Only twice in my life do I ever remember seeing my father cry. The first was when the cold realization that my mom was finally leaving must have actually sunk in. It was a slow, embarrassed trickle of maybe two tears, quickly wiped away along with his marriage. The second was an unabashed gush, a fire hose upon the altar in which eldest son wed his wife. The downpour of pride made me wonder how much liquid one man can lose and still sustain life.
When his disease started its final assault, I hoped that I would find “the one” before he died so that he also got to cry at my wedding. But I learned that you have to fall in love. You can’t walk into it. You can’t run into it. You can’t jump into it. And you can’t will it. One day, you’re strolling through life and the next you suddenly slip and tumble madly down a pit of irrational, hopeless infatuation, falling deeper and deeper with no control, nothing to grab onto to slow you down, and nothing to do but put your head over your heels and simply enjoy the ride.
Years after he died, I finally fell. And every night I kiss her goodnight, I realize I’m still falling. Every morning when I see her face, falling. Every cup of coffee she makes me, falling. Every breakfast we cook together, falling. Every time I see her name pop up on my phone, falling. Every time I rush home to tell her about a movie, story, or book, falling. Every waiter’s face when they see that gorgeous girl who just walked in is actually with me, falling.
So there will be an empty chair at my wedding. My dad won’t be there to give some irrelevant speech harking back on a bratty little baseball player who only sort of grew up. He won’t be telling stories about Jimmy the Lip and Jacob Three Eyes with his old medical school buddies. He won’t be eating three steaks and four cakes before raiding the hospitality room for more. And he won’t be gushing down tears before the first pictures.
But he would be so happy to know that I soon get to marry the girl that I fell in love with. And that girl will be taking his last name. She has now spent months agonizing over every detail of her perfect wedding so that every bite of the perfect food in the perfect chairs with the perfect utensils in the perfect room with the perfect flowers goes absolutely perfectly. But if it happens to rain over our perfect courtyard on October 15, it’s not bad luck, misfortune, nor ironic. It’s just a proud father blessing our altar from above.