The Burlington Hawk-Eye
The Hawk Eye
Daughter's Happiness is the Best Wedding Gift
June 10, 1990
It had been more than 20 years since the first of our children got married. The world widely changes in so long a time, but the tug at parental hearts is just as strong.
My chance finally came to be the father of the bride. But when your youngest child waits until she is all grown up, and a successful professional person, she not only plans her wedding, but handles all the details, like a theater director, and there isn't much for the old folks to do but show up.
And so we did, driving across the rain soaked prairies, beyond the Ohio and into the verdant rolling Alleghenies to Altoona, PA. We remembered, driving along, how determined Megan had been on her first job, delivering the newspaper. She was only four and her brothers trusted her only with one paper to the next-door neighbor. From that start, she never quit working through the grades and high school, four years at the university, three years of medical school, and now was finishing another three years of family practice residency in Altoona. She explained once that she'd always had to cope with the "last child syndrome."
She'd helped pay her way at the University of Iowa working at Hancher Auditorium. She joyously discovered Altoona's historic Mishler Theater, once on the old vaudeville circuit, and where the Broadway shows used to try out, now preserved by an active community theater group. There she found her man Christian, our newest son. They considered it only appropriate to be married in the theater.
It didn't really startle us, that Megan's wedding would be different. She was always adventure-some. Once she went off to New Zealand to get a hands-on look at socialized medicine. She did two hitches in the wild west of Alaska, delivering Eskimo babies and making snowmobile house calls. Now, her training done, she has signed on for two years with the U.S. Public Health Service in Bethel, Alaska, a place Chris calls with enthusiasm, "a real frontier town."
But first there were our tickets to this opening matinee in the Mishler on a rainy Saturday in Altoona, surrounded by the fog-shrouded hills. (The legalities had been attended to in the morning.) It was a tribal affair, all five brothers and their wives, her nephews and nieces; Chris's smaller family, including his 11-year-old son Nick.
The theater was open, of course, even though the box office wasn't manned, and a few people wandered in from the streets to join the assortment of medical and theater friends. The bride had directed that her youngest niece Erin, 7, play the wedding march on the piano, which she did, note by careful note, as the audience held its breath. Megan explained that she'd been 8 when her oldest brother Sean was married, and knew how important it was not to be left out.
Her sister Mariann, the missionary, couldn't preside as would have been appropriate, but sent a prayer from Bolivia, which was read along with Ecclesiastes and Corinthians, and the song of Ruth. And of course the traditional Irish blessing. Only this one was heralded by the rafter-shaking wail of bagpipes from a ruddy, full-kilted piper, stomping on stage.
It is one of those wonderful old theaters where the floor drops steeply and I wondered if she worried that I would pitch head-first as I walked her down the aisle to the mother of the bride where she left us, in the way brides do, forever.
Later as she whirled over the dance floor at the noisy reception, embracing her friends, tossing her bouquet, I wasn't seeing this mature and accomplished woman in charge of her life, but the tiny, little girl our last-born skipping down the driveway on her one-copy paper route.
And there came over me the one, over-riding memory and emotion of this day. It was the sight, the feel, the almost electric tingle of Megan's happiness. It shown round her head like a halo in one of those old icons. It was contagious, and seemed to sweep over everyone.
It was the most precious wedding gift of all.
Return to Columns.