The Story Continues...
The bus ride out to Denver was, to say the least, eventful. The bus broke down in the middle of Kansas somewhere and we limped into Hays, KS around 1:30 in the morning on Sunday morning. They were supposed to send another bus out from Denver to get us. It was supposed to arrive after 8:30 am, but the driver got lost, went two hours past where we were then turned around and went another three hours back towards Denver. By the time he would have reached us, he would have been over his maximum driving time (and our current driver couldn't continue because he hadn't had sleep) so they sent the "replacement" bus back to Denver and sent out a third bus from Kansas City. It wasn't supposed to reach us until 5:00 pm that night. In the meantime, there's a busload of people that are stuck at a truck-stop for more than 13 hours. Tired, cranky people. The bus driver we had was wonderful and did his best, but nonetheless, by the time the replacement bus arrived, there was only half a busload as many of the passengers had found alternative rides to Denver. I ended up calling P. and she and her best friend drove the four hours from Denver to Hays to pick me up rather than wait for the bus. I remember seeing her face again when the car pulled up to the truck stop...*happy smile*
We were staying at her friend's house and spent most of the next day (Monday) running errands and making last minute arrangements for the wedding. We picked up our rings, a guest book, some decorations and a unity candle among other things. We also stopped by her former places of employment so she could introduce me to the people she used to work with. That night, we met with her other friend and went out to dinner. I was happy to finally get to meet the two ladies who had been such a wonderful support to my soon-to-be wife. On Tuesday night, we went out to dinner with her parents. We had both been a little surprised when they had agreed to allow us to take them to dinner given the way they felt about me. I can't say I blame them for their feelings. I know if my youngest came up and told me he was moving to the other side of the country to live with someone he'd met online only 7 or 8 months ago, I'd be concerned too. Dinner was a bit tense, but the conversation and company were pleasant nonetheless. And I'm grateful to her parents for agreeing to have dinner with us. Later that night, we drove by the club where we were supposed to have our reception, only to find out that it was under new management and was not open. It was the first of the many changes in plans that we had to make.
The next day, Wednesday, Dec. 30, was our wedding day. Both of us were very nervous (as every bride is). We were supposed to meet the minister at the hall for a practice at 6:30 that evening. We arrived at 6:30 only to find out that the people running the hall had forgotten that we were going to be there and nothing was set up. A frantic 20 minutes later, the chairs and sound system were ready to go and we set about decorating, wondering where the minister was. By 7:15, the minister still had not arrived but our guests had started to. By 7:30, when the ceremony was to start, there was still no sign of the minister. We tried calling her home, but no one was there. One of P's friends was there and has always been so supportive of her. We asked him to fill in if the minister didn't show up by 7:45. (Since we only had the hall until 8:30, we didn't want to wait too much longer.) He agreed and we did a quick run through of what we had planned on doing and told him to ad lib it as best he could. At 7:45, the minister wasn't there, so we started without her. We walked down the aisle together, both holding white roses and baby's breath cradled in one arm.
Before we said our vows, we went over to a small table to each light a candle, symbolizing our individuality. There was a lighter sitting beside the candle, but when I tried to light it, it wouldn't work. (We later discovered that it was the lighter I had used to melt the bottom of the candles so they'd stand upright in the holders...and wax has gotten onto the flint wheel so it wouldn't spark...) So P asked if there were any smokers among the guests and one of them tossed us a lighter. By this point, we were both wondering what else could go wrong. We were soon to find out....
At some point during K's remarks before we said our vows, the minister showed up. She walked in, sat down and watched the ceremony. We both got through our vows without crying, although it was a struggle for both of us. It was harder for me to listen to her say hers and not cry than it was to say mine and not cry. P's friend's son was our ring-bearer and his mom sent him down the aisle with the rings on a white satin heart-shaped pillow. He looked so cute in his little suit. P bent down and started to untie the rings from the pillow...and one of them went bouncing across the floor. By this time, everyone in the audience laughed with us. Then we went over and lit the unity candle together, using the individual candles we had lit previously. We didn't blow out our individual candles as if often the case because we wanted to symbolize that although we were now married, we still retained our individuality and our own "inner light". We returned to the front of the room and then I was allowed to kiss my new wife. After we walked back down the aisle and out of the room, we both collapsed against the wall, giggling. While nothing about the ceremony had gone as planned, it was still a very beautiful experience and all the more memorable for the little "quirks". Because our scheduled reception location was closed, we ended up going to a small Mexican restaurant with all the guests. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs.
After leaving the restaurant, P and I drove up into the mountains to a small motel that has a beautiful view of the Continental Divide from the windows in each room. We spend a wonderful evening together, our first as a married couple and had breakfast late the next morning. We drove through the mountains and I took her up to where I used to live to see the awesome view and to see just how "out in the sticks" I had been when living there. Later in the day, we returned to her friends house. We spent a quiet New Year's Eve with her friend. I knew that our leaving the next morning was going to be very hard for P. She was leaving everything she knew and loved to move to PA to be with me. We were going to be leaving the next morning very early in the morning because we had such a long drive back to PA. But we had yet to pack the car. We got up very early the next day and got all of our stuff from her friends house in the car. I said good-bye and thank you to her friend and then went out to the car to allow them to have some privacy. P came out a few minutes later and got in the car, very quiet and trying to hide how upset she was. We drove over to her parents' house and started cramming everything she had packed into her car. We ended up leaving some of it there because there just wasn't enough room, but we got the important things. Once again, after saying good-bye and thanking her parents, I went out to the car to allow her to say her good-byes in private. A few minutes later, she climbed in the car and we headed to our last stop before leaving Denver. We stopped by her other friend's house so they could say goodbye. A little while later, we started on our long road home.
The weather was being none too cooperative. A light drizzle soon turned into a light snow and less than 70 miles from Denver, the roads were already starting to get icy. We ended up driving through that horrible ice storm that hit the midwest and the roads never really cleared until we made it back to PA. What had started out as a planned day and a half trip ended up taking close to 3 days. In some places, the ice was more than 3 inches thick on the interstate. I still don't like to think about how fast I was driving on such unsafe conditions. P. was emotionally drained and I ended up doing most of the driving while she slept. We stopped in Illinois to see one of our cyberfriends (thanks again for your hospitality, Gamaw and Buck!) and finally made it back to PA on Sunday evening. We stopped by my parent's house to pick up my oldest son then hightailed it home so we would be there when my youngest came home from his father's. All in all, it was a very memorable week and one I wouldn't change it at all.
Since then, things have settled in very nicely. P. is working at a job she loves. The kids have adapted wonderfully, and often go to bed at night yelling "Night, Moms!" to the two of us. We even had a family portrait of the four of us together. (Although the photographer thought she was my daughter and that kind of made her mad...LOL He was a bit taken aback when I told him she was my wife, but he recovered very nicely.) We have made it through some hard times together and ridden some emotional roller coasters, but we have never lost sight of our love and our desire to spend the rest of our lives together. She is still homesick at times and still misses that close contact with her friends and family. But we are going to be going out there in September for a visit and still plan on moving back there someday.
I invite you to take a look at our wedding album. (The faces of her friends have been blurred on purpose since we don't have their permission as of yet to post their pictures online.) The following page will be graphic intensive, so if you prefer, you can skip over them and go right to the next page I've made for P.