My Book of Wishes

My Grampa made it there in spirit.

A month before we got married, I started a journal I call the Book of Wishes. One day on my lunch break I started a list: I’m going to finish a book. I want to train for a marathon. A Dog! We need a dog! And, highlighted in big letters at the very top: I wish that my grandparents are well enough to enjoy my wedding day

On Thursday, June 19th, Ryan and I packed our car and drove to our wedding venue to get ready for the big day. I got my very first French manicure. Before we left our condo, I slipped two postcards in the mail for my grandfather Fred. We’d gotten the news that he wasn’t able to travel to join us, so I wanted him to know that we were thinking of him.

The sky was glorious. My parents came bearing food, decorations, candles, framed photos of my grandparents, in-laws, friends and family—and a big, beautiful chuppah. My big brother flew out from Hawaii and got right to work creating block prints with our initials on them. My in-laws hosted us all at their beach condo, and we ate pizza and watched the sunset over the ocean. Our dear friend Judi showed up with a carload of amazing decorations for the big day—green and blue mason jars, shells, burlap, vases, jewelry for me to borrow. Ryan’s brother and sister-in-law were there too, and my sister-in-law Shelby was already on her way to join us. It was Thursday and I felt a new, wonderful sense of peace. So many of my favorite people were already beginning to gather. Our lives were buzzing with love—and not just our own. Since getting engaged I’ve begun to notice how quickly love multiplies, and what a relief that is.

Friday morning, June 20th, our friends started to arrive, starting with Laurel, my best friend since womb, this wonderful woman who had collected all the dog doodles I’d made over the years and created a huge, beautiful, life-size dog out of cardboard. Tiffany and Dumi arrived soon after, best friends, sisters really, both armed secret stashes of flowers and confetti. I was walking over to join them when my parents pulled me aside quietly to share the news: my ninety-one-year-old grandfather Fred, who had for the past year been planning to join us on the big day, had passed away that morning.

We stood under the shade of a big tree. Grampa had not been well for some time. He had a sturdy and proud disposition; he was an engineer. My grandfather was a man of clear and direct expression. When Ryan and I got engaged on Christmas Eve 2012, I remember that when we shared the news with Grampa Fred, he smiled, but didn’t seem surprised. As the night wore on, I started to wonder if he’d really heard what we’d said. And then, a few hours after dinner, while all of us cousins were in the dining room, he walked in and approached Ryan, speaking (nearly shouting), “Ryan, I’d like to see you in my office.” We all watched as Ryan followed him down the hall and they shut the door behind them. I was astonished—and, I have to say, flattered. Their private conversation made our big news seem more official—more important.

Grampa retired the same year I was born. I knew him as an avid traveler. He and my grandmother Alice went to Australia, Europe, Central America, Canada. They went all over the United States. I got a birthday card one year that had a photo of them on a zip line in Costa Rica—in their seventies. For twenty years they made annual fishing trips to Alaska, pulling in 140-pound halibut well into their eighties.

Grampa was a gardener. He kept the most thorough fishing logs in the world—tracking weather, water temperature, bait, tackle, time of day, tides. He took beautiful photos and filled his home with pictures of the Canadian and American Rockies.

When Grampa lost Gramma, the woman he called his “peach,” his wife of sixty six and two thirds years (his calculation), he said once that he would never consider meeting anyone else, because he knew that when he saw her again, “she’d know.”

The thing about planning and executing a wedding is that time is premium. You spend months planning, troubleshooting, coordinating, and then the weekend arrives and you realize that the hours will not slow down for you. You have to soak in what there is—feel the sun on your face, kiss your partner, your best friends, your parents, your in-laws, your cousins, and their beautiful children.

That night, at our rehearsal dinner, my cousins, aunts, and uncles were all together, alongside Ryan’s family and friends. When my dad announced the news of Grampa’s passing, he told us that when it became clear that Grampa was too unwell to travel, he had devised another way to join us in spirit.

When our big day dawned, and the fog lifted off the ocean, I thought of all my grandparents. My sweet Gramma Alice, who died a mere month after my brother’s wedding in 2011, and who used to email me when I lived in Spain simply to say, “Whatever you do, keep writing. Keep traveling.” My darling Amah, who was unable to join us in person, but who got to watch our wedding videos (filmed by my sweet cousin Jeff), and who recorded the wedding processional for us at the tender age of ninety-one. They were all there with us, in their own ways—Ryan’s grandmothers too, in spirit. In many ways, I got my wish.

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