Friends Old, New, and Soon to Be,
At his kind invitation, I spent a recent morning shooting skeet with Vic Venters. Vic is a friend, a writer, a double gun expert, and a gentleman of the old school. As we progressed through the various stations and high/low combinations, Vic coaching me on presentation and swing through, I thought about the hours of work he’s put into becoming an expert and his generosity in sharing that with me. I can’t claim to have honored his time with any proficiency, but it was a beginning.
I’ve written to you before regarding the gift of time. Breaking clay with Vic certainly reinforced my convictions there. But driving home, I ruminated more on the notion that few things worth doing or having come easily. Passion helps initiate a pursuit, but alone it rarely sustains one. Longevity requires focused effort, adaptability, and forbearance. Wing shooting is one example. Marriage is another.
This month holds my wife’s and my nineteenth wedding anniversary. I am blessed to have found, amongst the almost eight billion people in our world, the one for whom I have the passion to pursue longevity; a brilliant, kind, and gorgeous woman who makes good times better and hard times easier. There have been plenty of both of course, it’s the nature of life.
We married at Jekyll Island, Georgia, in view of the beach and the Atlantic beyond. Anyone who marries outside in the South’s June must prepare for rain. In our youthful hopes though, we imagined a soft drizzle, just enough to enliven the resurrection ferns unfurling on the live oak limbs twisting into a natural cathedral above. What we got, almost ten inches of rain in less than two hours, may have been better dealt with by building an Ark. 250 people crammed themselves under a tent that soon became a sauna. The high neck of my dress blue uniform trapped all the Georgia summer heat a black wool coat can hold. Hairdos wilted, sweat dripped.
The bar may have opened early.
The bride’s planned walk down the aisle beneath the aforementioned oaks was, if you’ll pardon the expression, a wash. Our wedding coordinator, a childhood friend’s mama I loved like blood, quickly organized an SUV processional to bring the bride and her party to the sweat lodge in which I, my groomsmen, and our preacher stood with our remaining 235 closest family and friends. All of us watched the vehicles approach, the Atlantic stretched like gray slate to the horizon behind them.
The lead SUV stopped. My soon to be brother-in-law opened the door, his back and an umbrella initially obscuring my view of my forever. There was no sound but the steady patter of rain on the tent roof as a vision in white emerged from the SUV under the umbrella, head down as she carefully placed her feet in the saturated grass. 250 people held their breath, all of us rendered of one mind, silently hoping the bride was not bereft at the now sodden reality of her fairy tale wedding. Then she looked up at all of us and erupted with laughter.
It was the laugh I fell in love with years before, one that can’t be faked, one I still live to draw forth from her. Her shoulders to her ears, her head thrown back as if looking to make sure the heavens get the joke; deep from her center, loud and real. It was as if the sun broke forth from her in a melody intended to let to everyone present know they could exhale; that they better get ready to dance barefoot in wet grass. The moment has become my favorite picture of her, because it captures exactly who she is.
Since then, like any, our marriage has weathered additional storms in the form of moves, work changes, deployments, health scares, births and deaths. We’re blessed with a daughter and a pack of dogs and cats. For better and worse; richer and poorer; in sickness and health. Through it all, I’ve looked at her and seen her laughing in the rain.
As always, may the good fortune in my life find a home in your own.
Russell Worth Parker
Editor at Large, Tom Beckbe