by David Perkins
First, I have to thank all of you, because I would never have bet that forty people could keep a secret for three weeks. Especially given some of the people who are in this room. Thank all of you for being here. Thank you for helping to keep this a secret for so long. And thank you for helping to make this a surprise. Because, I think it was.
As most of you know, Ryan’s actual birthday is next Friday, so I’m sure she’ll be expecting another gift at that time. But, you may not know that our 19th wedding anniversary is three days after her birthday, on Labor Day, and there’s another gift you’ll need to keep in mind.
So we gather here on the eve of our 19th wedding anniversary, and of Ryan’s 29th birthday. It may have just struck some of you that she was a child bride of only ten when we got married. You may have even wondered how I avoided incarceration for the first eight years of our marriage, but it’s actually going to get worse. Next year, she will have been only nine when we got married, and the year after that, only eight. It brings a whole new meaning to the term “cradle robber.”
Some of you were actually there nineteen years ago, when the little tyke and I took our vows. I don’t know if you remember, but it was one of those incredibly bright, sunny days in the valley. We were married at The Little Brown Church in the Valley. It was this tiny, little wood-paneled church, and it was really dark inside. I was standing at the alter with my best man, and the minister, running my lines. Rehearsing, in my head, this little speech that I was going to do, in addition to the off-the-shelf vows. It was a little snippet of Richard III. Because, all of you who know me well, know that I’m a Shakespeare kind of guy.
So, I was standing there, running my Shakespeare through my head, waiting for my big moment. The music started, and the front doors of the church swung open, and this amazingly bright shaft of light shot through the church. Because it was so bright outside, and so dark inside, you couldn’t see anything outside the doors, staring into this unbelievable light. It was almost ethereal, like God was shining his big flashlight through the doors. And after a few seconds, Ryan stepped into the light in her white gown, on the arm of her father, Joe, and it was an entrance worthy of Elvis. All that was missing was the smoke machine, and Also Sprach Zarathustra playing in the background.
I was still standing there, running my Shakespeare, and she sort of floated down the aisle on this beam of light. Now, I should say, in addition to being a “Shakespeare kind of guy” that also, deep down inside where it counts, I’m really very superficial. So I knew, before this moment, that Ryan was a beautiful woman. It was a big factor in my accepting her proposal in the first place. But on that day, and in that moment, and in that unreal light, she just took my breath away.
And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that, because of all this, I forgot my Shakespeare, but that’s not what happened. She came down the aisle, and she reached my side, and I was so stunned by this angel that came to marry me, that I couldn’t speak. But we got through the vows, and I even got through my Shakespeare, but no one in the church heard it, except Ryan and the minister. Because I was speaking in such a whisper. Even my own mother said, “Only a big goober cries at his own wedding.”
So, we got through that, and after a few years she finally reached her child-bearing years and, at sixteen, she gave us Austin. And I’m sure he would agree that she’s been a good mother, and a good friend. Now, he stands before us today, only thirteen years old, but he faces a day when he and his mother will be the same age. He’ll have to start hanging out with her, going to parties, and night-clubbing, while I sit at home in my motorized chair, eating cream of wheat for dinner, and watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island.
I’ve heard it said, that men look at themselves in the mirror and see things much better than they really are, while women look in the mirror and see things much worse than they really are. Sometimes, I see Ryan looking in the mirror, and perhaps fretting that she doesn’t look as good as she once did. And God knows that I’m not the magnificent specimen I was when she married me. But when I look at her, I still see the stunning beauty that floated down the aisle on that beam of light nineteen years ago, to listen to me whisper a piece of Richard III in her ear.
Will you please lift your glasses, and join me in wishing my child bride a happy birthday.