Last Saturday, Mark, Willy, and I attended a wedding. The bride was one of Willy’s first therapists and the only therapist from that time that is still in his life. (Because I don’t share names without express permission she will be known as “the bride” for the sake of this post.)
The bride has been a big part of Willy’s life for over half his life, so I wasn’t too surprised when we received an invitation to her wedding. Along with the invitation, we received a handwritten note that said that though the invitation requested a “kids-free” wedding and reception, Willy was a special exception. Willy was the only child invited to the wedding and the reception. That was something of a surprise.
When I sent the RSVP card back, I’d selected from the dinner choices available for the three of us. Then, the bride sent a message via Facebook, offering to request the caterers prepare a special meal for Willy, which I readily accepted. (I don’t think I mentioned it at the time, but Willy had been near tears when we told him he wouldn’t be able to order a hamburger and he grinned when he found out that, as it turned out, a plain hamburger on a bun without seeds would be provided for him. He also got a bowl full of sliced apples and sliced green peppers, instead of a salad, which he gobbled up as fast as he could stuff the pieces in his mouth.) So, once again, Willy was a special exception, and all things considered it was a very good idea. I was very touched that the bride was so thoughtful and accommodating, even though I’m sure she had her hands full with all the different pieces that go into pulling off a wedding.
Willy was excited and he was determined to make a good appearance. So, I took Willy to the store to pick out an appropriate outfit. I wanted to make sure he was dressed appropriately for a wedding, especially considering the bride has a knack for style. Willy, on the other hand, had a mind to be “cool” for the wedding. We compromised. I guided him to the appropriate dress clothes and he picked out a colorful dress shirt (bright blue), a sports coat (dark blue), and dress slacks (also dark blue, because I insisted). He also picked out a hat. I’m not much up on hats, but I think it’s called a “bowler” hat. Anyway, it has a brim that goes all the way around and is rather like the ones you see in old detective/mobster movies, except this one had a band that had bright blue zigzags on it (because I made him put back the one that had a band with skulls and skateboards on it). I also used this as an “excuse” to convince Willy to get a new pair of shoes (he went up a size and a half!), which he’d been resisting for months. (I also bought myself a new dress and calf-high boots, but that’s because I’m a “girl” and into clothes a little bit more than I should be, even if I’m not nearly as good at it as some of my peers. Besides, I checked and I didn’t have anything to wear to a wedding.)
All decked out in his new duds, Willy made a striking addition to the celebrants. I was a bit surprised when the bride’s mother welcomed us so profusely when we arrived, but then I’m not quite as social as the mother-of-the-bride role calls for. Let’s just say, when it came to my own wedding I “fought” to keep the party as small as possible, while my mother and my mother-in-law-to-be kept adding to the guest list and still didn’t invite as many as they’d have liked.
During the ceremony, the father-of-the-bride gave a speech, kind of like a sermon about the couple who were being joined in holy matrimony. Once again, I was surprised. In this speech about the formative years of the bride and the groom, about their coming together, and about their future together, Willy was mentioned as a key milestone in the bride’s life. I was floored and Willy was astounded (and slightly disruptive. “He just said my name!”). Then again, when the minister asked, “Who gives this bride?” Willy raised his hand and tried to stand up. (This was Willy’s first wedding, after all.)
I knew that Willy and the bride had had a profound impact on each other’s lives. This lovely young woman has seen our family at some of our most difficult moments and she’s still here. She’s coaxed Willy through some of life’s major milestones. With her help, Willy regained the use of his words and became the remarkable, capable, and functional young man that he now is. She came into Willy’s life because it was her job, but became a friend that Willy will carry with him for the rest of his life because she is the remarkable, wonderful, compassionate, and loving young woman that she is.
I knew this. I really did! But, I guess, until her wedding I didn’t realize quite how mutual this impact has been.
The groom was someone we had not met before—by “we” I mean Mark and me. So, during the pre-reception drinks and appetizers, I was once again surprised when the mother-of-the-groom realized who Willy was, and thus who we were. (I’m used to being recognized by people I don’t remember, but that’s just because I’m bad at remembering faces and names; it’s usually people we’ve met before.) I was even more surprised by her reaction. She asked us to wait where we were while she tracked down the photographer, saying she knew the couple would want a picture of us.
This was their special day, but in a way it was Willy’s special day, too. The bride made time to spend with Willy on her very special day. She made sure Willy had a meal that he would find appetizing—and he enjoyed it very much. We stayed a little longer than we intended, because the bride wanted a dance with Willy—and we weren’t going to miss that. (She even pulled me onto the dance floor, which is how I realized that I am way out of practice when it comes to maneuvering in heels!)
Willy was mentioned in toasts, his picture was in the slide show, and it just became abundantly clear that Willy was a minor star in their major event. And I can say he needed the boost to his esteem. He’s had a rough time lately. At one point, even before the toasts and the slide show, Willy was so touched by all this attention, he said, in a rather surprised voice, “I guess [the bride] really does care about me!” Her response? “Duh!” Classic!