Best Men, part 5

Pete and Dad’s conversation gradually swung around to baseball. I finished thinning the lettuce and joined them on the patio. The air was rapidly cooling as the sun moved to the west, leaving the back yard on the east side of the house in shadow.

Dad said, “I heard Barb ask you about Christmas, but I didn’t hear what you said. Will you be here Christmas Day?”

Pete nodded. “That’s the plan. We’ll get up and open presents with Chris’s family then leave to come here. It’ll be late afternoon, but at least it will still be Christmas.”

“Good.” Dad made a wry face. “I don’t think we’ll be seeing Kevin at all.”

“No?”

“No. Abby’s insisting that they spend Christmas Eve with her sisters and Christmas Day with her parents. She says Kevin sees you all the time and that should be enough.”

I said, “Um – no. It’s Christmas. What is her problem?”

Pete said, “She sees her family all the time, too. Why is Kevin putting up with this?”

Dad sighed, shaking his head. “You’ll have to ask him.”

 

We ate hummus with pita bread and Greek salad for dinner to compensate for our hamburgers. Afterward we sat around the table, talking about work and family. Pete cleared the table and began washing dishes, leaving Dad and me at the table. I said, “Dad, I have something to ask you.”

He looked surprised. “What’s that?”

By Stefano Bolognini (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Stefano Bolognini (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

I took a deep breath. “Will you be my best man at our wedding?”

Dad’s eyes widened, then he beamed at me. “Of course I will, sport. If you’re sure.”

“I’m positive. Pete’s going to ask Steve, but I don’t want Jeff or Kevin. I want you.”

Dad stood up and pulled me into a bear hug. “I would be honored.” He stepped back and I saw the tears in his eyes. “Back when Jeff and then Kevin got married, I thought to myself, ‘I’ll never get to do this for Jamie.’ It about broke my heart. And now here we are, fifteen years later, and I’m going to get to see you married.” He wiped his eyes and hugged me again. “I’m so happy.”

I was getting teary-eyed myself, hugging Dad tightly. “So am I.”

We parted and laughed. Pete was beaming at the sink. “Dave, it means a lot to me too. I’m so glad you’ll be standing up with us.”

Pete called Steve and asked him to be his best man; Steve happily agreed. I said, “Super. Now we need to decide who will perform the ceremony.”

Dad said, “Do you have any thoughts on that?”

Pete and I both shook our heads. I said, “I thought about my friend Clinton from the library, but he’s a retired monk and we don’t want any religious overtones in the ceremony. I’m not sure Clinton would be able to help himself.”

Dad said, “What about Neil?”

Oh.” Pete looked hopeful. “Do you think he’d do it?”

Dad smiled. “Of course he’d do it. He’d be thrilled.”

I said, “I considered Neil, but – I was thinking about asking him if we could have the reception at his house. He has the best setup for a crowded party.”

Pete said, “Could he do both?”

“I’m sure he could. But is that too much to ask?”

Dad said, “I don’t think so. From a logistical standpoint, not everyone you want to invite to the wedding is going to be able to fit on the mountain, are they?”

I started doing arithmetic in my head. “No.”

“So ask Neil to do the ceremony, and some of your other friends can stay behind and help Mark prep for the reception.”

Pete and I looked at each other. Pete said slowly, “That could work.”

Dad said, “You’d better ask him now, before he and Mark plan some month-long vacation for the summer.”

“You’re right.” I picked up my phone and dialed.

“Jamie!” Neil sounded like he might have a glass of wine or two on board. “To what do I owe this honor?”

I laughed. “I have a serious question for you.”

“Uh oh. Do you need legal advice?”

“No. I wanted to ask if you’d consider performing Pete’s and my wedding ceremony on July third.”

I sensed astonishment from the other end of the line, then Neil said, “Oh, Jamie. I’d be honored.”

“Seriously? You’re not going to be canoeing the fjords or anything?”

He laughed. “No, our vacation is in August. There is one stipulation, though.”

“Um – okay?”

“You must let Mark and I host your reception at the house.”

I winced. “Oh – no. That’s too much.” Now that he’d said it out loud, it did sound like too much. We’d find someplace else to have the reception. Ali and Mel’s, maybe.

“No, no, no. Mark and I were discussing it with Ali and Mel, and the four of us would like to provide your reception as our wedding gift to you.”

“Neil. Oh, my God. You don’t even know how many people we’re inviting yet.”

His tone was breezy. “As long as it’s fewer than a hundred, it’s fine.”

“Um – it’ll probably be about half that.”

“Perfect.” Mark must have walked into the room; Neil said, “Mark! Jamie and Pete have said yes to the reception, and they’ve asked me to perform the ceremony!”

I couldn’t hear Mark’s words, but the sound of delight came through. Neil said to me, “Is it a plan, then?”

I said, “It’s a plan.”

“Wonderful! We’ll discuss details when we see you at New Year’s.”

“Yes, sir. Thanks, Neil. This means a lot to us.”

His voice grew serious. “It means a lot to me too, Jamie. Thank you for asking.”

I said goodbye and spun my phone onto the table. “Ceremony and reception.”

Pete blew out a breath. “Well. That’s a major load off my mind.”

Dad spread his hands out in a “see?” gesture. “Now wasn’t that easy?”

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