Chapter 95: “Getting Married”
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Once we got engaged, Deirdre and I began our humble planning phase. Actually… Deirdre handled the majority of it because I was so busy with school and my projects, but still, we had open discussions about the guest list, the location, and our wedding party. We decided to keep our guest list to a minimum, all the while looking for the cheapest location we could muster. We didn’t care to have a “formal” wedding with a wedding party and all…
Okay, truthfully, I had wanted a minor semblance of that. I had always envisioned Shawn, Travis, and Jason in our own version of Frank the Tank’s wedding in Old School. Shawn would be the Vince Vaughn to my Will Ferrell, and it would be hilarious, and Deirdre’s and my version of “traditional.”
As we amassed our guest list, it had ballooned due to my insistence of including the people who were closest to me. That meant that the invitations had to include: My Dad and his fiancé, my Mom and Gary, my brother, Shawn, Travis, Jason, Jess & Brin, Brandon and his girlfriend, John, my Memére, my Godmother…
Before we knew it, our guest lists had surpassed just over a hundred people. Deirdre worried aloud that all of these people could actually show up.
“Don’t worry about it. Thirty percent will ignore it, another five will accept and back out at the last minute, then we’ll be in a room with sixty-five of our dearest friends and family.”
“Yeah, we’ll see about that. Odds are everyone RSVP’s.”
My inner ‘gulp’ was fierce. How would we accommodate all of those people?
“Not to worry.”
Deirdre was never one for large crowds, especially when all eyes would literally be on us this time. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan either, but then again, I knew almost everyone on the guest list. Deirdre, on the other hand, had barely met most of my extended family.
We had set the date for October 10th. We wanted to have our wedding on ’10-10,’ but that was a Monday, so we adjusted it for our “anniversary” having first made it official: October 9th (yes, the day Deirdre got food poisoning and broke up with me). We were ready to go, but we had myriad people complain about the travel time from great distances, and thus, we adjusted it for Saturday, October 8th.
Once we established the date, I made a digital invitation via a Facebook event page. Yeah, I know, “how schlocky,” but it sure was cost-effective! I made an image using an old photo of us from the prior year at a local bar. In the picture, I had a Bud Light in my hand, and I made sure to edit that out with Photoshop. Overall, it was a pretty good image, and most people didn’t notice the half-beer bottle.
Soon after we first began our “negotiations,” Deirdre and I turned our focus to the venue. We looked into a local catering place, but Deirdre’s Mom had another option. She mentioned a local man who would host these end-of-summer Labor Day bashes for his entire hometown of Orrington, which equated to a few hundred people. This man was a family friend, Don Wade, and was touted as one of the most generous men in the world. He spent the majority of his forty-year career as an EMT, then a volunteer firefighter, and finally, an EMT instructor. I hate to use clichés, but he would literally give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it. And wouldn’t you know it? He also happened to be a Justice of the Peace.
Deirdre’s Mom’s friend, Sherry (Don’s neighbor), had arranged the meeting, and Deirdre and I met with him at his place a few weeks before his Labor Day party. Don and I hit it off when we discussed our respective battles with cancer. It was no surprise to me, as Sherry had previously mentioned his ailment (and likely mine in return). We spoke mostly of our battle scars, and eventually, he happily agreed to officiate and host our wedding. He also graciously extended an invitation to us for the upcoming festivities. Deirdre and Kaitlyn had been in prior years, but this was my first opportunity to see a party in this setting in action.
When the day came, the sheer number of people swarming the swinging shindig blew me away. He had a volunteer making doughboys and French fries, the pool was crowded with children, and there were kegs of beer and his full, open bar for the adults.
He had two people manning the grills, cooking hotdogs and hamburgers, and an array of snacks on two long tables. This was a fat kid’s delight, and I was reliving my old gluttonous ways.
Don was such a delight to watch. He floated through the party people, being the most gracious host, carousing and conversing in such an eloquent way. It was an art form.
I had had too many beers and gut-sticking food and felt like a recovering drug addict in a pile of his old friend, cocaine. Don would introduce me to others at the party and tell my story of surviving cancer proudly. My stomach was killing me, but I was still able to share the tale of my Leukemia diagnosis and treatment effortlessly. If you had asked anyone else, however, maybe they would offer an alternative version of the story.
