Feeling a bit like I’ve been shot through a wind tunnel or perhaps lived through an episode of the old Twilight Zone series, I am here in my office today. Hoping to catch up, but knowing better. My mind is spent. The last few days have been a rollercoaster ride.
Last Friday, I flew from my St. Louis home to attend my father’s wedding celebration in Phoenix. He was married on March 11, discovering 16 days later in a sterile Emergency Room that his bride’s body was riddled with cancer. Only a few hours earlier that day, I had called them both to wish them, “Happy Easter.”
My father and his wife, Eileen planned a wedding celebration before her diagnosis of cancer. Close family and friends had been invited. The room was reserved. Their favorite one-man-band was all set to play and sing, and the food was carefully chosen and ordered. Together, they decided the party was going to take place, regardless. It gave them hope, something to look forward to. A goal in the future. Eileen had started treatment and was feeling pretty good. Things seemed optimistic going into the weekend of the party.
My father’s only living sibling flew in from Michigan to surprise him. My husband and I picked her up from the airport and arranged for her to stay with us at the same hotel. Upon landing in Phoenix there was a voicemail telling me that my father was on his way to ER with Eileen. And so, the rollercoaster ride began. Emotions ran high for everyone.
The next day, we were able to see my father and Eileen’s new little house for the very first time. She was resting in a chair near the patio. A card table and two chairs were placed near the open screen door. Sun was shining, cactuses were blooming and grasses were green in between desert coral sands. Their dog, a miniature collie never left Eileen side.
In the end, Eileen was too weak to attend her much-anticipated wedding celebration. My father came for a few minutes, just long enough to make a brief speech, thanking everyone for coming. He spoke for a minute or two before breaking down. This father of mine, the strongest man I’ve ever known.
And, so under the twinkling stars of an Arizona desert sky, a one-man-band played like an orchestra last Saturday night. Chicken and vegetables were served with pink, prime rib of beef. A beautiful rolling dessert cart passed, overflowing with white wedding cake, Bride and Groom decorated cake pops, together with pastel powdered sugar cookies placed in fluted paper tin cups.
For several hours, drinks colored of the desert filled fancy glasses and flowed freely while people danced under a golden moon before the last song of the evening was sung. Suddenly, every paver cemented on the patio dance floor was filled. People put their hands together high in the dark blue sky, clapping them in unison to, “We Are Family.”
*The next day, Eileen did feel rested enough to join everyone for a BBQ hosted by her daughter. Truly, a nice family gathering.