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My Father's Toast at Our Wedding

November 24, 2019

 

By Mike Connelly

 

September 28, 2019

"Twenty-eight years ago Sandy and I decided to get married. For months we planned the outdoor wedding ourselves, and had everything lined out, down to the smallest detail.

But things didn’t quite go according to plan.

On our wedding day, the temperature spiked to 104 degrees, which had us regretting our decision to dress the men in all black wool. Worse than that, Sandy couldn’t get her stupid bangs to work, so she had to come up with a different look at the last minute. At the reception we ran out of drinks, and the keg tap didn’t work so Sandy had to call her ex-boyfriend to bring one from his frathouse. Then our dog got into a pan of pork lumpia, which, later in our hotel room, came back out of him in a decidedly unpleasant and explosive way, and Sandy and I spent much of the evening on the floor in formal bridal wear, scrubbing out stains with wadded up toilet paper and a Champagne bucket full of shampoo water.

But that was all okay, because we were headed to Wyoming, with a full ride to grad school, and a gleaming golden road leading to a life of financial security and professional respectability.

But things didn’t quite go according to plan.

It wasn’t long before we were headed back to the west coast, tails between our legs, our marriage already shaky, living first in a one-room outbuilding on my parents’ place, then in a single tiny bedroom in my recently-widowed grandfathers’ house, trying to take care of a very old and grumpy man, while also trying to figure out how to take care of the one redeeming ray of sunshine in our lives – a little newborn baby girl we named Anna Mitra.

Then we moved to the promised land of Oregon, to run a cattle ranch, with big hopes and grand plans for how this honest, authentic and humble life out in the country was going to fix everything.

But things didn’t quite go according to plan.

The community we lived in ended up going to war over water, and the resulting stresses began to eat away at the family and the marriage. Eventually we ran out of both money and options. So we sold the cows, moved to town, and got regular office jobs, 9-5.

Not long after, our little Anna graduated high school, with big plans to go back east to an expensive private school in Vermont. We didn’t have near that kind of money, but her heart was set, so she got on a plane and away she went.

But things didn’t quite go according to plan.

She got so very homesick and lonesome. The dorms were ancient and rickety, and a bit too communal for her comfort. Plus the school kept making her take pottery and interpretive banjo classes, and the rich east coast kids all laughed at her when she showed up the first week to the Dining Hall in grey sweats and a hoodie.

So home she came. It was decided that she would transfer to the University of Oregon, and she was very much looking forward to a nice, conventional college experience in some nice, normal college dorms. So she was very disappointed when we told her we couldn’t afford the dorms, and that she would have to live with some old college friends of ours, who had a basement apartment in west Eugene.

Anna was pretty much miserable. Didn’t know anyone, had no way of meeting anyone, and had not much else to do but deal with the dawning realization that life is really just one long slow slide into despair and destitution.

Then one day, while wallowing down in the basement, there was a knock on the door. Some students from the UofO journalism department had come to do a story on our old college friend, who was an ultramarathon runner.

Our old friend opened the door, and one of the students, the tallest, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Garrett Guinn.”

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So I look around at all the people here, this newly-formed extended family, in this glorious place, celebrating the joining of two beautiful people in sacred matrimony -- and it occurs to me, how many things had to go completely and utterly wrong to make this possible.

I think a lot of times we think of a wedding as a kind of triumph or victory, as the just and appropriate reward for a sequence of correct decisions and decisive actions. But a wedding is not a victory. It is, in fact, the opposite of that. A wedding, if you do it right, is an unconditional surrender.

A surrender of that stubborn and bossy little ego that has always worked so hard to keep you alone. A surrender to something bigger than yourself, something more eternal and immortal than your stubby little life on earth. Surrender to a whole chaotic constellation of relationships, nearly none of them of your choosing, but that stand with you, today and forever, giving you strength, and the kind of messy but fiercely dependable fellowship that only family can give.

And after the wedding, being married: Understand that you are not implementing a plan, or committing to some project, prioritizing goals and objectives, evaluating progress and success as you march down that beeline to marital bliss and prosperity. Understand that by entering into a marriage, you are not entering into a contract.

Understand, with all the heart you have, that by entering into a marriage, what you are entering into is a Mystery.

And this mystery, try as you might, is not a thing to be solved. But this mystery, you can do something even better with it: You can make it your home. A home to keep you warm, and dry, and fed. To keep you free, and beloved.

And in exchange, it asks only one thing of you: That you trust it. That you trust each other. That you trust the one thing you both have become, and trust the two things you both will still, and always, need to be. And trust, most of all, that this mystery you’ve conjured nearly always knows better than either of you what needs to happen, and how things ought to go.

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Things will go right for you two. And things will also go wrong. You will have great successes. And you will also have heartbreaking failures. But when those dark times come, that is when you must stop, and breathe, and go find each other.

That is when you must look deep and long at the bright and boundless heavens there in each other’s eyes. Feel deep and long the fathomless beating of each others’ hearts. Together stretch your mortal bones up into that mystery, and sing together a prayer of thanks, that things don’t always go the way we want them to.

Because if they always did, none of us would be here today.

Anna & Garrett, here’s to your mystery. May it always have your back. And may it be a home for both of you, forever."

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​© 2017 ANNA MITRA YOGA

PORTLAND, OR