August 11th, 2019
Father Michael blessed our marriage at the end of Mass today. He blessed another couple last Sunday. The previous husband and wife team had been together for fifty-seven years. Karin and I only have thirty-five years. We’re just getting started.
Father Michael has a standard format that he uses to bless marriages. He starts by asking the couple,
“Do you remember when the priest told you to give the sign of peace to your spouse?”
Apparently, that is the usual way for the priest to have the husband kiss his new bride, at least in America. Karin and I wouldn’t know about that. We were married in Karin’s home village in Germany, and her Lutheran pastor presided over our wedding ceremony. For us, it was all very different.
Father Michael asked us his leading question.
I promptly replied, “We didn’t do that.”
I said that just to be contrary. It’s what I do.
Father Michael was not deterred. He said to us,
“Well, you will NOW!”
So, Karin and I hugged each other in front of the congregation.
Father Michael rolled his eyes, and said,
“Frank, she’s your wife, not your sister. Kiss her!”
We tried again. We kissed. People applauded. Karin was happy. Father Michael was satisfied.
Later, Karin and I had brunch with Stefan at an African/Caribbean restaurant. Then we went to the Sprecher Tap for a couple beers. Stefan’s girlfriend, Beth, works there part time as a bartender.
We sat at the bar, and Karin showed Beth photos from our wedding. Karin had them on her phone. Beth looked at the pictures and laughed.
I asked, “Is that a mocking kind of laugh?”
Beth shook her head and smiled, “No, these pictures are just so sweet. You two look so young.”
Well, yeah. We were young then. Now we are an old married couple, “ein altes Ehepaar”.
Karin explained some of the pictures; like who the people were and where the photos were taken. Beth already knew some of our wedding stories. She knew about how Karin had been kidnapped by the single male guests at our reception, and how I had to track her down in various taverns in the village. Beth thought that sounded totally fun. Beth liked the picture us making a procession though Karin’s hometown, from her parents’ house to the church.
Stefan had already heard the legends of our wedding many times, so he was a bit bored. Beth looked at him. She said,
“I always thought that you looked like your mom, but I see now that you look a lot like your dad.”
Beth looked at a picture of me at the wedding, and then she stared straight at me. She looked at the photo on the phone again, and then she asked me,
“So, who is this guy in the picture?”
I answered, “Don’t know. He doesn’t come around any more.”
Beth laughed. She said,
“I never really thought of you guys as being old. I mean Karin looks pretty much the same, but you…well, you have had some interesting years, eh?”
“Yeah, I got some mileage.”
She smiled and asked, “Would you have it any other way?”
I shook my head, but then told her, “There are a couple things that I would have preferred not to have experienced…”
Beth replied quickly, “Okay, so what are your regrets? You brought it up.”
I wasn’t ready for that. Would anybody be ready for that? Beth has the tendency to ask piercing questions at unexpected times. There aren’t many specific actions that I regret. I wish that I hadn’t spent so many years as an angry bastard, but that is kind of general.
I could have told Beth that I regret joining the military. In retrospect I clearly did not belong in the Army. On the other hand, if I hadn’t joined up, I would have never gone to West Germany, and I would have never met Karin, and Stefan wouldn’t be alive, and we wouldn’t have celebrated our anniversary yesterday at the taproom, and Beth wouldn’t have asked me about my regrets.
With Karin with me, I had no regrets.