An essay by guest Gero-Punk
Theodore (Teddy) Gajewski
When my dad started dating a woman half his age, I was concerned. Heather, my father’s new girlfriend, was twenty-seven years old, and my dad was fifty-four. She was closer to my age than to his. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy for him because my parents had been through a difficult divorce, but the age difference worried me. The thought crept into my mind that my father might end up marrying a gold digger. However, I dismissed the idea considering that my father is far from wealthy. He is a doctor but at a university, and he pays for two private schools, a house, and an apartment. In the end, I concluded Heather deserved a chance, and I decided to get to know her. At first, she was shy and quiet, but two months later we were good friends. To my surprise, I found her to be kind and caring. She listened patiently to my girl problems and even taught me how to ice skate. Later that year, my father told me that he and Heather were getting married.
My dad’s wedding was a mixture of young twenty-five year olds, who were friends of Heather, and fifty to sixty year olds, who were friends of my father. The wedding itself went off without a hitch, but the reception was a different matter. My uncle gave a toast to the happy couple, and it was truly awful, tactless, and crass. First of all, he was drunk, so drunk he could barely walk in a straight line. Secondly, he was reluctant to desert the wedding caterer, with whom he was flirting, in order to come to the podium. In his speech he jokingly talked about how he had had a bad feeling about my father’s first wedding, and that he didn’t feel good about this one either. After an uncomfortable pause, which seemed interminable, a few guests chuckled politely. His disjointed speech, rather than celebrating the union of two exceptional human beings, only served to undermine the occasion. Once again, I looked around the room at the division between the guests of the bride and the groom and was struck by the extreme awkwardness of this event. I felt like I was at an after party for a football game, with the two teams not wanting to mingle with one another. My grey-haired father’s friends were seated at the circular tables located along the peripheries, while Heather’s young high-strung friends crowded around the long rectangular table in the center, where the cake was located. The subtle glances my father’s friends gave to the rambunctious group of young people partying and drinking gave me the impression that they did not approve of him marrying this young woman. I could only assume that Heather’s friends felt the same way about her marrying a much older man. I could understand the guests’ uneasiness about the marriage; I had once felt the same way.
My uncle’s terrible speech coupled with the guests’ apprehensiveness made it clear that what was needed was for grace and love to be given freely. These two people, my dad and step-mom, were making a commitment to each other and were asking for the blessing and well wishes of their friends and families. Although I had just started my freshmen year in high school, I knew it was up to me to salvage this celebration. Uninvited, I went up to the podium to offer my own impromptu toast. In my speech, I told everyone how I had always wanted my parents to get back together, but if my dad had to remarry anyone, then I was glad it was to Heather. The tension seemed to lessen because of my speech. People seemed to take my meaning that my father and Heather were two people in love, who wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. As I walked away from the podium, people applauded loudly and enthusiastically. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Heather was moved to tears.
Three years after their wedding, my father and Heather are still happily married and they even have a daughter named Sarah. The marriage is not without problems, but it is clear they still love each other very much, and are committed to living a meaningful life. The experience taught me to let preconceived judgments go and give people a chance. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my family and let Heather into my life. Most importantly, I learned that the key to my personal happiness is to choose love and acceptance.
Teddy Gajewski is a senior at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas. He enjoys acting in school plays and one day he hopes to be an attorney.