(This is a guest post from my brother-in-law Kirby, in honor of our anniversary.)
So there I was, nine years ago today, standing in the sweltering North Carolina August afternoon as a groomsman and witness to my brother Lee’s nuptials to Suz, who I think y’all know. It was a triumphant affair and a beautiful ceremony complete with a flower girl meltdown, perfectly timed thunderstorm, and friendly faces, both old and new—there were tuxedos and pretty girls, and even a little dancing and what have you; certainly, it’s safe to say that we all had a great time at that wedding. But one thing happened that weekend that left me with deep regret, and for which I am still disappointed in myself.
At the rehearsal dinner, I did not make a toast to my brother or his bride. Did not, as in, did not even try. I sat there like a complete fool and let an irretrievable moment pass, one wherein even a few words slurred together in the right order would have been better than my sad failure.
As penance, I made a promise to myself that at all future weddings I would make an effort to toast the bride and groom, without interjecting myself or making a scene. As it turns out, a short sweet story about the couple goes a long way, so long as you mind the short and sweet parts. And so I have spoken at many a wedding, with a profound understanding of this custom’s importance—but I still have not toasted my brother and his wife. So now, the latest toast:
Good evening, my name is Kirby, and I’m one of Lee’s many little brothers.
Lee and Suz, I’m honored to be here to witness your vows, and quite sure that tomorrow will be exactly as you’ve both imagined it—and that the next many thousand days probably won’t be. It’ll be a great adventure, to unfold one day at a time.
One of my fondest memories of growing up was a rainy Saturday or Sunday afternoon when Lee took me to this park down by the river to teach me how to play football. The only problem was that I’m not sure that Lee knew how to play football, because he spent the afternoon throwing me the ball, then tackling me across our impromptu swamp-field. After several hours of throwing me around like a rag doll, Lee said the last one coming up. He threw the ball and I caught it, but fumbled when he hit me, though I grabbed it back before he could get it. I hoped he hadn’t seen because we, of course, had to end on a good one. He brought in the team so I took a knee and we debriefed what we had learned, more about being tough than football. Lee told me he had seen me drop the ball, but that it was alright since I had gotten it back so quickly, and reminded me to hold on to the ball no matter what.
I can’t remember the first time I met Suz, but I do remember the first time that I heard her sing some Dixie Chicks karaoke at an old sports bar in the deep Westside of Jacksonville—and that was the day I learned that some people are born with beer-activated dog whistles stuck in their throats, and also that I can hear certain pitches that mortal men were not meant to hear. It was a loud and passionate version of Wide Open Spaces that didn’t mind what anyone else in that entire establishment thought. At one point, I did hear through the shrieking Lee say that he loved that girl and was going to marry her. I was happy to hear that.
I love you both for the things that you’ve taught me and for the example that you’ve set as the right and best ways to live and love. I’m excited to see what adventures the future holds for y’all, and to be a small part of those, too.