January 3

The Tears Between the Smiles

Balloon Memorial

The past few weeks have tested the ends of my emotion. I’ve been happy and sad, frequently at the same damn time.

As you know, my lovely and laid-back fiancé, J.R., and I were engaged last may and have been holding steady trying to plan an fall wedding at a brewery in Atlanta (our adopted hometown) for what feels like pennies compared to some weddings we’ve known. It’s been fun, but also really difficult, and it has definitely pushed at the edges of our relationship in new ways we couldn’t possibly imagine.

Until a few weeks ago. When my lovely and laid back fiancé, J.R., lost his father to long-standing health issues on Wednesday, December 11. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was still totally unexpected (a paradox I realize means nothing to most people but perfectly describes it for us).

We knew for the last three months that J.R.’s father spent every morning and night (save for the 12 wonderful days when he was allowed to return home) connected to wires and monitors in a hospital bed in Ann Arbor. Every Magic 8-Ball told us the outlook was not so good. But until you actually get that phone call (the one that comes at 9:30 in the morning when you’ve just sat down to your desk), trying to understand that the man who was supposed to be your father-in-law will never be your father-in-law is impossible.

When I saw my phone light up on my desk that Wednesday morning, I knew instantly. I looked down to see my future husband’s smiling face on my screen—from that one picture I took on a Vegas vacation and saved as his contact photo because of the way his dimples lit up—and I knew it would be a long time before I saw that smile again.

Planning a wedding for pennies was, at the time, one of the toughest things J.R. and I had been through. But I can say with certainty that the stress and confusion and how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-pay-for-flowers seem like cracks on the sidewalk compared to the earthquake that has been the last three and a half weeks. Our December has had lots of ups and downs. It’s been happy and sad. Sour and sweet.

But slowly, we’re starting to steal back the smiles and habits and home-cooked meals that make up our normal. Which includes me getting back to blogging about our wedding, which we are are obviously still so excited about although we’ll surely miss having J.R.’s pops there to celebrate it all.

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