A Special Spring Break On Wedding’s Eve

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COCOA BEACH, FLA. — Winter is loath to leave this year, beating back spring’s attempts to pop up in its customary time frame, which is generally by late February in East Texas. The result has been a confusion of blooming trees knocked back by ice storms and below-freezing weather, pollen falling and daffodils blooming while rooftops glisten with frost.

Just last week another ice storm swept through, delaying and canceling school. The dogs freak out when forced to go outside to do their business on a carpet of ice and snow. Rosie and Sam look at me like I have lost my mind when I suggest they leave the warmth of the house to venture outdoors. “No thanks, Food Guy,” they seem to say. “We’ll just hold it a little while longer.” I have to nudge them out the door with my foot and make sure it is securely latched. Otherwise, Rosie — the smart dog — will push it open with her nose and come immediately back inside.

Meanwhile, the clocks just sprung forward as fireplaces still blaze at night.

Since winter won’t leave, and it is Spring Break, we have left winter for sunnier climes. I am actually off for Spring Break for the first time in a quarter-century. I have taken vacaton before to coincide with children being out of school, but usually it is just another workweek. But now that I teach college, I couldn’t work this week if I wanted to. The place is shut down, so about halfway through the break we boarded a plane and headed to the east coast of Florida, where the temperature is… 55 degrees!

It was actually warmer in Longview, Texas on the first afternoon we walked the beach than it was in Cocoa Beach. The wind blew at about 30 mph under a crystalline sky. A few crazed or brave surfers, depending on one’s perspective, tried their luck near the pier. Most wore wetsuits, but there was one foolhardy soul out there bare-chested.

Cocoa Beach sits on the Atlantic side on a narrow strip of land with ocean on either side. Cape Canaveral and the Johnson Space Center are just minutes away. Highway A1A, immortalized by Jimmy Buffett, is the main thoroughfare. The Spring Break craze does not seem to have struck quite yet, though traffic was heavy. The beach was nearly empty.

We are here for a very special occasion, not just to hang out on a beach where the water is too cold for a dip. My oldest daughter, Kasey, is getting married on the beach this Saturday. Her stepfather and I will tag-team walking her down a pier to marry Jeff, her high school sweetheart with whom she reconnected a few years ago. We are all praying for continued blue skies and somewhat warmer weather. Regardless of the weather, it will be a happy occasion. Of that I am certain.

Kasey, now 35, teaches special education students — a role for which she seems to have a special gift —particularly autistic children. It is a special calling for which I greatly admire my daughter. She is a small, thin woman who at times has been hit, scratched and bitten by children unable to control their physical impulses. Still, she loves what she does and says she can’t imagine doing anything else.

She has dreamed of getting married on the beach for a long time, and now that dream is about to be realized. I am thrilled for her, of course. Every father wishes the best for his daughter, and she has finally found happiness and the love of her life. Sometimes that journey takes a circuitous route.

Kasey’s wedding ring is made from diamonds and sapphires once worn by my mother, which she had recast into her own ring. That would have made my mother very happy. Kasey was her first grandchild.

For a wedding present, I have been saving this surprise. Among the few items I kept from my parents’ estate was the silverware set that my paternal grandparents gave to my parents on Christmas 1956. At the time we lived in New Hampshire, and my grandparents lived in Longview. A card was still in the wooden box, along with the silver and a certificate of authenticity from Oneida. The card reads: “Dear Brad, Mickey and Gary: When you use these, we are with you and our love, too. Your Mama and Dad. We love you.”

So that is my wedding present to Kasey, along with my love and blessings on their marriage. It is going to be a great day — and a wonderful life for her and Jeff.

(More next week.)

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