Diane Hoover Bechtler
The Bride Wore Cocktail Sauce
i arranged the world's smallest wedding for July 28 or 29, depending on what day the groom could take off from work. The groom saw the bride in her gown before the wedding because the groom had to help the bride dress. I chose a plain ivory silk dress from J Crew—a long version to cover my brace.
A few people questioned my decision to marry. I told them I was making decisions based on the information I had, not on predictions of the future or happenings from the past. If they persisted with questions, I told them I was following the instructions in the Manual for Disabled Women on page 126. They became thoughtful afterwards. I pointed out to them that rule 12 said: “All decisions in your life will now include lots of compromise. You will often have to choose A, C, or D. There will be no B.” I wish such a manual existed.
Scott and I talked extensively about getting married. I would always be a burden for him. He said he would happily care for me if I would become his wife. He said he looked forward to coming home every day because I was there. Even when I was grumpy.
We calculate we have as much chance for happiness as the next couple. Our marriage is practical in most ways. He wanted a partner—me—and I couldn’t manage alone. We created an arrangement. I don’t expect people to understand it, but I do expect them to accept it. I got a caretaker and health insurance. He got a writer as a friend and lover. He got use of money. He got a good woman with a big heart. We neither of us wanted to be by ourselves. Perhaps I’ve become a cynic about love. I’m not sure, and I don’t care. I’m sad about my lost love, but I gave it a proper funeral and buried it in an appropriate shoebox. I learned a lot more about commitment than I realized while I was at Mayo. Gerhardt was not committed to our marriage. We had a great time together, but it ended when he replaced me with another woman and then paid me off and put me out the door.
I respect Scott. He is a good man. The timing of our marriage is as it should be. My fondness toward Gerhardt continues. But Scott is here and dedicated to me. Where is Gerhardt? Who knows?
Scott and I are yoked. I can’t think of another man I’d like to spend the rest of my life with. We are happy. He loves me for my good qualities and he helps with my broken body. Those who think me calculating in my choice to marry are right. He and I were very mindful and deliberate in our decision. We both calculated, but not in a negative way. We felt lucky.
We pull out the ballroom dancing DVDs and practice. He is the only man I can dance with because he knows my limitations. We dance around them.
Perhaps that is the magic Dr. Carini spoke of after my brain surgery. How many couples relish reading together. Or writing side by side on laptops.
My son, Kevin cracks up over the reading together.
He said, “Ooh. Wow. So what do you do next? Stop and say ‘my page was great. How was yours?’”
Our practicality may sound unromantic. That isn’t the case. My man is a poet. He can find poetry in his computer spam.
We chose a Friday; informed Kevin and his girlfriend, who were to be our witnesses; gathered the marriage license, rings, and bouquet put together by the local grocery store floral shop; and drove to the magistrate’s office. The handicapped parking seemed miles from the officiant’s room. Scott pushed me in the general direction of the courthouse.
My small amount of very curly hair was soon plastered to my head by sweat, but hidden by my huge white hat. It was late July in the South with temperatures hovering around 100.
We got directions from a policeman and rolled our way to the jail where the Justice of the Peace marries couples on weekends but not weekdays. We turned around. We came across Kevin and his girlfriend. They showed us where we needed to go. Along the way, my intended rolled the wheel chair over my gown. Once, the hem got tangled in the wheel mechanism, and I thought I was going to do an Isadora Duncan as it tightened around my body.
We waited our turn on a wooden bench.
An elderly black man talked to me. “I’m sixty-four years old, and never been married. I want to be married, if I met a good woman.”
“There’s time yet,” I answered.
A gloomy man in a robe called, “Next.”
We rolled through the door. I looked over my shoulder and said “good luck” to the older man.
Scott and I stood side by side, the push-chair behind us. I clutched my roses a bit tightly. Scott leaned his shoulder toward mine. I could hear him trying to swallow.
Elaine and Kevin took their places behind us.
The magistrate simply had no personality at all. Must have had it surgically removed. He repeated the words in a vacuum, with no emotion. No matter, we were just as married as if we’d had a crystal carriage drawn by horses.
The witnesses left to check on a home repair. The bride and groom went to the restaurant and waited in the bar.
At dinner, I spilled an entire plate of cocktail sauce in my lap. Married, single, I fell and dropped things anyway. In an attempt to help, Scott washed my wedding dress in the washer. Of course it was ruined. He threw away my bouquet after it wilted. I’m not particularly superstitious, thank goodness.
I placed my hat on the coat rack, for it would stay.
We left early the morning after we married to drive to the mountains to pick up our new kitten, Call Me Ishmeow. We refer to him as our love child. He has a dark face, cream-colored fur, dark-tipped ears, and four white mitts. I specifically tracked down a Ragdoll breed for its friendly personality. I had loved a chocolate one some years before.
Ishy didn’t cry or even meow during the ride home. He marched through the condo and began setting up his kingdom. He was the cutest, friendliest cat ever. The dogs were gone but my new furry friend made his way into my heart quickly. We decided since he would be a total house cat, we’d let him sleep with us.
I will never be well again but I am stable. I still spill things, I trip, I fall, but Scott is there to help me and the cat sleeps by my side every night.
Diane Hoover Bechtler lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, Michael Gross, who is a poet with a day job, and with their cat, Call Me IshMeow.
“My favorite front porch is at Penland School of Fine Craft, located in the mountains of North Carolina. It is a huge front porch where students gather each evening after their classes and talk. I spent many summer nights there.”