This past weekend my little sister, Kelsey, got married, you guys! Normally, I can't even finish that sentence before someone says, "you're next!" which is why I'm glad I'm writing this on my blog. No interruptions. Let's focus on the task at hand, people. One marriage at a time, thank you!
This wedding was, if I do say so myself, the best wedding I've ever been to. And it wasn't just because I was maid-of-honor, though that really did add to the overall awesomeness of the wedding. (I'm also available for hire even if I don't know you. I smell a movie plot!)
Leading up to the wedding, Kelsey and I had many a discussion about how dad might do. How long he'd last, if he'd get overwhelmed by the noises and people and general atmosphere. We planned on doing the father/daughter dance early in the evening and had our Aunt on stand-by to take him home when he seemed like he'd had enough. We also had a nurse with us from the home just in case he panicked or needed any sort of extra attention. We didn't at all expect him to be the life of the party!
Alzheimer's is a strange disease. Sometimes you forget that he's still in there and can understand a lot more than you think he can, especially in my dad's case, and that it might be a bunch of factors, in addition to the Alzheimer's, that are adding to his quiet nature. I think more than anything my dad remembers who he used to be, how smart and talented he was, and he hates that he isn't still able to communicate the way he wants to. It's hard to keep him in the present and help him to forget the embarrassment that goes along with the disease, but when you can accomplish that, let me tell you - it's amazing.
Dad knew exactly what was going on that day. The way he looked at Kelsey... it was beautiful. So much pride and joy and complete awe that this beautiful bride was his daughter. Walking down the aisle - yeesh. That was rough keeping it together. Dad was crying, I was tear-streaked (yay for pictures!) and Kelsey was just begging him to keep it together. It was pretty amazing. But there was still the reception which was 2 hours away. We had no idea how he'd respond to that.
Dad was absolutely and totally amazing. He was in the center of the dance floor dancing up a STORM! And I know it wasn't just me who felt how special that was. Often times, when I visit him in the home, he seems to be disappearing into himself. He's afraid to speak and, when he does, it's very stilted and frustrated. On that dance floor he was a different person. He was having the time of his LIFE. Even when modern, loud, bass-ey dance music would start up he just kept on dancing his little heart out. Clapping along, connecting with everyone, not a care in the world.
At one point Matt went up to him on the floor and told him how good he looked in his suit and he responded without losing a beat, "they forced me in this thing!" I came over a little later and said, "hey who's this guy dancing up a storm!? I don't even know you!" and he responded, "then get out of here!" It's the same old playful ribbing we used to engage in before he got sick. It was fabulous.
At the end of the night they had to drag him off that dance floor. He could have danced all night. He was amazing and I will never underestimate him again!!
Kelsey and Frank had a fabulous night as well, not a stitch was out of place. The whole day ran as smoothly as we could have hoped for. It was a gathering of family that have their differences, but for one night understood how important it was to recognize the love we have for each other. I don't think the night would have been nearly as special if dad hadn't been there.