A Wedding, A New Daughter, And Joy
I will soon be in Seattle and the occasion is pure joy: My oldest son, Isaac, is getting married. The years have passed and the sorrow of losing him to the wide world is replaced now with a joy I have not yet known. My family is being given a gift, the gift of love. All that my wife and I are called upon to do is accept the gift of a new daughter. Can it truly be?
The wedding has long been in the planning stages. The idea has grown and taken on a delightful shape all its own. This spring my wife and I were walking the national seashore on the Outer Cape. I saw a tiny set of footprints in the sand, no larger than the paw of a large dog. At once, I had a full heart. I could see a grandchild leaving those footprints. My son’s child, a child he will have with his wife, the woman he has chosen to mark out his own place in the world. I am dumbstruck with awe.
"I am ready," I said to my wife.
She smiled as she always does when I dare to hope. She conceded she was, too. Some day, I hope to spend a cloistered afternoon with my wife and grandchild, a doting old fool.
My life has been a mad scramble of promises broken and kept. I am with the prophet Isaiah, a man of unclean lips. I know my sins, and they weigh me down. Only a fool grows old with satisfaction. Time oppresses. It is fleeting and threatening always simply to end. There is so much I would like to try again.
I could have been a better student. A better husband. A better parent. A better son. Better at everything. It is enough some days, this sense of false starts and near misses, to make me want to quit the game. But then chaos, the only god I know, beckons, and the dance begins anew. I fully intend to kick and scream my way into silence. Life is, as Theodore Roosevelt said, strife.
But today I smile. This is not my fight. I am but one of a set of sheltering arms, united in the hope that Isaac and his bride know joy, and that they will learn the hard satisfaction of years spent struggling together. Suddenly something like faith blossoms: I am the instrument of purposes far greater than my own. And I am profoundly grateful. And luckier than I have any right to be.
I spoke this afternoon to an adversary turned friend – Kevin O’Connor, if you must know – about the wedding. "You hardly seem old enough to have a child about to marry," he said. Oh, I am old enough, I assured him. He told me about his kids, and I was, of course, envious. His brood is younger. He has much magic to come under his own roof.
I am a restless sort of soul. This summer I took the better part of a month off to rest up for the new year. Instead of lolling, I wrote a book on jury nullification and sent it off to a publisher awaiting it. I am all ass and elbows struggling forever to get somewhere, or is it to escape from something? It wearies me.
But there is no weariness in the celebration to come. Yes, my family is complex. There will be people at this wedding the thought of whom could disturb a night’s sleep. I am banishing these demons for a spell.
My children, my wife and I have shared good times, and bad. We’ve seen loved ones die, and those we love struggle at death’s door. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and we’ve cut our own path. I have learned to like the silence of an empty nest. My children are adults with purposes of their own. We’ve done all this, but I have now the pure pleasure of seeing a much-loved son embrace the one he loves and declare to the world: "She and I are one." I am awestruck.
So forgive me my joy and my satisfaction. I fully intend to spend time simply thanking the heavens for my good fortune. Healthy children, a wife who has recovered her health after many scary years, and now a new daughter and, in my son, a new and suddenly richer man. I suppose the grandchildren can wait, at least for a little while. But really, kids, time is short ....
Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.