Our Love Story, Ch. 22: We Get Married (Not the Wedding)
Well, the world is significantly worse off than it was the last time I wrote one of these. COVID isn’t taken particularly seriously by the rank and file (and certainly not by the federal government) and protests are now rampant throughout the US as a result of inexcusable police behavior that continues every day. It’s a horrible state of affairs. I hope you are all safe and still social distancing and taking care of yourselves and each other.
As for me, I’m hanging in there. It is still very hard and the isolation is difficult, but I get plenty of opportunities to take the pups up to Julienne’s site, walk the fields and woods, read to her, take pictures, and feel her presence there. There have been many hard days, as hard as the days immediately following her death, where I am inconsolable (not that there is anyone who could try, since I’m alone) and bereft and wailing on the floor. The other days I just miss her with everything I have.
I’ve gotten to the point in therapy where I feel like I’ve gone as far as I can, at this stage. With outside activities restricted, there isn’t much I can do socially beyond what I’ve been doing, so trying to get out in the world isn’t part of my life or recovery anyway. I’ve thought long and hard and decided that where I am right now mentally and emotionally is a place that I am unlikely to be moving away from anytime soon. It’s the same place I’ve been for almost 8 months, where the only thing I actively want to do is mourn my wife and do things for her. Instead of caring for her directly as I did for a long time, I now take care of things like her site and our home, where I have been trying to maintain it as she always liked or wanted it to be.
Now that it is fully spring, I’ve turned my attention to our backyard. It was the reason why we bought the house in the first place, a combination of utter wild beauty and spaces like the deck and pool that we loved and spent the majority of our time enjoying. It spent almost a year being completely untended, and it was hard for me to be out there without being completely overcome with emotion. I just couldn’t bear being out there without her. Finally, a couple weeks ago, I went out there and cut grass, pulled weeds, swept leaves, strung lights, uplit trees, and hung places for fairy berries, just like I use at her site. A few days ago, I decided to open the pool, since the raggedy cover made it look wrong. Doing these things for Julienne give me peace and a sense of accomplishment which literally nothing else can do right now. So I’m just going to keep doing it.
Julienne and I had suddenly become homeowners four days before our wedding. She would fondly point out during this time, and after, that on the lists of most stressful things one can endure, major illness, buying a house, and getting married were always on there, and we were grappling with all of them at the exact same time. We may have found our dream house, but we still had just a few days to pull off the wedding of our dreams as well.
As ever, Julienne found the right people to make her magical visions reality. I can’t say enough good things about the vendors and caterer that she found on short notice. Crimson & Clover Floral Design in Baltimore understood her vision of woodland fairy magical romance completely and created the bouquets and table pieces that were absolutely perfect. Julienne found a place for the tables and the rest that could not have been more perfectly suited to what she needed called Vintage Affairs. They rent antique furniture for events and had such an eclectic collection of things (including an antique champagne coupe collection that Julienne saw immediately and knew it was the place for her) that it inspired her design for the reception. The caterer, Linwoods, was able to come up with an incredible menu. All of these people heard Julienne’s story and immediately did whatever they could to make the day special for her. We never forgot what they did for us.
With all of our vendors and plans and designs getting ready to be executed, there were always a million things to do. Signs needed to be stenciled. Plants needed to be procured. Table settings had to be contemplated. Of course, music was a huge part of Julienne’s life, so it needed to be perfect. She talked to one of her very best friends, Alex, and asked him to make arrangements of the music she wanted for the ceremony for a string quartet. He happily accepted, which meant the world to Julienne. It was Alex that had catalyzed what she wanted to do with her life.
They’d met in college as part of their music studies, and Julienne would always say afterwards that Alex was the only literal genius she’d ever personally known. At the time they met, she was already struggling hard with stage fright and the rigorous perfection that opera required (when singing opera, you are literally being compared to every single person who ever sang the same performance, so perfection was the bar and measuring stick. That’s rough). Meeting Alex and wanting his music to be heard made Julienne realize that she had a path she could follow in music without performing, and it was then that her dream of becoming an agent for classical music composers was born. She became his first agent while she was still in school and her desire to see him succeed fueled her through law school and the Master of Music program.
(Just days before she went into hospice, Julienne got a chance to listen to the soundtrack to a major motion picture that Alex created, his first. She listened to it over and over again, so happy for the beauty and musical intricacy and pure Alexness of it. She didn’t live to see the movie herself, and of course her dreams of being his agent and champion had come to naught, but she was so utterly and fiercely happy for her dear friend. I saw the film for her and wished every second that she was there so she could see the music and the imagery working together, but I’m absolutely grateful that she got to hear it. It meant so, so much to Julienne.)
Of course, between the cancer, house, and wedding, stress and tension were our constant companions. Every cancer patient, or really anyone with a chronic illness, knows how much unsolicited advice suddenly comes from every direction, and add the additional advice and perspective and cajoling that comes with planning a wedding and buying a house. I was still working that week (having used most of my available time off in July), which added its own pain. On the 3rd, the day before we were getting married (not the wedding), she texted me to say tensions are running so high around here. This is the only time ever that I think you would be happier at work than you would be here.
Now, Julienne knew how unhappy I was at my job better than anyone but me, so when she said that I knew she was at a breaking point. She was dealing with advice for dealing with any one of those things, people trying to shift her vision or plans in different directions, and even advice on how she should manage her time juggling her health, house, and wedding. Sleep was in short supply because we were up working on wedding things (and the occasional puzzle). Thankfully, by the time I got home, Julienne was feeling better and we got to do some more of the fun things. Julienne, Michaela, and Savannah got to work on the signature cocktails we were going to have at the wedding and sampling them (along with some champagne, of course).
