I credit my papa for my oddness. I’m a Romantic -- not in the lovey-dovey sense of the word, but in the Wordsworth “spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion, recollected in tranquility” sense. I’m a freethinker, an over-thinker, a feminist, headstrong to a fault, and fiercely independent.
I have a mouth like a sailor (which he was), an affinity for whiskey (which he had), and his unfortunately large ears (which I, fortunately, am able to hide under my hair).
I am, in every conceivable sense, my grandfather’s granddaughter.
My papa first got sick when I was twelve. I remember morbidly pondering who would give me away on my wedding day should anything happen to him. I decided upon my uncle Arthur, his cousin with whom I had a close relationship. They were more like brothers anyway, so it made sense that the man who closest resembled my pops would walk me down the aisle.
My papa died October 5th, 2008 and a piece of my heart went with him. That morbid thought by my seventh-grade self became a reality. With a heavy heart, my nineteen-year-old self asked my uncle Arthur if he would be a stand in for my papa on my wedding day. He graciously accepted.
Fast-forward nearly five years and I got a call that my uncle Arthur had passed away. I was left with an emptiness that I could not understand.
When it eventually became time to plan my wedding and that day was no longer a hypothetical event far off into the future, that walk down the aisle felt more daunting than I could have imagined. Though I had always wanted a wedding, I found myself facing the strong desire to elope. The idea that I could run away from my feelings was appealing -- I would be able to overlook the crippling absence of my grandfather. But my wedding involved a tangible partner and not just myself.
I was forced to face the fact that the man who raised me like a daughter would not be there to walk me down the aisle. Nor would my plan B.
Since there are twenty-four more letters in the alphabet, I finally accepted myself as plan C. And why shouldn’t I be good enough? We were already foregoing so much of what is traditional. Plus, no livestock was to be exchanged at my wedding anyway.
I miss my papa everyday, but his absence wasn’t as painful as I anticipated on wedding day. I know he was there in spirit and that he is so proud of me for dedicating my life to another person, on my own, with my shoulders back, and my head held high.
I bet he saw that as brave.
And really, I knew he was always walking right along side me.