his son.
I don't believe in heaven or hell except what we have in our own hearts, but there is still a part of me that has to believe my dad is "up there," somewhere, watching over me. It's absurd and implausible but the thought has guided me for over 20 years. I still talk to him, and I've been doing it a lot lately. More often than not, the one-sided conversation deteriorates into me curled up in bed, sobbing.
One of the main reasons I wanted to get married at Voodoo Doughnut was because it wasn't a typical wedding and I wouldn't have to worry about "protocol." The doughnut wedding evolved into a Star Wars wedding at the beach, and though I know that's the way it was meant to happen, I'm panicking at the thought of facing May 4th without him.
There are two things making it possible for me to carry on with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. One of them is that my mom and sister will be there. The second thing is this: love.
Last summer, RockerBoy and I went back to Chicago to take care of some legal issues regarding my mom's house. Our second day back home, RockerBoy's best friend (I'll call him BikerGuy) drove us to the cemetery where my dad is buried. I hadn't seen my dad's grave in 23 years, and I still knew exactly where it was. RockerBoy walked with me toward the headstone and as soon as I saw my dad's name, I lost it. I was shocked that it hit me that hard; I thought after all this time I'd be tougher, better able to stand up against the pain. I cried and cried and RockerBoy was there with his arms around me, crying with me, and I couldn't find the words to tell him this is what hell feels like: to be standing above the remains of someone you loved so much, you can still feel their loss, over 20 years later, like a wound that never fully heals. I asked RockerBoy for a cigarette, which he gave me without question or hesitation. I crouched next to my dad's headstone and put the cigarette in the grass in front of it. In my head, I talked to my dad. I told him about RockerBoy and that we were going to get married. I told him I wished like anything that he could be there with me. I told him that he would have loved RockerBoy, that he was a good, honest man who respected me and made me happier than I ever thought I could be. Then we stood there for a while, just staring down at his name etched in stone. After a few minutes, I told RockerBoy we could go. He asked if I wanted to say anything, and I said no, that I'd already said what I'd come to say.
What happened next, I never told anyone. RockerBoy asked if he could have a moment. I nodded and walked a few feet away. Watched him crouch down close to my dad's headstone, bow his head. He was still for a few moments. Or a few hours. I still can't tell. Then he stood up and walked over to me, took my hand and we walked back to the truck. Later on that night, we were hanging out in BikerGuy's man cave. The side door was open and I could see lightning flashing in the sky. RockerBoy and I stood in the doorway and looked up at the sky. It was a typical midwestern summer night, something comforting and threatening all at once. I told RockerBoy that my dad loved storms. How he used to stand out on the back porch with a cigarette dangling from his lips, smiling and loving the chaos like a little boy on Christmas. "Get out here and look at this! The sky is GREEN!" My sister and I would cower by the door, terrified but keeping an eye on our dad in case a tornado sucked him up and took him away. Ever since his death, every time something significant happens in my life, it has rained. And every time, I have felt his presence. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but it's true. It's when I feel closest to my dad. Not so much out here in the Pacific Northwest, because the rain here is pathetic compared to the storms we get in Chicago. But I can still feel him close at times.
I told RockerBoy about the rain and my dad and said, "I think he's happy I came home. When it rains like this, I feel like he's telling me everything is going to be okay." RockerBoy said, "I think I got my answer, then." I asked him what he meant, and though he wouldn't tell me specifics (which I respected), he did tell me that when he asked for a moment alone at my dad's grave, he had wanted to ask for his blessing to marry me. I was so overwhelmed by what he'd said, I couldn't respond. I was so touched that he'd done this, and so unbelievably sad that RockerBoy would never know my father, and I would never have the pleasure of seeing them together, knowing how much it would have meant for my dad to finally call someone "son."
I stood in that doorway and felt the love for my father and the love that RockerBoy and I have for each other, like it was something tangible and all-encompassing. I breathed it in and let it calm my heart. I know that no man I have ever known would have done something like that. The fact that he thought of it on his own, and didn't say anything until I told him about the rain, just reinforces what I know to be true: that RockerBoy is the man I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with.
When I'm overcome with sadness, I take myself back to that summer night, standing in the doorway of BikerGuy's garage, when I came home again and found love waiting for me there.
In two weeks I will marry the boy from back home, and I will carry my father with me in my heart. I will smile and be happy and I will enjoy the company of the people that I love because Dad wouldn't want me to be sad. I can be strong like he was, and keep my pain hidden until after everyone has gone. I will cry, and my husband will cry, and he will hold me until the sadness fades, and I will know that everything is going to be okay.