October 13th had finally arrived, a day Mike Jr. had been nervously anticipating. Up to this point, he’d been stressed out with all of the planning; the invitations, the flowers, the menu, the seating charts and the rsvp’s that had consumed his life for the last six months. Today was supposed to be the day when the burden of it all would suddenly morph into elation but that wasn’t the case. The stress of the day was beginning to set in but it was nothing a couple of shots of Courvoisier couldn’t cure. A couple of sips were definitely in order just to take the edge off. Mike Jr. walked over to the mini-bar and grabbed the bottle he’d placed on the top shelf the night before; thinking about his dad as he unscrewed the top and got a whiff of what smooth men drink. He laughed at the memory of his dad saying those exact words. This is for the grown and sexy, he use to say. Mike Jr. missed those days; days when they would sit and watch football game after football game; or any other kind of games for that matter. Since they were both sports fanatic, they’d spent countless Sundays after church lounging around on the couch, eating, high-fiving and discussing life. Gone were the days when his dad cheered him on from the sidelines; never missing any of his football games from pee wee all the way through college. The days when everything was less complicated and the only thing that mattered was the unbreakable bond between father and son.
Mike Jr. took one final look in the floor length mirror to make sure everything was in place. He made a final adjustment to his tie and smiled as he gave himself a thumbs up. The decision to wear the powder blue cumber bun, his soon to be mother in law had picked out was a good decision indeed. Mother Joyce as he called her insisted the light soft color complimented his complexion and she was right. Mike wondered if his mom was smiling down from heaven or frowning at the choice. But whether she was smiling or not he had to admit, it did look great with the perfectly tailored black tuxedo he was wearing. There was no doubt about it; he had definitely inherited his dad’s good looks. He could remember as a child the whispers of all the moms at the PTA meetings every time Mike Sr. attended. But nothing beat the louder whispers of all of the women of Do Better Baptist on Sunday mornings as his dad delivered sermon after sermon. From the moment his dad accepted the position of Pastor, the membership seemed to triple. Pastor Mike as everyone called him stood 6’5 tall towered over the pulpit; delivering powerful messages of God’s grace and mercy with a loving compassion Mike Jr. had always felt growing up. His pastoral position wasn’t for show; it was how he’d lived his life and how he’d raised his son. It was those traits Mike Jr. had always admired in his dad and had done almost everything in his power to mimic everything he’d witnessed as a child; even down to his marriage. The sparkle in his dad’s eyes whenever he spoke about his mom was something Mike Jr. wanted to feel and experience. The way in which he loved her and took care of her was what Mike Jr. remembered most; the kind of love that has no ending; a once in a lifetime kind of love. Despite everything his dad had to offer and all of available, potential First Ladies of Do Better Baptist, Mike Jr. knew his dad would probably never remarry. And if there was any void he may have felt, Mike Sr. filled it with loving on God’s people; it was his calling.
Mike Jr. had grown up in Do Better Baptist. All of the years he spent singing in the children’s’ choir, attending weekly bible study and vacation bible school; the members had become his family and his home away from home. The elder woman of the church took him under their wings and nurtured him as if he was their very own; yet he missed his mom tremendously. As he prepared for one of the most important days of his life, he couldn’t help but wonder if she would be proud of him. Proud of the man he’d become and of all the accomplishments he’d made in his life or if she would be like everyone else proud yet ashamed. Although he’d grown up in the church and he knew God didn’t make any mistakes, Mike Jr. couldn’t help but think losing his mom at such a young age had to be one. “Enough of that”, he whispered shaking his head; holding back tears. Today was a special day and he couldn’t afford to allow anything to make him sad, after all he was marrying his first love; the love of his life for the rest of his life.
From the moment they met as UCLA freshman six years prior, Mike Jr. knew they would spend the rest of their lives together. Call it a hunch or divine intervention, whatever the case there was no denying the immediate connection. One of those things you see in movies; not real life. Yet, today was real; the day they would solidify their connection and formally commit their lives to each other before God. It was such a huge day and yet he was alone in his hotel room; no best friends, no best man and no parents; just him. Left alone wondering how his soon to be spouse was feeling and if there were any second thoughts or hesitation, as this journey they were preparing to embark upon was going to be a difficult one. If the past was any indication; it wasn’t going to be easy. Two hundred and ten invitations sent and only fifty rsvp’s were received. Of all the missing rsvp’s from his church family and college teammates who he’d come to know as family, the one that hurt the most was the one missing from Mike Sr. He pretty much knew his church family wouldn’t show up but he held out hope for his dad until hope no longer made sense. Checking the mailbox three times a day and asking his neighbors if they’d received any of his mail by mistake got old pretty quickly.
Mike Jr. looked in the mirror for a final once over, drank a shot for the road and grabbed his hotel key card. He could see the rain pouring down from the hotel window. Thank God he only had to go three floors down to the hotel banquet room for the ceremony. The alarm he’d set on his phone rang out reminding him it was 2:20pm; he had ten minutes before the ceremony began. As he shut the door and rushed toward the elevator, Mike Jr. said a prayer. As he made his way to the banquet room doors, he could smell the flowers and hear the music playing softly. He nervously opened the banquet room door and immediately began to cry as he recognized the faces of his church family and friends. With tears he scanned the room as he made his way to the podium where the exchange of vows would take place. Although, Mike Jr. was elated from all of the faces he did see, he was also saddened by the one face he didn’t; his dad. But he knew the show had to go on; his groom was waiting. As the ceremony began, Mike wondered if making this decision meant God would no longer hear his prayers, after all, his prayers in the elevator had gone unanswered yet again. The one thing he’d always wanted and prayed for since coming out to his dad was compassion and for him to love him in spite of. Unbeknownst to anyone, as the ceremony proceeded, Mike Sr. stood quietly outside of the banquet room, with one hand on the door contemplating what to do next. As he began to push the door open, he removed his hand, put his head down and whispered with tears; Lord, direct my steps!