In case you’re like me, a guy who knows very little about wedding customs other than the ones I was initiated to at my wedding on August 15, 2009, you might not know that you are now on the hook for a wedding gift. I’m not exactly sure what that entails, but it does not include:
1) The ring
2) The engagement ring
3) The honeymoon
4) Coupons for a free body massage
I say this now because someone in your life may be a young and non-understanding man like me, who will someday find himself (or herself – I’m not ruling that possibility out) in a predicament where it is proper and necessary to have said gift.
See, on August 14, 2009, I was given a wedding gift: a Roger Maris rookie baseball card in PSA 8 condition. That may mean nothing to you because you don't care about baseball, let alone baseball cards, but let me tell you, it meant something to me. For the majority of my early relationship with my wife, I would playfully say, “If you really loved me, you would get me a Roger Maris PSA 8 baseball card.” As conditions go 1-10, 8 is really good. Since the card is from 1958, which was when he played for the Indians, a gem mint 10 is like finding a super-expensive needle in a haystack. There are a fair bit of 8s that cycle around. They’re kind of your average A grade. Very pretty to look at, can’t complain, but if you wanted to, you could. If you’re a baseball card collector, it’s basically the card isn’t centered and the corners aren’t as sharp as can be. It's also graded by a tougher grader, so it means a little more than the rater gave out 8s like they were participation trophies.
Anyway… I’m sure I’m boring you with baseball card details, so I’ll skip to the point.
We had just finished our rehearsal, which was where I wore a bow tie to look like Indiana Jones when he got married because… why not? It’s my rehearsal, and I was rocking that bow tie! Heather and I were upstairs in her sister’s guestroom, and all of a sudden a gift bag comes out. I froze, completely caught off guard at the moment. It wasn’t so much what it could be, but it felt like I missed an important memo. When I opened the bag, I looked in and saw the little cloth bag, and I knew what it was.
I had never meant to think I would or should get the card, but there it was, standing in front of me. I picked it up (and I rarely pick it up – too precious and sentimental to me - though I will tonight), and I saw Roger Maris, 61 in 1961, and I couldn’t say anything. I was just so overwhelmed to get something so special to me.
See Roger Maris had been an obsession since McGwire’s summer of 70 in 1998 (I saw 55 in person), which changed my life, and now I had his rookie card. Like Roger’s wife Patricia who supported him through his stresses and strains that occurred because of a media obsessed with making him feel unworthy of surpassing Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs in a season record. Eventually, he did it, but in the meantime, he took on so much inner turmoil that he lost his hair from anxiety issues and even moved to walk away from baseball, though his wife talked him back into the game. To me, that ability to be a rock and a cheerleader are key building blocks of true love.
Oh yeah, and I highly recommend watching the Billy Crystal directed 61*, so named because Roger received an asterisk from Babe Ruth’s ghostwriter / MLB commissioner for not breaking the record in the same number of games.
After looking at the card, I didn’t know what else to say, so I said something about giving Heather her gift the next day. In truth, I needed to go out and get it.
Unfortunately, on that evening outside Toledo, Ohio, I couldn’t think what to get her other than an iPhone. Unfortunately, seeing as I knew nothing about purchasing cellphones, I found out how hella expensive they are, so I finally ended up at Home Depot, where I purchased a Disney princess key. With that, I would give it to her with a redirection of money to be put into a first home for us (we were living in an apartment at the time, but in early November, we would buy our first home in Amish Paradise, Pennsylvania).
When I went to be with my parents, sister, and aunt at the hotel they were staying at (so as not to see the bride before the wedding), my parents knew nothing about the wedding gift custom, but my sister did. The next day when she saw my now wife, she explained that I didn’t know about the new-fangled tradition. It was never an issue, but it was something that was better addressed at the moment since I felt really guilty about it.
All the same, that was after Heather and her family all arrived at the botanical gardens, and we had the wedding and out pictures afterward, which were taken by her sister Jen. Personally, I think she did a heck of a job in the hot sun of that afternoon. Heather’s whole family did a great job with cooking and decorating that day as well (and yes, everything to include the flowers on that cake are homemade). It was an awesome moment, and it was so great to be married on that day, but dang… it was tiring!
When it all ended and the gifts were opened and packed up to go back to Pennsylvania with my parents, Heather and I set out for our honeymoon suite. We were exhausted and hungry, so we went out for a fine gourmet dinner at Arby’s. Yes, Arby’s; they have the meats.
It’s funny to think about it now, but other than getting too hot from the heat of the hot tub and tipsy from the champagne, it’s memories like that, which really make a marriage.
Since then, we’ve made lots of other memories. With Heather’s gifts to me (deep sea fishing, glow golf, and laser tag Groupons), we’ll do other things to make great memories, too. It’s easy to do that when you’re having fun, but it’s harder when the illness part of in sickness and in health comes about. Fortunately, I have an amazing woman to stand by me, as I stand by her in the same way, through all of the things that comes with Parkinson’s in the past, present, and future. It’s the new normal, but that’s OK.
We’ll get through. It’s what we do (even if I don't have any more things to pester her about doing to prove her love since she bought me a 3 hour back massage (in the form of 2 1.5 hour back rub groupons) and made me a bundt cake with love for last Christmas).
And besides… we’ve got Arby’s for dinner tonight.
So just like our wedding song said, "I think that possibly maybe I'm falling for you..." still and always. Here's to a lot more great years, Pookaford!