Jillian is getting married Saturday

It was Jillian and Ryan’s day, yes. It was a day for anyone who ever happened into Jillian’s life, and took the time to see my daughter, not simply look at her. / The Enquirer/Paul Daugherty

It was Jillian and Ryan’s day, yes. It was a day for anyone who ever happened into Jillian’s life, and took the time to see my daughter, not simply look at her. / The Enquirer/Paul Daugherty

For months, Jillian would say, “I’m getting nervous about my wedding” and I would answer with, “Jills, it’s not for another 13 months.” Or a year, or six months or. . .

It’s here. On Saturday night at 6, my 25-year-old daughter and her boyfriend of more than a decade, the estimable Ryan Mavriplis, will be wed. It’s the latest dream completed, the newest springboard to whatever magic comes next.

“I’m so happy, Dad,” is what Jillian said about that on Sunday, when she took me out for a Father’s Day breakfast. “And I’m still nervous.”

They met nearly 11 years ago, on a soccer field. TOPS soccer is a league for kids with disabilities. Ryan’s dad was the coach. One day after practice, Ryan pulled Jillian aside. He had something to ask her. “There is this thing called Homecoming,” he began. “It’s a dance. Have you heard of it?”

Jillian had not. But it sounded exciting.

“I would like to take you,” Ryan said.

They stood together across the field, away from where the parents sat in their lawn chairs, awaiting the end of practice. After the invite, Jillian burst across the field, smiling as if she’d just won the world and all the joy in it. “I have a date!” she said. “I have a date!”

My biggest worry for our daughter never involved getting her educated or helping her become a responsible and independent adult. We’d manage that. It was that she would not enjoy the fun and rituals of growing up with friends. The sleepovers, the play dates, the proms and the Homecomings. The feel of a  young man’s arm across her shoulders. The pomp of corsages,  the comfort in belonging. All the things that put the living in life.

Kerry and I could force the school people to follow the law. We couldn’t force Jillian’s peers to accept her. I worried about the empty weekend nights.

That all ended 11 years ago, with that first Homecoming evening.

Jillian and Ryan have been together ever since. They love, they fight, they’ve been apart, they’ve reconciled. Just like the rest of us. Through the years, they’ve earned a mutual respect and trust. It culminates Saturday at 6, in an outdoor ceremony within a nature preserve. Some 160 folks will bear witness. In some way, each has been touched by the couple’s pure kindness. In turn, Jillian and Ryan’s lives have been improved by each member of the village that will attend Saturday.

That’s how it’s supposed to work.

On our list of possibilities for Jillian, marriage was assumed. Kerry and I never thought Jillian wouldn’t get married. And here she is.

Check back here next week. We’ll post some photos. I’ll write a little something, once I’ve regained my composure.

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