Kathy and I usually try to get away for a few days when our anniversary rolls around. We were married on her birthday, so we have double cause to celebration.
San Antonio is one of our favorite anniversary destinations. The tourism folks down there do a splendid job of putting San Antonio’s best foot forward. The world-famous San Antonio River Walk is only rivaled by the history and mystique of the Alamo. A few years back, San Antonio provided the setting for one of our more unusual anniversary celebrations.
The San Antonio River makes an extended lazy loop one story below street level right into downtown San Antonio. It is actually more of a canal than a river. Restaurants and rock sidewalks line the River Walk almost from beginning to end. The Tex-Mex food is as good as you will find anywhere.
One loop of the river takes you right into the courtyard of an expansive shopping mall. The pace is laid back, the city is unusually clean, and the people are friendly.
Kathy and I spent four days enjoying the great food, shopping and strolling along the River Walk.
One day, we stopped and sat on a park bench as we took in the glory of the day. As Kathy reached for her ever-present book to begin reading, I answered a call on my cellphone. I must have been talking too loudly as Kathy poked me with her elbow and whispered, “There’s a wedding going on right behind us.”
It was true. We were unwitting witnesses to a marriage ceremony in progress. It turned out to be the most unusual wedding I ever attended.
For starters, the wedding was conducted by a priest – a big, broad man, who sat on a motorized cart. It was one of those carts used by people who have mobility challenges. He sat sidesaddle in a customized wide seat that fit his wide seat.
He wore a priest’s collar and a black, gangster pinstriped suit. His thick, wide mustache matched the color of his magnificent silvery-white hair. I suspected he suffered from Parkinson’s disease as his left knee never stopped jumping throughout the ceremony.
The bride was a flaming redhead with matching flaming red eyebrows.
She wore a knee-length dress, off-white in color, with an extremely plunging neckline. The groom sported a Telly Savalas haircut and wore a black striped open-collar shirt and black jeans. His shoes were overstated black brogans, the kind Lil’ Abner wore in the old comic strip. Some of you can still remember Lil’ Abner.
The wedding party was made up of a dozen or so people. Most of the men wore military haircuts. Some wore their fatigues. Three couples stood wrapped up in each other’s arms from beginning to end, fully engaged in the rapture of the moment.
One member of the wedding party, a well-endowed cowgirl, was decked out in boots and jeans, and wore one of those big rodeo belt buckles. It was as big as a salad plate. But it was no match for the ornate metal cross, which hung from her neck on a leather cord. I decided she could have used it as a weapon of self-defense in a bar fight.
There were at least two or three other individuals who did not fit the scene. Best I could tell, there were no immediate family members present – no moms, no dads. It made me sad. I wondered about their lives, the bride and groom, and their futures. And, I whispered a prayer.
The priest was warm and cordial as he read the vows from a large, black spiral-ring notebook. He smiled understandingly as he conducted the service. I suspected he had seen it all through his many years.
I could not hear what he was saying, but I knew when he came to the point in the service when he issued his charge to the bride and groom. His mood suddenly turned serious – gravely serious. His eyes never left them as he sternly offered his best counsel. I found myself silently cheering him on.
And suddenly, it ended; a long kiss, a few cheers, modest applause, a few high-fives, a smattering of tears, happy smiles, license signed. And the priest rode off into the sunset.
I took part of that San Antonio weekend to reflect back through the years. I will do so again this weekend. I realize I have been married more than half my life. Yikes.
And, it seems, far too many people simply don’t care. And that bothers me.
Jack McCall is an author and also writes a weekly column for The Democrat.