The Courthouse Wedding
I still remember the night I got the call.
We had just left IKEA. We went there to buy things for the new apartment I would live in without Thom. A separation that lasted all of four months, until I came to my senses and realized - much to my surprise - that the grass most certainly is not greener. But that's beside the point. We were exiting the parking garage when my phone rang. It was my dad. I usually wouldn't have answered (because there's nothing worse than being confined to a small vehicle while someone else is blabbering into their mobile device) but for some reason I did. He had news. And not the good kind. The kind that involved my Opa and a diagnosis with that awful disease that rhymes with schmancer.
My heart sank into the depths of my stomach. Thom pulled over. I got out and cried into the asphalt, trying to catch my breath and relay the Earth-shattering news to my boyfriend-in limbo: Opa has stage three metastatic melanoma.
I cried for days. Weeks. For my Opa and the battle ahead. For my Oma and the fact that she was about to watch the person she loves most endure months of painful and debilitating treatment. And for myself. Because I felt so damn guilty about the fact that he was sick and there were exactly 1,187 miles between us. The guilt ate away at me for months. And that same guilt was the reason that - when we got engaged nearly two years later - we decided our dream wedding in Ireland would have to continue being a dream. Because there was no sense in getting married if two of the people I love most weren't going to be there to witness it.
Fast forward to March 2014 and that early, rainy morning in my grandparents' living room. I was sitting there with my Opa, drinking coffee and watching the news, when I realized I was the only one being entertained by the talking heads on television. He was gazing out the window (and appeared to be deep in thought) when, moments later, he looked at me with serious eyes and confessed that he wanted Thom and me to have the wedding of our dreams. Because he and Oma had the wedding of their dreams. And if we didn't, we'd regret it. Maybe not a year from now. Or even ten years from now. But at some point during our lives together, we'd regret not getting married the way we wanted to get married. I think I laughed it off and said something about wanting a wedding in Colorado, but we went back home and let the idea stew for a good month before we made what felt like the Most Impossible Decision Ever. And eventually, with encouragement from my Opa, we decided to follow our hearts and have our dream wedding in Ireland. Knowing that the anti-cancer medication would make it impossible for him to make the long journey. And knowing that my Oma wouldn't make it without her husband by her side.
So it goes.
I should preface this by saying that we had zero intentions of getting legally married. Partly because I've never really understood the significance of a State-recognized marriage. But mostly because I don't need a fucking certificate proving that I made a lifelong commitment to Thom. I (re)committed to him at that bus stop in Cherry Creek nearly four years ago and that was enough for me. And since I wasn't going to take his last name (WARNER4LYFE), we didn't see the point in wasting our time with a legal ceremony. Until one day, when we were sitting at the table - me having just gotten off the phone with my Oma who tried (as she always did) to convince me to say fuck it to our Irish wedding and get married in her back yard in small-town Ohio - I had a meltdown of epic proportions: I was finally coming to terms with the fact that, in a few months, we were going to get married and Oma and Opa weren't going to be there to witness it. In typical knight-in-shining-armor fashion, Thom proposed what he thought was a simple solution. One that made my vomit-inducing love for him grow about 10 sizes that day.
Why don't we just fly back to Ohio and surprise them with a ceremony at the courthouse?
And so we did. In late May - 18 May, to be exact - we flew back to Columbus, Ohio (along with our wickedly talented wedding photographer) and exchanged cheesy vows in an even cheesier chapel above a Subway on High Street. I wore a navy dress and let my hair go wild in that dreaded Ohio humidity, and Thom wore a matching bow tie and that suit I wouldn't let him wear to the wedding in Ireland (BRIDEZILLA). And when I walked around the corner and my grandparents realized we didn't actually fly back to celebrate Oma's (belated) birthday - we were getting married - their expressions were enough to light up the sky for the rest of my life and then some.