Soft guitar strains tumbled on the breeze and landed in melodious plop, plop, plops over suits and dresses. The small group of attendees coughed, whispered, and shifted in varies levels of discomfort as they waited for the bride to appear at the top of the stairs. My niece—in her early thirties and unmarried—was seated directly in front of me offering a deliciously easy excuse to “accidently” kick her butt with my shoe from time to time. My husband, uncomfortable in the constraints of formal dress, tugged at his tie and pulled at his collar. My son bent and unbent the wedding program in nervous boredom, creating a paper “c”. All in all, it was a gorgeous fall day to be outdoors and witness my sister’s second marriage and happiness.
The venue she had selected for the ceremony was the Guthrie Theater’s “endless bridge” in Minneapolis. The views off the tiered bridge entice the eye to look towards the Mississippi river and beyond to the striking cityscape. Old and new architecture blend in a cacophony of life. I wondered if the site was a metaphor for endless love through a variety of terrain, but kept my thoughts to myself. I needed to stay focused on bugging my niece and keeping family mischief flowing like the river beneath us.
Right on time the groom escorted his mother down the rather steep steps to the forefront of the bridge. The bridesmaids, in shimmering cocktail length blue dresses, made their halting slow-stepped way to the officiator as the groomsmen merged in similar step from the right. There was a moment’s pause and then the music amplified. We all stood and turned to see my sister escorted by my father. They stopped at the top of the stairs. Without meaning to, I held my breath to see what would happen next. You see, my father had a severe stroke some years ago and despite physical therapy and sheer will he has not been able to regain full use of his body. I knew he would not be able to make it down the stairs.
My sister whispered to him to sit; that his job was done. I could tell he wanted to take her all the way to her new groom, but she gently stayed by his side, holding his atrophied arm, and guided him into his seat. “I love you,” was followed by a kiss. Dad said he loved her too, and as she walked away towards her future I saw his tears flow. I cried too. He has always been a man of strength and stoic dignity. Tears were unheard of in an earlier time. It made my heart ache, and my compassion explode to witness his emotion.
Perhaps his tears came from the realization that his physical limitations kept him from truly walking her down the aisle, but more likely they came in unapologetic gratitude. Dad looked so thin and small on the endless bridge, yet he had beat the odds and was here to see his baby resplendent in ivory satin on her wedding day. Dad watched the ceremony from his distant seat, but as the wedding vows began no one stood taller than the father of the bride.