It was a beautiful spring morning not unlike others before. Birds chirped outside and the undeniable smell of fresh cut grass hitched a ride on the cool breeze wafting through the windows. I woke up a little later than most and wondered if she had said goodbye earlier as I drearily stepped into the shower. The blast of hot water stimulated my cognitive abilities and a vague recollection of a goodbye kiss on the forehead formed in my brain. A day unlike any other I had ever experienced before or will again was just beginning.
I made a few phone calls and talked to a number of people about our plans for the day as I finished my breakfast, fed the dog, and made sure the house was ready for visitors. It seemed like nobody knew exactly what was going on but me and that was fine. Everything had come together rather quickly and perhaps I had overlooked a few details. Last second decisions still needed to be made, inevitable problems needed to be solved, and I had no qualms being the man for the job. I was ready.
In the previous days I had prepped most of the arrangements and I held a supreme confidence that this day itself would come out just fine. As I stepped from the house in my khaki shorts, Hawaiian shirt, and flip flops, a change of clothes draped over my shoulder, I took a look at my green Chevy S-10. Something seemed wrong. I didn't have a flat tire. Nobody dinged the door. I looked up at the sky as a layer of clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped slightly. We were having a cookout later and the ominous prediction of rain had held steady in the forecast for days. The grill! That's what I was forgetting. I needed to throw our gas grill in the back of the truck for the cookout.
Bullet dodged, I fired up the powerful four cylinder behemoth that was the two wheel drive S-10 and started my journey to Springlake. It was a trip I'd taken many, many times before. I grew up down near Manito and at the time had a little 15 foot basstracker with an ancient 25 horse Evinrude motor. A previous owner had scratched off the "2", I guess so that you could go on smaller lakes with 10 horse limits, but the change was very noticeable. That day, though, I wasn't pulling the jon behind the mighty S-10. No fishing was on the agenda.
The trip went by quickly and I spoke on the phone with a number of people, continuing to coordinate the day's events. Temperatures seemed to dip a little more and I had the same conversation again and again with numerous worrying friends and relatives. I don't remember it being annoying, or even bothersome to me at all, just slightly amusing at the differences in concern.
A conversation with one of the men went something like this.
Man: 50% chance of rain from 1-3. Whatya think?
Me: Yeah, we'll have to see what happens. Can't control the weather. You know?
Man: I hear that. What are you going to do with all this stuff if it starts pouring?
Me: I've got a plan. Most of it'll be ok out here. We'll just move inside if it starts raining.
Man: Yeah, no big deal.
Me: No big deal.
A conversation with one of the women went more like this.
Woman: My husband told me it is absolutely, positively going to be raining and I feel like that would be worse than getting hit in the head with a shovel.
Me: It might, but not with the shovel part, I guess? We'll just have to wait and see. Can't control the weather. You know?
Woman: Oh, that would be just awful. All these beautiful arrangements and your hard work and planning. The day will be ruined worse than if you were out here strangling puppies.
Me: It'll be ok. I would never do that to puppies and I've got a plan. Most of the things will be alright out here. We'll just move inside if it starts raining.
Woman: Oh my. That would just be horrible. Rain is the equivalent of billions of tiny sharp daggers falling from the sky that would tragically disfigure and maim all of us leaving the entire group wallowing in a shared pool of blood as we spend our last moments together in agony.
OK, so maybe the women weren't that dramatic. I just wanted to properly illustrate the levels of concern over the forecast of rain.
So, the hour approached and I was busy, almost too busy to fully wrap my brain around what was transpiring. I set up tables and chairs and got the grill all ready for cooking. I set out the food and drinks and mingled with more people, all while keeping an eye on those pesky rain clouds above. Now, don't get me wrong. I had a lot of help, I just don't remember who did what exactly and wouldn't want to slight anyone's contribution.
Now the time was getting really close. I changed out of my shorts, Hawaiian shirt and flip flops into my Sunday best. Some of my best friends in the world had arrived and we made small talk even as my nerves started to gnaw at me a little bit. A few pictures were taken. We kept looking at the clouds. Then my brother in law Jessie walked up and said.
"Are you ready, because she's ready."
That might not be a direct quote, but I'd say its reasonably close. I have no idea what I said back and the next couple of minutes are a blur.
It was May the 21st 2005 when Candice Linnea Baxter, accompanied by her brother Joe, made that short walk from the interior of Springlake Missionary Church to the yard outside. Almost as if on cue, the clouds broke and rays of sunlight shone brightly through the newly greened canopies of the trees. A very slight but warm breeze ruffled the fledgling leaves and then she appeared. I can still close my eyes and see her smiling face as she came around the gathered group of close family and friends. It was going off without a hitch, but then she stumbled. Her heeled shoe had caught in the soft spring earth and the briefest of gasps went up in the crowd before she closed her eyes, laughed, kicked off the other shoe and kept right on down the aisle. Onlookers joined her in the laughter and it greatly helped to ease the butterflies in my stomach and growing lump in my throat.
Our wedding was eight minutes long and during that eight minutes I made one of the best decisions of my life. Well, I had actually made the decision months or years before, but that was the moment of truth. It was the day I made Candice Linnea Wheat my wife and I haven't regretted a second of it since. I love her more now then ever before and can't imagine it being like this with anyone else. Happy nine year anniversary to my friend, my life, my love, my wife.
I can't wait to go to work later, and you'll go to work too, and then we'll both work all day on our anniversary. Wait a minute. That's not romantic at all. Maybe I should make something up better, like a trip to Hawaii! Yeah, that sounds better. We should have taken a trip to Hawaii. I could have dug up that old shirt. Why didn't I think of this before? Oh well. Maybe next year for our tenth. Well, maybe the 25th. Definitely by the 50th!
No book pimping today. I love you Candice. Happy anniversary.