The next day, however, I woke up for work with the heaviest of guts. I must have gained ten pounds overnight. I slogged to work with a coffee that couldn’t begin to touch my lethargy.
Our RSVPs flew into our digital mailbox. Actually, they arrived into our real mailbox too. I had printed off a couple dozen for the folks who didn’t use Facebook or a computer at all, like my Memére. I printed the same Photoshop image onto magnet paper, so the recipients could “Save the date” on their refrigerators. Deirdre and I were more concerned with trying to “Save the Money” in preparations for the big day and so; we had to lean on many others to execute this wedding without a hitch.
Don had a LOT of beer and food left over from the party that was never prepared or consumed. He, once again, kindly offered that, in addition to his house and his role as the officiator.
I asked my brother-in-law, Kevin, to DJ the wedding for us, only because a traditional DJ would cost us far more than a car payment. Kevin immediately said yes, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with making him miss out on all of the fun. He insisted that he do the job.
Deirdre’s Mom bought her the dress as a wedding gift, while our co-workers’ sister was a tailor and handmade the veil – and in a surprise turn – gifted the $250 piece to us. I had repurposed a suit that I used from when I was a part of my friend Mitch’s wedding party a few years back. We were going so low budget that I feared the seams of our design would reveal themselves. What happened if people found out that I repurposed this suit? What if a guest was a vegetarian? We didn’t have an entrée option for that diet.
I swatted those questions out of my mind and tried to stay positive. If I were to crack now, then I wouldn’t be able to finish checking off the last required items for the event, such as the two kegs worth of beer I had ordered.
We had everything under our control in order… except for our Bachelor/Bachelorette parties. Deirdre had a low-key affair, opting to have a few drinks with her sister and Mom, but Shawn planned to get me fucked up. Travis was my best man, but Shawn had more of an idea of how to party than my non-alcoholic brother.
Shawn had invited everyone to go out to the Sports Arena, a place where everyone on either side of 21 could attend. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this place – even though it had bowling AND billiards – but I understood why we were here and allowed myself to have a good time (for a change).
Shawn, Brandon, Travis, Jason, John, Kyle, Ritchie, and Curtis rounded out the group. I wore a particular “dressy” shirt that I didn’t often wear, a long-sleeved grey and red striped shirt. Immediately, my closest friends called me Freddy Krueger, and the name stuck throughout the night. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The “Dream Warriors” asked me what I wanted to drink. I said a beer. Soon, I had a beer in front of me. Of course, the guys made sure I wasn’t going to be “boring” all night, and we began to take shots. Yikes. My bowling game surprisingly improved from ~ 90 to roughly 145. Damn, the alcohol effect worked out the kinks of my awkward bowler pose.
Later in the night, the elders of the crowd went bar hopping in downtown Bangor, and the flow of drinks never faltered.
I woke up the next day, the day of my wedding, to a dozen missed calls from Deirdre. Apparently, I had overslept, but all I could do was lie there. My head was pounding and my stomach queasy. Deirdre had left a few hours earlier to get ready at Don’s house, while her Mom and sister finished the decorations. They had to work double time to get it done before the ceremony. Meanwhile, all I had to do was pick up the two kegs at the bottle redemption place. A simple task, but I couldn’t move. “A Bachelor Party the night before the wedding is a BAD idea!” I uttered.
I finally turned over to take a swig off of the gallon of water near my bed. As I pulled it away, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it to the shower without first stopping at the porcelain throne. I hopped on my feet and let loose the previous night’s libations and greasy food into the judgmental toilet. After a few hauls, I nearly rose to my feet to hop in the shower, but I had to expel matter from another end. I sat on the toilet and then realized the other side wanted a counter-argument. The trash can and I nearly made out until I was ready to cleanse myself.
I got dressed in street clothes (i.e., my entire wardrobe) and drove to pick up the kegs. I made sure to get the suit just in case time was against me (it was). The drive to get the keg was an arduous trek. I wasn’t feeling like driving, but I knew that I had to get the damn things; I mean, I already paid for them.
