It was my first time as a bridesmaid and I took my job oh so seriously, the way I do with any jobs of love. I dive in headfirst. We were waiting in the lobby and I was playing with my shawl. I wasn’t sure if periwinkle was really my color (it isn’t), or if I should have gone the professional route with my hair and makeup. My beautiful date was just trying to cheer me up. Did he say it in the lobby or at the end of the night? I only know that he said it and it stuck. After he took this picture of me:
Funny the things you remember, when you don’t know how to hold onto the more important things, because you think they’ll be there forever, or nearly, and a day. And you don’t know what will be the most important things anyway. They change.
I have a photographic memory, and a pretty good sensory one too. I remember the colors of the Orlando sky, on a February evening. I remember every breeze I’ve ever felt, I’m sure, and how it felt then in my curled bridesmaid hair. I remember telling him I felt like I’d never be happy again. I was at a wedding, sure, but only a week after a funeral. There were too many of the latter, and not enough of the former. I knew it wasn’t logical to say, but I couldn’t yet feel the alternative. Like a smile that doesn’t reach the eyes, it was a thought that didn’t fully reach the heart. I just missed my grandfather.
The wedding wasn’t canceled or postponed, but my grandfather’s daughter was due to get married a week after he passed away. How I wish he could have been there to sail her down the aisle. “Stairway to Heaven” was there for that, and we were too. She met her groom later in life, after he already had grown kids, but they met just in time. My grandmother had been on her literal deathbed, not yet ready to let go, and he had said to her, “I’m going to marry your daughter.” The only thing bad about him, my uncle said of my aunt’s new groom, is his name. Steve. Was it an unlucky name in this family? A great guy in all ways, but named Steve. That was the name of my deceased father. The middle child, in between my uncle and aunt.
Instead of crying another river of tears, or drinking to oblivion, or getting anxious and strung out, I absorbed love in through my pores. The wedding wasn’t unremarkable. It had Led Zeppelin and love, and more love. My cousin’s yarmulke blew off his head in an upwards manner, but there wasn’t an open door or window, so we all just thought – magic? The other Steve? The bride’s parents – my deceased grandparents? What causes a yarmulke to fly upwards anyway? Maybe these are the questions you should ask yourself, and others. Instead you sing a little Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” and ask, “Do I look all right?”
He wasn’t for people leaving their wives. He was quite against it, but he was trying to breathe life back into me when I couldn’t breathe it back in myself. It was enough breaths to smile and laugh and dance. And eat, of course. And meet the groom – my new uncle’s – twin sons and recognize them as family. Isn’t it funny that I wondered if I’d ever feel happiness again, after so much loss at once, in my more youthful days. It wasn’t even that long ago, not long enough not to feel it all over again. I mourn that 20-something girl who thought she’d never be happy again, because she was, 100 times over. She IS.
The best was yet to come. Do you know it still is? The worst was yet to come. Do you know it still is too? And oh, Steve. Had I known. What would I have done differently? We just saw you in February and I would have held on longer had I known, and I hope I did anyway, because we always know. We always know our time is limited. I just wish you had more time. You made my aunt so happy. I miss that day because love and innocence were so strong and tight that day, and now, it’s been over a decade. And what does love do? It grows upwards and closer together. I don’t mourn a decade ago. I mourn a week ago, when you were here. I mourn every time I don’t cry, because I think if I start I’ll never stop, and I’d drown this house and town.
This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s timely topic is “When it comes to more youthful days…” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.
My uncle, Steve Salzman, passed away unexpectedly on Des’ birthday, Monday, June 13, and now there’s a new way to live – to fill this Steve-sized gap in our lives, and boy, it’s big. May you all hold your loved ones close tonight, and always.