Last weekend, Terri and I traveled to St. Louis to attend the wedding of my niece Kayte to her fiancé, Nate. While there was no opportunity to offer my thoughts on their marriage there, I decided to write them here.
Kayte, the first time I saw you I think you were almost two years old.
You were at your Aunt Sharon’s where she was babysitting you. As I came up to meet you for the first time, you assertively announced that you did not want to be picked up. Sharon saw my disappointment and said it wasn’t me as you did not like to be picked up by anyone (by anyone, I assumed, but your mom and dad).
I suspected even then that you had a strength of character that meant you were going to become someone very special.
I know I was only a sporadic presence in your life. I regret that I wasn’t able to see more of you and get to know you better at each stage of your life as you grew into the beautiful woman, and I mean both inside and out, you are today.
Everyone has regrets – the older one gets, the more you have. Anyone who tells you they have none are deceiving themselves or else have been dead for 20 years and have forgotten. The secret is to accept regrets as part of the cost of being human.
I always knew you were the greatest joy of your mom and dad. And I followed your growth as they kept me up to date on Nerinx, Loyola, St. Louis U. law school, protests outside military bases, and everything else.
Through all of it your increasing commitment to social justice was clear.
And as I saw at that first refusal to be picked up, you have become a force to be reckoned with.
Nate, I’ve only talked with you a few times – starting with Matt and Jen’s rehearsal dinner.
I liked you immediately – your honesty and decency were apparent (and after meeting your dad and hearing the words spoken about your mom, I can see the source of those qualities).
You also embody the saying, in various forms going back as far as Cicero, that the eyes are the window to the soul – yours show both confidence and vulnerability. They both represent your strengths.
Life has thrown you some curves with pain and real loss – and sorry to say, there will be more later. But know that hardship and pain in life can bring wisdom.
In academia or industry, you will encounter, if you haven’t already, self-absorbed jerks who will do what they can to crush your spirit. Don’t let the bastards win.
And I guess that’s a segue to the point I really wanted to make.
John Gierach is a prolific Colorado author of books related to his fly fishing adventures – the latter is of importance only to those of us who love fly fishing. He has spent years experiencing memorable companions and guides, fish caught and lost, and various adventures and mishaps; all have given him keen insights into life and people.
One of the comments in his latest book has stayed with me. He said people spend their twenties and thirties reinventing themselves; their forties and beyond are for becoming the best of what they’ve become.
Both of you are incredible people, each possessing an obvious sense of purpose, a commitment to justice and society, and a love of family and friends. You have great careers and bright futures. From where I sit, I think your time for reinvention is about over.
Now as you take your first steps together as a married couple, you each have the capability and power to help each other become the best of what you’ve become. And together, you can live exceptional lives filled with shared accomplishment and joy.
The years will pass quicker than you can imagine – don’t allow them to do so without continually building on the commitment you made to each other last Saturday.
One other thing.
As you’ve already lived together, you know a shared life can be difficult at times. I think fly fishing can be a source of inspiration for handling those times.
I’m talking about its ethos – not its technique. At its best, fly fishing is about slowing down and focusing.
It’s the same with those difficult times: slow down and focus on what’s important. And one thing I’ve learned is that you generally won’t go wrong keeping your mouth shut.
I wish you both a happy and long life together. May all your dreams and hopes come true.