I picked up Travis so he could help me get them in the car. The store was busy – as it always was on a Saturday afternoon – and by the time I got the kegs, I had realized that I locked my keys in my car.
I immediately called AAA knowing it may take a while and I was an hour and a half from the ceremony. Travis and I waited with a keg a piece on the unusually warm October 9th as AAA made their way over. Again, thank God, I had a AAA membership!
When they came, I was so hungry that I grabbed McDonald’s nearby, and drove Travis home to his place. He was riding with Shawn and John later, but he needed to get ready too.
I hauled ass over to Orrington, and somehow, made it on time with minutes to spare. I hopped into the bathroom once I arrived. I threw on my suit, and my Dad helped me get the kegs out. Don’s friends helped to tap them, as I finished tying my tie.
As I got out of the bathroom, I discovered a shocking fact: My Memére Gagnon had come all the way down to Orrington to be at my wedding! I didn’t think she would show! I was incredibly honored for her to join us on this momentous occasion.
The rest of our guests poured into the front door of the garage. Before we knew it, we had around eighty-six of our one hundred plus invited guests.
I went outside and waited for my bride-to-be. The voluminous crowd gathered, most sat in the provided chairs, and a lot more than expected stood nearby. It was, after all, an informal affair.
Then, Kevin played the wedding procession and out came Deirdre. Wow, she looked fantastic!
I had my four groomsmen up there with me, all brothers in some regard: Travis, Shawn, Jason, and Kevin. Danielle seemed a little perturbed by that fact and forced her reluctant sister and daughter up there with her (they were not keen on the attention, either). It was an awkward, unbalanced ratio of groomsmen to bridesmaids. Deirdre didn’t think I would have anyone up there with me, but I didn’t want to do it without them.
We said our vows and kissed to rousing applause. The feeling could only be described as that moment in a romantic flick when the music swells and the camera circles around them and the crowd. All of our worries and apprehensions liquefied under the magic of the moment.
Then the party began. I was able to slip back into drinking easily thanks to my time praying to the porcelain gods earlier in the morning. Deirdre, on the other hand, was so busy with receiving compliments from her dozens of guests, that she barely had a drop all night.
There was a great deal of tradition in our wedding, despite our peculiar beginnings. The newlyweds danced the first song: Adele “One and Only.” The five minute and forty-eight second song felt like an eternity. It starts off incredibly slow, and Deirdre and I danced in circles for minutes as eighty-six people stared directly at us. Sure, she wasn’t a Type A person, but even I felt introverted at this moment. Deirdre and I both whispered how uncomfortable this dance was and we shared a laugh at the situation.
But finally, at the four-minute, forty-second mark (after the breakdown and at the start of the third chorus), I saw our friends Mike and Michelle spin onto the dance floor and join us. It was a surreal moment, much like the vows themselves. I would remember this forever. Everyone else joined in, and suddenly, the pressure was lifted from our shoulders.
Then we began the traditional Dollar Dance, where people would pay a dollar to dance with the bride and the groom. Our sister collected the money as one by one, people waited in line to dance with us individually. We had a lot of same-sex dances, and I was able to dance with all of the people who meant the most to me.
Everyone ate to his or her heart’s content. We had a veritable buffet of meat, side dishes, fruits, snacks, chips, sweets, and more. Tradition continued as we then cut our cake, fed each other, and linked arms to drink champagne. Deirdre had found this hilarious cake topper as a joke to how unsure she was in the first few months of our relationship.
I used a photo of us and remade the cake with Photoshop.
I had seen this idea before of using disposable cameras for the guests to take photos, but I liked it so much that we “borrowed” it for our wedding. It was a great idea to keep the kids busy, that’s for sure.
And of course, that included the “kids” known as my friends:
In the end, Deirdre and I had one of the most perfect weddings for our sensibilities and for our families. Everyone got along together swimmingly and had an amazing time. And we owed that all to Don. I told Travis that I had an idea of how to repay him for all of his hospitality.
We went home and actually opened all of our non-gift gifts and we were blown away! Somehow, between the cards and the dollar dance, we had actually MADE money off of the wedding, even if you accounted for the wedding dress, the kegs, all of it! I don’t know how we pulled that off!
This wedding had truly been our version of “traditional.”
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.
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