Every day I come home and dash to the mailbox. Even though I know there might be bills, I also know there might be 2 or 3 returned RSVPs. RSVPs that our friends and family have filled out with wonderful well-wishes and funny drawings, and some bizarre song requests. They are a treat and I often spend some time in the late evening re-reading the RSVPs of the day, practically memorizing the writing on each one.
In many ways, the things we have already accomplished in wedding planning are the sort of frivolous things: the when and the where, how things will look, the dress, the suit, the centerpieces, the food. It has been fun to plan those things, but really if we had picked different colors or a different reception venue, it probably wouldn’t change the day that much. What really makes the day are the people– who will stand by you? Who will do your readings? Where will my mom sit? Flowers on the altar in memory of those who have passed?
That question was a heart-sinking reminder of the person who won’t be there; the RSVP that isn’t coming back because the invitation never had a chance to be sent. My Grandpa Jim’s invite.
I am very lucky to have had all of my grandparents and even a great-grandmother alive into my mid-20s. I know that not everyone gets the chance to hear what menaces your own parents were when they were teenagers right from the source and no one tells a family history richer (or funnier) than a grandparent. But knowing I am lucky sometimes seems to make it harder because getting the chance to get to know my Grandpa Jim means I know how he would feel to be there on my wedding day.
He would have acted sort of tough– the Air Force having never really left him after retiring from a long military career. He would have shaken my dad’s hand and teased Aaron about what he was getting himself into by marrying me. But he also would have had a soft smile, a twinkle in his decidedly Muehe blue eyes (my dad and I have the same ones), and a laugh that started quiet, but if you really got him going would get pretty loud and maybe even sputter into a cough. If we had a moment to talk about my work, he would remind me I that it still wasn’t too late join the service, because “you know, Kate, they need smart people in the service too.” He wouldn’t have said much throughout the night unless Uncle Gordy (his little brother) started telling tall tales from their childhood. No one teases quite like Grandpa Jim except Uncle Gordy.
He would have kept his RSVP pretty simple, typing JAMES MUEHE in sort of wobbly handwriting with a black ball point pen and sending it back with the rest blank. But in the card (which– if we’re being honest– he would have stuffed to the gills with cash), he would have written something very sweet about how proud he was of me. And Grandpa Jim was not one to mince words, so you know if he said it, he really meant it.
I know he will be there on October 5th– in the stories we will tell, in my own dad’s firm handshake and teases, and even in my own image (seriously, look at the picture below– I had no idea we looked so much alike). And those things help a little. But as we talk more about readings and music, traditions and people– the things that really matter– I can’t help but wish he would just be there.