“Mom, I look beautiful, don’t I?!” I looked at myself in the full length mirror and smiled. Every bride ought to think so on her wedding day.
My eyes skimmed my bare shoulder, “I hope you’d approve of my changes to your gown. The jewel neckline was too tight for me, so I made it one-shouldered. You like the pearls and sequins?! Aunt said that the embellishments were so me”, I had taken great care not to alter much my mom’s wedding gown. I wanted her to be with me today, snuggling me tightly, assuring me that it’ll all be fine.
“Mom, you would have loved Ryan. He is the most loving man I’ve ever met, not to mention handsome. It is funny that I have second thoughts about everything today, except that I truly want to spend the rest of my life with him”, I basked at the sun’s rays gleaming through the windows. They had tied back the drapes soon after I was dressed. My bridesmaids and friends had left me to myself. I think these subtleties aren’t in the wedding day rulebook, these are just tacitly performed. I sighed at how conflicting emotions could surprise one, “Mom, I miss you very much today. You would have known how to handle such delicate situations with grace. Looks like there is still a lot I have to learn from you yet”.
There was a knock at the door. “Come in”, I knew who it was at the other end.
Stuart walked in with measured steps, not in his usual gait. He stood few feet from me, his gentle eyes appraising me from head to toe. “You look beautiful Trish!”
“Thanks Stuart, you’ve scrubbed up pretty well yourself”, and I meant it.
“Ryan is a lucky man, he better knows that”, Stuart was never good at small talk.
“I hope he does too”, I turned away and walked towards the window, unable to meet his eyes. “Stuart, do you regret your wedding day?!” I can sense that he was taken aback.
“No Trish, not ever. I had the two most important women in my life that day with me, you and your mom, and that’s all that I needed”, Stuart walked towards me sounding earnest.
“Why didn’t you both persuade me for a proper celebratory wedding? Why did you settle for a court wedding, with just the three of us?” I pressed him.
Stuart took both my hands in his, “It is not the methods, Trish, it is the love and respect in that union that matters”.
“Didn’t you notice that I was sulking that whole day?” I tightened my grip on his hands.
“I knew it wasn’t easy for you to accept another man as your father, but I was ready to wait. I knew you never had it in you to hate anyone”, his gentle squeeze was reassuring.
“No Stuart, I did hate you then. I felt like you were stealing away the chances of my parents getting back together. I didn’t understand then, that it is possible for people to grow out of love”, my eyes welled up.
“At that young age, you would have felt that life was dealing you a bad hand Trish. We all experience such stuff and then we learn from those situations”, Stuart said, back to his wise self.
“Am sorry Stuart, to think that I’ve deprived you of such joy, the joy in which I revel today, in your wedding day, I just can’t forgive myself”, tears streamed my cheeks.
“Now, now, Trish, let’s not worry ourselves thinking about the past”, he gently wiped my tears, “and honestly, I would not have had that day any other way.”
“Stuart, we will have our dance tonight, but it will be my dad who’ll escort me to the altar”, and there, I finally did it. This was implicit, with my dad in attendance at my wedding, but I wasn’t one to leave any room for emotional perplexity.
“I know Trish, I understand. As I said, the methods don’t matter”, he brought me closer and kissed me on my forehead. And I hugged him. This is a first for us. No endearments, no dad-daughter dates, but along the years, I guess we’ve been expressing our love for each other in the unsaid, in the unshared. There is no right or wrong way to love another human being. He held me in that embrace, gently such that my wedding gown wouldn’t get creased or my tiara ruffled by mistake. Dad, stepdad, technicalities are insignificant, Stuart is the man who had sat with me through those long days and even longer nights of my mom’s chemotherapy sessions, the man who stuffed my fridge with food during my wretched days of silly heartbreaks till the time Ryan happened, the man who showed up to pick me up on a rainy day as I stood stranded at a coffee shop too broke to rent a cab.
I & Ryan together, had come up with the idea of an intimate garden wedding and luckily we didn’t have much trouble finding the perfect place for it. Our venue was a private estate, a blend of heritage with the European style topiary garden and the contemporary design for the ballroom, wine cellar and cocktail bar.
I held my dad’s arm as he led me through the path across the manicured hedges and towering pines, “Nervous wiggly? Didn’t Sarah sneak in enough scotch?!”
“C’mon dad, I can’t be seen giggling like a nine year old in my wedding pics. Don’t you do that to me”, I nudged him gently. There has never been a dearth of jokes between us, even in the limited frames of time that we get to meet each other.
“I miss your mom wiggly, she would have been very happy to see you like this” he sighed heavily.
“Me too dad”, I sighed as well. A day of sighs indeed, sighs of wistfulness, sighs of contentment, and am not sure what more sighs I’d unearth by the end of the day. “So, off to Buenos Aires then, this time?!”
“I think so wiggly. It is your day today and discussions on my plans could wait”, he patted my arm and by then we had reached the formal arch. The aisle from here leads to the sandstone gazebo, and is lined with French laced roses and manchurian pear trees. Ryan was standing there beaming at me!
“Can you hold on wiggly? I’ll be back in a minute”, my dad is full of surprises as always. He had just left his daughter at the aisle, waiting to be lead to the altar.
He hopped on to the rows of Americana chairs lined up on the wide terraces of lawn facing the gazebo. Stuart was baffled to see my dad run towards him and extend his hand expectantly. “She is your daughter as well. It is only right that we both walk her this path”, he dragged Stuart to where I stood.
Stuart was moved to tears and so was I. I later learned that the guests were deeply touched by this thoughtful gesture. Martin, this man, is my mom’s first love, the one who had fathered me, made me his wiggly princess until I was in my early teens, and who then tried to explain to a daughter that young, that a divorce could mean that individuals could aspire for different things in life and not necessarily mean lack of love in the marriage, who has always been far since then but still closer to heart. It is not just biology that warrants my love for him, it is this greatness in him, ready to share his moment, his right with another man.
Flanked by the two men, the dad who had taught me to love and the dad who had taught me what it means to be loved, I walked to the altar to read my vows and say ‘I do’ to the love of my life. I felt blessed in abundance!