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In 1999, my father and stepmother were married in a beautiful castle in Northern Ireland. She was dressed in a white lace gown with a bouquet of lilies clenched in her delicate fingers. He was suited up in a sharp black tuxedo with a smile permanently fixed on his tanned face. My stepmother’s parents flew in from Indiana, my father’s parents from Newark and I, the flower girl, flew in from Pennsylvania with a ham sandwich packed by my mom and a bleak outlook on my future place in my father’s family.
The wedding was beautiful in the way that antique and traditional things often are. The vows were formal and announced undying love and affection and the joy was evident on everyone’s faces. I was skeptical. If my mom and dad didn’t work out, what would make it so that Colleen and my dad would? Why does one love fade and another bloom?
After the ceremony and the reception, both equal in their levels of beauty and formality, the bride and groom departed for Italy to enjoy a glorious honeymoon in the most romantic country in the world. I was left behind. But I was not alone.
A few hours after my father’s departure, my grandma took me out for a walk along the shore. She held my hand and she skipped with me as it began to rain, gently at first and then harder. She looked at me and said “how you feeling’ kiddo?” I shrugged. “You know, Cal,” she said, “your dad’s happy. Colleen’s happy. You need to start smiling too.” Then she took me by the arm and we ran, laughing to the car to get out of the rain.
As I road in the car that day with my grandma, gazing at the muddy streets of Northern Ireland, I smiled. I didn’t think about that moment in depth until now. Then, it was just a moment in my life, one moment in which I smiled. But now, I see that it was a time of realization. That experience taught me that sometimes, although unbidden, change comes — and not always in a bad way. Old ways of living, past ways of loving die out and are replaced with new life and new love. This experience taught me acceptance and the ability to be brave in the face of uncertainty, to embrace change with open arms and a smile.
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