Pardon me while I ramble.

Tonight I find myself.

Tonight I find my mind in flux between thought and emptiness. You know, the kind of night when you think about thinking, but just end up sitting there blankly staring into space. I can’t focus. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I just don’t know what to say. It’s a weird place.

Last weekend about 100 family members and friends gathered to celebrate the lives of my grandparents, and say our final goodbyes to them. Fate brought them together, and together they enjoyed 72 happy years in each other’s company. For me, all other love has always been (and always will be) measured up against theirs. Their love brought people together. Family, friends, strangers… it never mattered. When you were with them, you felt loved. For my siblings and I, Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a safe harbor… an escape from the anger, ignorance, and everything else that came with the crushing poverty of our own home. It was like that for other relatives of ours also. My grandparents were the glue that held our entire extended family together.

As their ashes scattered in the breeze, so to would our family. In a moment they were gone. Forever.

The finality of that weighed on me as I drove away.

Where would we all go from there? Who would guide us? Who would bring us back together? Would we ever be back together?

I didn’t get to think those thoughts long as I had a wedding to shoot that day with my friend Amanda. A welcome distraction. With the spectrum of emotions I had just experienced minutes before, it was not easy to immediately focus. As I walked around the property of the family home where the wedding was, I stopped and simply looked around. I saw beautiful flowers and evergreen covered mountains. I saw the happy couple’s faces when they looked at each other for the first time on their wedding day. I saw their family and friends talking, laughing, and hugging.

I saw love.

I smiled.

Later, somewhere around the maid of honor’s Klingon blessing, I laughed…

then I thought about these two dorks… our dorks… April and Mariah.

Remember when I said tonight I find myself? Bear with me while I do. What I mean by that is I’m still learning about who I am. Like everyone else, I grew up knowing only what I personally experienced, read about or was told. I didn’t know everything. I never will. The world around us holds more thought, experience, and feeling than any one individual can possibly obtain in one lifetime. I was not raised in an affluent home, a tolerant home, an educated home. As a child, I heard just about every stereotype and slur there is. Alcohol and ash trays littered many flat surfaces in my home. Somewhere amongst the alleys, vacant lots, apartment parking lots, and trips to the welfare office I made a mental decision… a determination… not to propagate the kind of life I was born into. As quickly as I could I tried to distance myself from all the negatives surrounding me, but I needed to gain more life experience. That would come. In time, I traveled the world, glimpsed into other cultures, and soaked up every bit of life that I could. I got married, experienced the joy of having a family of my own, and grew… with them. Just when I was feeling confident about my progress as a human, April showed me that I had more to learn.

She came out.

It was, in typical April fashion, not graceful. To be fair, has coming out ever been graceful for anyone in the history of coming out? It wasn’t easy. It’s difficult to try to explain the insane amount of emotions that hit your brain and heart all at once. It’s like being told everything you know is wrong. First you’re confused, then you’re angry because you’re confused, then you sit down and start to think, like you’re thinking for the first time. As a kid, you don’t know otherwise so you just take whatever comes at you as “the way it is.” Check in the box. Done. Moving on. Once you’ve lived a certain number of years, you get comfortable with all of your checked boxes. You say to yourself, “I got this.” I know how things are “supposed to be.” Then, life throws something at you that goes against all that. Obviously, April always knew herself, her inner feelings, her thoughts, how everything was “supposed to be.” For us, we knew ourselves, our own inner feelings, thoughts, etc. When those two realities collided it was a bit of a train wreck for a while. Rarely is it easy to stop your brain and tell it to go in another direction, but that is what we are all learning to do. Slowly… but surely. Like I said, bear with me. I’m learning something new.

One thing that did not take long to learn was how much April loves Mariah. You can see it on April’s little, round, Charlie Brown face. She’s crazy about Mariah. It’s not fake. It’s not forced. It’s true… like the love my grandparents shared. While it may be different from what I have personally known, it’s beautiful just the same.

When our kids are born we say that we just hope they are healthy and have all their fingers and toes. Why do we add amendments to that wish when they get older? April and Mariah, I know you’re healthy, and I’m fairly certain you still have all of your fingers and toes. For that, I am happy. For everything else… I am super proud. You finding each other has helped me find more of me, and I will be forever thankful to you. I can’t wait to officially welcome Mariah into our family with the paper and vows and rings and such, but before we do that I’m adding the following amendments to our original parental wishes. I hope I’m not out of line speaking for the other parents when I say:

Live your life. Be happy. Enjoy every day you get to spend in each other’s company. Although you may face phobias, negativity, and even hate in your life… endure… together. Know that what you have found is rare and precious. Many people live their entire life never knowing the love you now know, so be grateful to each other, always. Support each other through every accomplishment and shortfall. Have fun doing dumb stuff. When Mariah cosplays as Lady Sylvanas Windrunner and proclaims “I’ve walked the realms of the dead. I have seen the infinite dark. Nothing you say or do could possibly frighten me.“… roll your eyes, pledge allegiance to the Horde, then join her on her quest into the regions of Lordaeron and the greater Eastern Kingdoms. When April spills her drink at every meal, snapchat it for me first, then smile and invest heavily in sippy cups. Laugh every day.

One last amendment… when we get old, check in on us from time to time and make sure we are healthy and still have all our digits.

We love you both very much. Can’t wait for your wedding.

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