the wedding sisters

My thirty-six-year-old daughter, Amy, recently got married. Amy and Trent have had a good thing going for some time now. It was a wonderful evening. Everything went close to perfect. It was almost midnight and I was standing at the bar talking to the bartender, a guy my age. He knew I was the father of the bride. As the event wound down we chatted and watched the crowd in the gymnasium-sized room. I explained to him who some of the people were.
“That gal over there in the black dress is my daughter’s college sorority sister, Jennifer. She’s the assistant headmaster of a private school, Downstate. She’s not married. She told me earlier tonight, ‘The right one hasn’t come along yet.’
That young woman over by the door in the wheelchair is my daughter’s other college sorority sister, Debbie. She got married last year. My daughter and Jennifer were in the wedding. She’s in a wheelchair because she was hit, standing on the sidewalk, by falling landing gear from the first jet that hit on 9-11. She was delivered to the hospital as Jane Doe and not expected to survive. There have been many stories about her in the media; they refer to her as ‘First in, last out’ (of the hospital).”
The bartender switched from chatty to silent, as did I when I first heard this from my daughter six years ago.
I suddenly found myself thinking in an excessively sentimental manner about the safety of my own daughter. I recalled when she was seven and slammed into the corner of a house on her bicycle. We were at someone else’s house and she wasn’t expecting the bumps in the buckled sidewalk. It knocked the wind out of her but she sucked it up and didn’t cry. When she was seventeen, her boyfriend drowned while on vacation with his family. He’d written Amy two love letters on school notebook paper. They arrived in the mail on the day she found out, and the day after. On day three, she still clutched them both in her hand.
Back to the reception: as if choreographed by a hidden power, Amy and Jennifer both walked away from the groups they were with and went over to Debbie. They knelt together on the floor at her wheelchair. While the bartender and I watched – almost everyone else was busy doing their own thing and not watching – the three embraced each other in a group hug that lasted almost half-a-minute. When the two stood back up, all three were smiling.
Sometimes I forget what decade it is.
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One Comment on “the wedding sisters”

  1. Barbara Durkin Says:

    Although this is not the first time I’ve read this particular essay, it hit just as hard today as it did then. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever come upon (and I am 64). So much is conveyed in such a simple, straightforward style. I can see this scene, hear and touch it, and most importantly, feel it to my bones. I have loved everything of Gardner’s that I’ve seen, but this tops even some of my previous “favorites”. I intend to send it on to everyone I can think of as a gift.


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