Don’t you just love a big family wedding? “Absolutely!” says my nephew, when the minister asks if he takes this woman to be his lawfully wedded wife. His answer is loud and clear, and the entire assembly chuckles softly and smiles broadly at his optimism.
My nephew is named after my father, Paul David Evans, who died almost seven years ago. As a testament to my dad, there are many Pauls (and one Paula) sprinkled throughout my family. The groom is my brother’s son, and the only one to bear my dad’s full name. At the wedding service, every time the minister says his name – Paul David Evans – my older sister lets out a kind of whimper-sigh. My mom is there, too, but she doesn’t seem to let it affect her like my sister does, who with her muffled noise fittingly reminds all of us about my dad’s absence.
“Did you get a chill?” she asks me later, and I did. But there are no tears for me at this wedding. We have driven six hours, and counter to the Schwartzkopf formula, have arrived in the nick of time to be escorted down the aisle ahead of the bridal party by handsome young men in tuxedos where we sit with the rest of my family on the groom’s side of the church. Did I mention we are on time?
So far, this wedding has everything going for it. Bridesmaids in designer dresses; the aforementioned groomsmen, including my brother as his son’s best man; a pair of delightfully well-mannered flower girls; and a ring bearer who wears dark glasses and struts down the aisle to deliver his treasure to its ultimate destination.
After the wedding, we use Google maps on the iPhone to chart a course to the reception in this unfamiliar city. On the way, I get to reminisce about my wedding and the spiffy map we designed and printed more than twenty years ago to help our out-of-town guests navigate the wedding venues.
“This wedding has a hashtag!” my youngest daughter Lindsey announces. Of course it does. And that is very cool, I think. This couple’s digital wedding album is only a click away.
“Did you hear the news?” Just outside the reception hall, my cousin tells me she and her husband are having a baby. They had been trying for awhile when a cancer diagnosis suspended operations. But now, prayers answered, they’re cancer-free and headed toward parenthood.
Now we’ve entered the wedding zone, the point where all the Pinterest crafts come together, and anyone who isn’t drinking feels obligated to ask my mother “Do you need anything?” at ever-shortening intervals.
Another nephew and his wife are at our table with their young sons, three and one. I marvel when this beautiful, young mama places a plate in front of her boys and they devour red pepper strips, broccoli florets, and baby carrots. My nephew (who also happens to be my Godson) is talking about his older son’s obsession with the Berenstain Bears books and his younger son’s attempts at self-potty training. Am I stuck in a utopian parenting time-warp loop?
“Let’s dance,” I say, scooping up the little guy. All night long, the wedding DJ has been playing a splendid mix of Bruno Mars, Beyoncé, The Black Eyed Peas, and yes, Kool and the Gang. And now I’m dancing with a giggling 1-year-old perched on my hip, knowing full well that tomorrow I will pay the price in the form of sore muscles in places I had completely forgotten there were muscles in the first place.
Then something amazing happens. My sister realizes we’re all in the same vicinity at the same time. Even the bride and groom are here. “Let’s get a family picture!” she calls out. My cousin hands me my dad’s framed photograph, which had been in an arrangement on a nearby table with photos of other relatives and special people who have left this world. I lift the picture of the original Paul David Evans high above my head. My mom is leaning in on her grandson, his namesake. And I think for a second: My dad is here in each of our hearts, I know that. But can he possibly know about this celebration of life, love, and his family?
I lift his picture higher. Absolutely.