Wrigley Field, Mother’s Day 2016.
We — me; my wife, Kathy; and our second-born son, KC — are sitting just to the third-base side of home plate, a 20-minute walk from KC’s new apartment. At 24, he’s been using the weekend to show us that he pretty much owns Chicago.
It’s the seventh inning and the Cubs are about to stage a rally that will lead to an extra-inning victory. Kathy, saint that she is, pretends that a suitable Mother’s Day gift is a baseball game, even one that lasts 13 innings.
During the seventh-inning stretch, we get a text from KC’s older brother, James. It originates from beneath the Eiffel Tower where he has successfully proposed to Loren, the love of his life. The content of the message is no surprise — James has dutifully informed all parents of his intentions — but the timing was superb. All in all, a most glorious Mother’s Day.
That led to 16 months of planning for The Wedding. Quickly it became apparent that the duties of father-of-the-groom are simple: walk down the aisle, turn to the right, take your seat, and don’t do anything stupid.
Among the tasks for the mother-of-the-groom is selecting a song for the wedding reception dance with her son. She chose “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts. I didn’t know the song, but a quick search on Google proved it to be a worthy but emotional choice.
And it set my mind in gear. I thought back to another time, likely the only other, that the two had danced. Jim — he had not started going by James yet — was barely in high school. The four of us were seated next to the dance floor in the cavernous and splendidly ostentatious dining room of the Grand Hotel during our annual summer trip to Mackinac Island. When Kathy briefly left the table, I told Jim that when his mother returned, he should ask her to dance. He give me a look that suggested this was a lame idea, even for me.
But I persisted. You know you need the brownie points, I said. Plus, look at all the young girls in the room. If you dance with your mom, I assured him, they will all think you are the coolest guy ever.
“No one says ‘cool’ anymore,” he said.
And that was it.
Or so I thought.
When Kathy returned, Jim asked her to dance. She was clearly surprised, but gladly followed him onto the empty dance floor. And I was right. Every young girl in the place followed his every move. And I would swear that all of their mothers were praying their daughters would someday date such a chivalrous, respectful boy.
So a plan formed. I figured that as James and Kathy took the floor during the wedding reception, my mind would drift back to that Mackinac Island dance, and I could merge the two as a lasting memory: the early promise of the man-child foretelling the confident young man now guiding his mother across the dance floor.
But, you know, life happens. As Kathy rose to join James, she suddenly thrust her phone into my hand with instructions to take a lot of pictures. I do not do well with cell phones, backdating to when I boldly predicted that no one was going to want to take pictures with their phone. So here I was, trying to take the perfect picture, not even sure what I was doing. After a couple of shots, I tried to switch to the landscape mode. And everything on the screen disappeared. In a panic I tried to bring an image onto the screen. Nothing worked. And, before I knew it, the dance was over.
Kathy came back to the table but was too excited and happy to even look at the phone. But I knew. The digital record, as well as my planned memories, were non-existent. No forever-stamped visions of them surrounded by poignant lyrics.
Turns out, Kathy didn’t remember much either, other than she was crying and sobbing and, looking through her tears, all she could think to do was to tell James over and over how much she loved him. James, always the gentleman, deftly positioned her so that the guests could not see the rivers running down her face.
“I just kept weeping,” she said, “and I just kept telling him I loved him so much.”
That was the entire dance. My wife sobbing while repeatedly telling her handsome, newly married son how much she loved him.So that’s my memory of their mother-son wedding dance. It’s so much better than the one I tried to create.