The faces staring back at me look so young. They’re happy and full of smiles. There’s some nervousness too, but excitement about the wedding taking place in a few minutes. There’s my sister-in-law in her maid of honor dress and my best man looking dapper in his black tux. There’s lots of family members, college and work friends. I see everyone and a thousand different memories come to mind.
I look closely at the shot of my father. He’s still alive. There’s no oxygen mask. It’s not even in the corner of the room, sitting off by itself. That would come later. There’s a shot of my mother and my mother-in-law putting on their corsages. They’re excited to see the build-up over the past two years come to fruition. They want the day to be perfect.
I finally get to a picture of my wife with her dad getting ready to walk down the aisle. I do the math and I realize that in the picture he’s a couple of years younger than I am now. His hair has turned salt and pepper, but he still has a full head of hair. I look up in the mirror and am reminded that my own hair has long ago abandoned me. In the picture, my wife is holding tight to his arm. They look serious, but I know from countless stories she’s told over the years that he was cracking jokes the whole time. I don’t think of that now. Instead, I focus intently on her. She’s as beautiful as I remember. I couldn’t stop looking at her then, and I can’t stop looking at her now.
I turn the page of the album and there we are, newly blessed husband and wife. Huge smiles extend across our faces. We look like babies. If we walked into a bar, the bartender would have carded us both. Our three kids aren’t even a speckle in our eyes. We have no idea of the highs and lows that we’re about to take on and the endless ticks off the clock. We know none of that.
We simply know that we want to face life and all it has to offer . . . together.
Jumping to the present day, my son laughs at me as I skim one more time through the photos. He’s five or six years younger than I am in the album and he’s getting a kick out of seeing the younger me. His grandmother gave him the album when he was at her house mowing her yard. A relative had taken the pictures, found them after all these years, and shared the album with my mother-in-law.
If nothing else, I’ve provided my son a weekend’s worth of free entertainment. He can’t stop laughing. “Oh wow, love the tux Dad,” he says. I cringe, thinking of him posting the photos to a crazy Tik Tok video or social media post and wonder how it would feel to see them go viral. I shake my head, swearing under my breath for not offering to mow my in-law’s yard. If I had mowed the yard, then my son would have never seen the pictures and I could’ve avoided his ridicule.
I figure it’s time to go on the offensive. I remind my son that for the early 90s my black tails, black bow tie, and purple cummerbund were the style of the day. “I was a hit, I looked awesome!” I say. He laughs even more. After a few more minutes of this back-and-forth, I give it a break. I know when I’m facing a losing cause and go back to the album. I’m instantly taken back to the church, pacing in a pale cinder block hallway, getting ready for the wedding to start. Fortunately, my son moves on as well, leaving me to my nostalgic reminiscing.
When people ask me about how my wife and I have managed to stay together all these years, I tell them that we’ve been fortunate and advise them to find someone you want to celebrate with when you win a million dollars and someone who’ll be by your side when you lose a million dollars.
I let out a big smile, close the album, and thank God for helping me find my best friend.