I traveled to Florida 2 weeks ago for the wedding of my very young grandson, Nick. There I was the only really old person among an extended and fractured family. I was away from home for 4 days. I worry about leaving Jerry alone, so I called him every morning and evening. He was fine every time.
I flew out of Seattle on Thursday. At the departure gate I was joined by my Lawyer Daughter (the child of my second husband who came to me at the age of 3). She looked slim and lovely but utterly sad and depressed. She is struggling with midlife problems. Her youngest child is almost grown, in high school, thinking about where she will go to college. Lawyer daughter’s nest will soon be empty. While we were waiting to board the plane there was a call from Lawyer Daughter’s office. Her half-sister, whom she hadn’t heard from in years, had called. Lawyer Daughter spoke to her sister and discovered that her birth mother, who Lawyer Daughter only knew slightly, had been out of contact for a month. Lawyer Daughter’s sister wanted help getting the authorities to check on her welfare.
During the flight Lawyer Daughter and I talked about the past and her tenuous connection with her birth mother and 2 half sisters. And we spoke of the things that were making her unhappy in the present. After the wedding she is staying on with old friends in Florida and I hope she will have some fun, cheer up, and gain a little weight.
The fight was long, tedious and uncomfortable. We had dinner in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and arrived in Tampa after midnight. Lawyer Daughter discovered that her lap-top computer had been stolen from her checked baggage.
The next day we drove to Gainsville for the wedding. The rehearsal dinner was that night, a BBQ at a resort farm in Williston, Florida. For me that was the best part of the wedding.
There was no need to dress up and there were various exotic animals to take pictures of for future possible paintings. Emus, parrots, turkeys, ponies, horses and donkeys.
I also took pictures of family and wedding participants.
The excellent dinner was planned and cooked by my daughter Clare (mother of the groom) with her husband Jason’s help in the barbequing.
Since I tire easily these days Lawyer Daughter drove me back to the place she and I were staying as soon as we finished dinner (around 9 PM). Then she went back to the party. I was asleep when she come back to our little house at the Magnolia Plantation Bed and Breakfast.
Naturally the next morning I awoke long before Lawyer Daughter. I had breakfast on the outside kitchen veranda at the B &B and listened to the husband of the proprietor talk about his environmental engineering business. He and his wife are trying to sell the bed and breakfast establishment but not having much success. I took Lawyer Daughter a breakfast on a tray and she got up in time to go for a brisk walk with me in a nearby small park. Lawyer Daughter had learned by this time that her birth mother had died in her house. She had been dead for some time before she was found. It was difficult news.
Next we went to my granddaughter Katy’s apartment where her mother, Clare ( Lawyer Daughter’s older sister) and Jason were staying. There was a rehash of the previous night’s party, its successes and it’s problems. Minor family frictions. Next we went to my granddaughter Sarah’s house where we all admired the baby, Ellana. Lawyer Daughter went off to have her hair done along with the bride and bridesmaids at another B & B, and after a while we all joined that group, so that the large room was crowded with wedding participants, hairdressers, photographers, relatives and the bride and groom’s 2 year old daughter, Kinley. The bride, Amanda, looked beautiful. Her hair was done, the veil attached,
and then her elegant wedding gown had to be put on over head without destroying the hair and veil. It took about 5 people to do it.
By this time it was about 2 hours before the 6 o’clock ceremony and my two daughters, son-in-law and I went to my cottage B&B to dress. The groom arrived with flowers for his mother and me and a rose for Jason’s jacket.
Pictures were taken of the groom and the bride entering different gates of the pretty walled garden around our cottage. Elaborate precautions were taken so that the groom not see the bride with whom he has been living for 3 years. But it’s bad luck on your wedding day. Customs left over from a long gone era.
Finally there was the ceremony. It was held outside at the Thomas Center in Gainsville, a restored Mediterranean revival-style hotel that is used by the city for arts, entertainment and rented for events and weddings. Folding chairs were set up below a balcony where the wedding party stood and vows exchanged. Luckily the weather was good, though for me it was uncomfortably warm.
There were a number of weddings that day and we weren’t quite sure which group was ours for the reception, but we eventually found the right one. There was a lot of standing around which tired me out. I drank the punch (sangria) which was supposed to be alcoholic but didn’t have much effect. I talked briefly with the groom’s father, Joe, (ex son-in-law) who had come for the wedding from Japan where he is living.
Dinner was late and I again had to be taken back to my b&B before the party was over. It was fun to watch the dancing, especially to see the bride and groom dancing with their little girl, who joined them on the dance floor. A few years ago I danced at weddings, but I was too tired at this one. I went to sleep quickly, but was awakened sometime in the middle of the night by the arrival of my two daughters and Jason. I stayed in bed, but I could hear a lot of loud talking in the living room. Apparently there had been a problem with the caterers and the left over food.
The day after the wedding I took all family out to dinner, except Lawyer Daughter who had left for her beach vacation. That was easy and fun and the food was good and not expensive. My 2 little great granddaughters love each other and played nicely, standing up sometimes at the table but not shouting too loud.
That night I slept at granddaughter Katy’s apartment in her comfortable bed. She slept on the sofa. Next day, Monday, she and I drove to Tampa to visit my step-brother, Jim (the son on my step-father) and his wife, Elsye. They are my age, and I had known Jim since we were both in our 20’s. Elsye and I had spent much time together helping my mother out when she needed to change living arrangements in her very old age. I had not seen them since my mother died, 8 years ago. As I walked up Elsye’s garden path to greet her she smiled a little ruefully and said what was in both of our minds, “Well, Anne, we’re beginning to look our age.”
It was a relief to be there. I was on my way home, and with old friends my own age, in Elsye’s immaculate comfortable house. At my grandchildren’s houses I had the pleasure of seeing prints and paintings I had done on their walls. In Jim and Elsye’s living room there was a pastel still life I had forgotten about that I did about 30 years ago. In the room where I slept there was a painting I did of geese from about the same period.
We had drinks on the porch and watched the birds at the feeder in the back garden. I enjoyed displaying my lovely Katy who really likes old people. She listened with genuine interest to a lot of talk about the past, old family jokes and old family woes. Katy is about to go to nursing school. She will do well.
Katy drove me to the Tampa Airport the next day. The trip home was tedious and tiring. I ran from the arrival gate in Seattle to the bus which did not help my arthritis. But I caught the bus. Jerry and I were delighted to be together and we ate a pleasant dinner at Anthony’s on the way home to the island.
Yes, it was worth it. It wasn’t all pleasure, but I got to see many loved ones and friends from the past. I got really tired, and though it has been two weeks now since I left, I am still feeling the effects of travel. Air travel is particularly unpleasant.
I wonder about the merits of elaborate weddings. They are expensive, and quite stressful for a lot of those involved, including the bride, who in the case wanted it very much. I hope she had a wonderful time. There is no doubt that she loves my grandson and their baby girl with all her heart.
Perhaps the best part will be having the pictures to look at afterward.