While that was going on, Gabe, Jay, and I were working down at the ceremony site by the stream. We had small rose plants that we would be temporarily placing in the ground for the ceremony to mark the aisle and were doing cleanup and other things down there. Her dad was using a Cub Cadet to ferry tools and plants and things down there, and at point there was a bit of an issue with the oil and gas mix. It wouldn’t start, and smelled awful, and if there is one thing the Gedes love to do, it is give each other shit. Julienne was in great spirits as we watched the struggle to make it start, and she even started recording it for posterity. The video she captured ended up being one of her very favorite things to watch and it never failed to make us laugh.
Then Friday, September 4th arrived. The day we were getting married (not the wedding). I was off that day but needed to pick up some dress pants for the ceremony, we were getting haircuts/styled for it, and had to be at the courthouse by 2:00 for our 2:30 appointment. Of course, things like getting a pair of pants always seem like they’ll be lickety-split, no problem, in-and-out. Well, not on the day you get married (not the wedding) they aren’t. I got my haircut (at a cost roughly 10 times what I was used to paying – I was more a SuperCuts guy than a salon enthusiast) while Julienne’s was in progress and headed over to the mall nearby.
Now, the reason why I needed dress pants at all was because where I worked had a casual dress policy. I wore jeans every day. I still owned dress pants of course, but when it came time to try them on they didn’t quite fit. So, I headed over to get some. Julienne suggested Nordstrom’s, so there I went. It took way longer than I felt like it should have to find some, figure out the size, and decide. The clock was ticking. Now, much like the haircut, I was more used to an off-the-rack place than a Nordstrom’s, so when I finally found some that fit right (the grey pulls a little on your junk, she helpfully responded to my texts asking her opinion). Then I realized they needed to be hemmed. It was 1:00 by this point, and the helpful attendant let me know that they would be hemmed by 3. This was not good. After some frantic (on my part) back-and-forth, their tailor, giving me side-eye the whole time (who goes shopping for clothes to get married in [not the wedding] an hour before? This idiot), put in a quick stitch to make them wearable, and out I flew.
At 1:30, I got back to the salon. Fifteen minutes later, Julienne came out from the back. Her hair was perfect, her little veil in place, and she was utterly beautiful. I just stood there in shock looking at this vision of beauty who was going to be my wife in an hour’s time. I’m still amazed by that fact. The people at the salon walked us out, congratulating us and cheering us on as we floated over to the car.
We were getting married (not the wedding).
We arrived at the courthouse, late of course. Julienne was almost always late, wherever she went, but it was ok. They wouldn’t get started without us. We walked up the courthouse steps hand in hand, then Julienne led me away from the doors a short way. I want to give you a present. She handed me a box. I removed the bow and read the card: I am not always on time. ❤ J. Inside the box was the antique pocketwatch she’d found for me and had wanted to inscribe with the full line but decided against. We shed a few tears, my soon-to-be wife and I, and walked inside.
We found our courtroom. Waiting there for us were our witnesses. Jay and Sharon, her parents, of course. Her brother and sister-in-law Nathan and Michaela with their daughter Lunete. Gabe and Savannah, two of her dearest friends, and Christian and Allie, two of mine, all four of whom were now as dear to both Julienne and I as they had been to each separately. Her grandfather, who was friends with the judge performing the ceremony, and his wife.
We met the judge, and it was time. I stood in front of Julienne, holding her hands. We exchanged vows, voices breaking on the in sickness and in health, and I just stared into the eyes of the woman I already loved more than anyone ever, more than I ever thought would be possible. It was brief, but it was beautiful, and with a few signatures, it was done. Julienne and I were married, but it was not yet our wedding.
(It’s really hard to sit here now and look at these pictures and remember these moments so vividly and kind of actually forget about the present and live in the past and then come out of it and remember that she’s gone and I’m alone and the fucking world is awful, because on that day I was happier than I’d ever been on any day prior to that one. It’s so fucking hard.)
After it was done, we went back to the farm and changed to do some more work on the wedding and conduct our rehearsal. It didn’t take long to do, since there were so few of us, just Julienne, my wife now, and me, and Sharon her mom the officiant, Jay her dad walking her down the aisle, Christian the best man and Savannah the bridesmaid with Spaniel Day Lewis the ringbearer, Nathan the groomsman and Michaela the maid of honor with Lunete the flower girl. A couple of walkthroughs and we were done.
It was time for the rehearsal dinner, which was much more a celebration than the standard variety. Not having parents myself, there was no need to get the families together and let everyone get to know each other. After July, we were all one family already. We sat in a room at the restaurant where our day-after-wedding brunch would be held, eating a fine meal and having some wine and just eager for the next day. I sat next to my wife, and Julienne held the hand of her husband. The night is a blur, just from all of the activity compressed into one day, but I can still see it in my head. It was an incredibly happy dinner with people we loved.
By this point, Julienne and I had met every important person in the other’s life, except one, and she arrived during the dinner, straight from the airport. Lucy, from London, had made it, and she sat down and shortly afterwards fell asleep at the table, exhausted. I’d have to wait for the opportunity to get to know this person who was so important to Julienne until the next day.