91: A Senior Bride and Her Wedding

91: A Senior Bride and Her Wedding

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

A Senior Bride and Her Wedding

Everyone is the age of their heart.

~Guatemalan proverb

I was forty when I finally divorced, and I swore that I’d never love or marry again. I decided I’d gracefully grow old alone.

Shortly after my divorce, I relocated from New Jersey to Georgia for my job. I worked hard on recovering, recuperating, rearranging, and reorganizing my life in my new home state. I also chose to ignore the handsome man who was trying to pursue me. Every chance he got, he was at my workstation, and every time he asked me out, I politely turned him down. I was perfectly content.

Three years passed, and he remained the same, but by this time, I was the one who was beginning to change. I was now in my mid-forties, my broken heart had healed, and I was ready to start dating.

I began to wait and hope that Wilson would ask me out again; this time, I was going to say yes. One day he asked me if I would like to go fishing with him. I thought to myself, “Wow, just when I make up my mind to say yes, he asks me to go fishing! I would’ve preferred him asking me out to dinner rather than catching it.” However, I smiled and said, “Yes, I’d like that.”

I prepared a nice picnic lunch, and we went to a picturesque park, where among nature’s most beautiful settings, he patiently taught me how to fish. At the end of the day and with our last worm, I caught my very first fish. On the way home, we stopped by a taxidermist to have my tiny brim stuffed and mounted. It was a date filled with fun, laughter, and good conversation. It also turned out to be the most romantic first date I had ever had — and we didn’t even kiss!

We dated for almost ten years, and neither one of us ever talked about the taboo subject of marriage. One Christmas, we were out doing some shopping. As always, I’d be in and out of jewelry shops or have my face pressed against the window of one while he stood back and patiently waited. But this day, much to my surprise, he came in with me and told me to pick out any ring I wanted. We both laughed nervously. I was laughing because I didn’t know what kind of ring he meant, and I was afraid to ask. He was probably laughing because he knew my taste, had an idea of the price, or quickly realized he had put his foot in his mouth and was laughing to keep from crying. However, I was going to put the confirmed bachelor to the test.

I picked out the biggest diamond that looked the best on my dainty little finger and said, “This is it! This is what I want!”

He laughed and said, “Okay, but I didn’t say I was going to buy it. I just told you to pick out what you want!”

We had a good laugh, and I didn’t think anymore about it since we really weren’t in the marrying frame of mind.

On New Year’s Eve, we came in from church, and he poured us some champagne and got down on one knee. I really thought he was looking for something, so I told him to get up before he couldn’t. (Remember, we’re at the ages where we don’t do any unnecessary bending and kneeling!) But he took out a black velvet box, took out the ring I had picked out, and asked me to be his wife. Before I could say “Yes” he got up and sat on the couch next to me, saying, “I wanted to be romantic, but I have to do this sitting down!” We hugged, kissed, and toasted.

A year passed without us making any kind of wedding plans. On February 1, 2009, he was lying on the couch watching TV, and I was doing dishes. He said, “Hey, Valentine’s Day is on Saturday this year. Let’s get married!”

I said, “What’s the hurry?”

He said, “Do you remember when you had your first chemotherapy treatment?” I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2003.

“Yeah,” I said, “it was on Valentine’s Day.”

He said, “Ever since then, Valentine’s Day has never been the same for you. I want it to be a day you can love and cherish, instead of always reminding you of chemo, cancer, and sickness. I promised you back then that I’d give you a Valentine’s Day you’ll never forget, one that’ll make you happy, but as much as I tried I could never figure out that extra-special something to do. But now I have: I want us to get married on that day.”

How could I say no?

Since we decided it was going to be a small, intimate house wedding with immediate family and friends, I ran around for the next twelve days looking for the perfect dress, shoes, cake, and decorations, and planning a menu. I spent most of that time looking for something to wear. Two days before the wedding, I was simply worn out and still hadn’t found anything. I sat with my head between my hands crying and on the verge of calling it off. It was just too much in such a short time.

Finally, my fifteen-year-old granddaughter said, “Come on, G-Ma. Let’s go to the mall. I’ll find you something.” I could just imagine what she’d pick out! But somehow she found the perfect off-white dress for me, and I even came across the perfect shoes. Then we picked up her girlfriend, and they fixed and boxed the wedding favors while I wrote out our vows. At the last minute, everything started falling perfectly in line.

My husband and everybody else cried as he read his vows. My bouquet was off-white roses with a red one in the center, which I placed in front of my mother’s picture in memory of her since she had recently passed, along with giving a rose to each person who had a special meaning to me. Since everyone was old, already married or too young to think about it, there was no need to toss the bouquet. There were well wishes as we toasted, ate and danced our first dance as husband and wife amidst iridescent bubbles, before partying the night away.

Tired and ready to leave for our honeymoon suite, we stepped outside and, to our surprise, a white 1947 Chevy with a chauffer stood beside the open door. As we tearfully waved goodnight to our loved ones, we heard sniffles and whispers about what a beautiful wedding it had turned out to be.

We couldn’t stop talking and thinking about the day as my husband and I slowly drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms. My husband was right: Valentine’s Day will always be a day I will remember — not for the illness, the chemo and the pain, but for the love, the happiness, and the wonderful memories of our wedding day.

~Francine L. Baldwin-Billingslea

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