Sunday, May 29, 2011


The rehearsal dinner was at Buckner’s Brewery, which backs up to the twelve foot high levy that keeps Cape Girardeau, Missouri from being a lake.

The locals don’t seem to notice. I guess when you are born and raised within earshot of the mighty Mississippi you get used to it.

But it was all very novel for the Brennan and Schafer clans, which assembled from Michigan, Illinois and Florida to celebrate the marriage of Thomas E. Brennan III to Meghan Elizabeth Jones.

What are the chances that a young man who grew up in East Lansing and now lives and works in Grand Rapids would meet, court and marry a girl who was born in Cape Girardeau and worked in Shaumburg, outside of Chicago, Illinois?

Mighty slim in my day.

Odds were you’d marry someone who was born less than twenty-five miles from you. A school mate. Your pal’s sister. A bridesmaid at your brother’s wedding.

But somebody from some place you never heard of? Not likely.

And we weren’t surrounded by men and women in their twenties and thirties for whom the prospect of marriage and family is seen as an aberration, a burden, a detour on the road to happiness. At best an interruption of the good life.

Frank Sinatra sang it for us: Love and marriage go together like horse and carriage. Taking up casual residence with a person of the opposite sex was a criminal offense known as lewd and lascivious cohabitation. If you were open and notorious about it, it might just become a common law marriage.

The idea of advertising for companionship in the personals column of the classified page was considered a sign of discouragement, if not desperation.

All that has changed. Now there’s match dot com.

And that’s how they met. Shared religion. Shared politics. Shared family experience and values.

Pictures exchanged. Emails flew back and forth. Laughs were shared. Opinions expressed. Phone calls and Skypes turned acquaintances into friends and friends into lovers.

By the time they met face to face they knew each other pretty well. All it took was a few kisses to seal the deal.

He asked her father for her hand, bought her a ring and proposed. She said yes and immediately set about planning the wedding.

No big problem. That’s what she does for the Marriott chain. Plan weddings and such.

Watching the merger of the Brennan and Jones families has been an exhilarating exercise for me. My son, Thomas E. Brennan, Jr., the retired judge, father of the groom and host of the rehearsal dinner, expressed it this way in his welcoming remarks:

“Frank and I are already good buddies even though we have little in common! He runs, I walk. He’s a fisherman, I’m a golfer. He plays racquetball, I play hockey. He knows computers, I know the law. He’s a Tiger, I’m a Spartan. He’s a gourmet cook, I love to eat. He says, “ya all” and I say “eh?” And he’s a grandpa and I’m not .. yet.

But here’s what we have in common: a shared Catholic faith, fantastic spouses, beloved children, similar politics, and a taste for beer! I really like this guy! In his kitchen, right above the stove, in large stenciled letters is his mantra, 'It’s All Good.' So I’d say we’re both full of happiness.”

The wedding at Saint Vincent’s Church was spectacular: a bevy of beautiful bridesmaids, a cadre of spiffy groomsmen, a couple of giggling flower girls, a stunning bride and grinning groom presided over by a priest who has known the Jones family since Meghan was a toddler.

Then came the reception, about an hour away at a vineyard set above the lush Missouri countryside, the tour de force of a professional event planner who just happened to be the bride.

It all took place on May 21, 2011. That was the day Harold Camping predicted would be the end of the world. For Tom and Meghan, it was the beginning.

But 270 miles to the West and twenty four hours later, it was indeed the end of the world for over 120 people in Joplin, Missouri.

The ferocious power of Mother Nature turned that town into rubble, snatched babies from their mothers’ arms, threw a three hundred pound patient out of a hospital window and sucked a high school graduate out of the roof of his car.

The juxtaposition of the predicted Rapture, the leveling of Joplin and the wedding of my grandson has sparked a kind of philosophical melancholy in this old judge.

Life ends when it ends. We know not the day nor the hour. Our faith tells us to live each day as though it is our last, leaving no debt unpaid nor duty undone.

Still, it brings a flush of warmth to see young people, good young people with their heads screwed on properly and their hearts in the right place stepping out together into the sunrise of a new day and a new life. Excited. Hopeful. Unafraid.

Makes me think this old earth’s going to last a while longer.

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