August 16th, 2015, 2:00 A.M.I was tired. I crawled into bed with previously unnoticed blisters on the tops of my baby toes. Adrienne's dress was hanging across the open drawer. I smiled. I kissed a peaceful Sven, pulled the sheet up to my chin and I promptly fell asleep. We were seated in a roller coaster. The silver safety bar was locked over all of our laps. I watched a large grease-lined, thumbnail of the carnie, push the green button. That was more than thirty years ago. Sometimes love is so powerful that you forget to look around at all of the people that you will be taking along on your ride, if you choose to step on a roller coaster. Your children, your parents, your brothers, your sisters and your friends. And you don't understand until it is too late, that you will leave people behind, standing on the hot asphalt, with bewildered eyes, open mouths, broken ties and broken hearts. Or maybe, you do. They watch you slowly climb up that first steep incline of the steel tracks. Stomachs are noisy with butterflies and silent prayers are being said. Adrienne was six years old the day she was whisked up into that roller coaster with Sven, my sons Marques and Rene and me. Adrienne is my step daughter. She is a feisty little thing. A combination of both her mother's beauty and her father's uncanny ability to make a mess of any kind, in any room, at anytime, in record time. At the age of twelve, tires squealed into our driveway in the dark of night. "It's your turn Sven!" I heard the scream of her mother. Adrienne was in trouble again. And Adrienne was ours to keep for a while. The very first week of our new arrangement, the police brought her home after curfew. "I was going to return it," she defended herself. "I didn't steal it." I guess she thought we wouldn't notice that she was out of the house, riding on a 'borrowed' mini bike, without a license or permission or ANY, little, fucking, thing, while we were asleep. It wasn't long before we knew the dreaded high school principal's, voice, face and the way his left eye twitched when he was pissed. I have nothing against principals. When I was a kid, our principal was Mr. Blackman, which is a scary name. I was in his office once. But, I was more afraid of Mary Worth, who we'd been trying to summon to the mirror in the bathroom, so that we could see all the blood, than I was of Mr. Blackman. "I do believe in Mary Worth. I do believe in Mary Worth. I do believe in Mary Worth," we'd chanted. Please, do not try this at home. And just when she was sure to pop out at us, we were hauled away and given a lecture. We have two practicing principals in our family. So, I hang out with principals a lot. Principals, are real people, people. But, I can tell you first hand, they are a lot more fun at cottages, parties and Thanksgiving, than they are while sitting in those stuffy little offices, with papers piled all over the place, telling a parent, such as perhaps me, over a speaker phone, that my daughter, Adrienne, was caught smoking a cigarette with her feet up on his desk. So, instead of three days of, in-school detention, that he'd been planning to hand to her for a smaller, previous crime, her new sentence would now be three days of, out of school suspension. This was a dream come true for the person featured in this story. Adrienne's mother called that office up shortly after and said, "If there are any more issues with MY daughter, YOU will notify SVEN or YOU will notify ME. YOU will not call MILLIE NOE. Damn it to hell!" Thank God for that call. Because there were many more. And many more detentions and lots of unexpected situations in the future. The girl was grounded ninety percent of her teen age years. It was not a problem for her. She only stayed home when she was not grounded. Teacher conferences were nothing but a bunch of reruns and they were not the Leave it to Beaver show. Adrienne ran with an older crowd of school dodging, cigarette smoking, tough, kids. I am pretty sure that she was the leader of the pack. Hatred towards the step mother oozed out of the pores of the woman who gave birth to Adrienne. And Adrienne felt much the same. I'm not sure when she opened her first can of hops or took her first sip of Boones Farm Apple Wine, or the equivalent, behind PDQ or the equivalent, but she was very young. That led her down a road filled with bad decisions, anguish, counseling, a little jail time, rehab, bad decisions, anguish, counseling, rehab, and just plain old, fucking, bad times, all the way into her adulthood, because she couldn't just stop with the hops. It was a hot day when I met him. I put the vacuum down and walked out the door. "Hi, Millie," said Adrienne. "This is Angel." Angel was standing in my driveway, wearing a navy blue baseball cap, over his black hair and a dark pair of sunglasses, covered his eyes. I barely acknowledged him. I think I nodded and managed to squeak out a, "hello." But, I don't believe I smiled. "Just another loser," I figured. "I brought these for you," she said, and handed me a pair of pretty sandals that she said hurt her feet. And then they drove away. Adrienne's troubles did not disappear when Angel came into her life. But they lessened a bit. And Angel's troubles increased a bit. He spent many days at her side while she tried to regain her health, her heart and her soul. And then their life began to even out. Adrienne was happy. She started to make good decisions. And then it seemed that there were more good times than there were bad times. They made it to family functions. They were involved in the holidays. It was real nice. And then Angel got sick. Angel avoided doctors. Angel didn't have insurance. And Angel had diabetes. I walked into our house on a Sunday afternoon, just this last spring. Sven held out the phone. "Adrienne says they are going to get married." I grabbed it. "What?" I said. "Really?" "Did Dad already tell you?" she said. "Yes. That's awesome." "Um, Millie, did Dad tell you the other part of the story?" "What other part of, what other story?" "We want to get married soon. We are afraid Angel might not make it."
SHITThe preparations began, for the most beautiful wedding that I believed we could afford and what Sven believed was a ridiculous amount of money. New garage doors with automatic openers were installed before the three million bats and four million swallows could move back in for another summer and shit all over our cars and our D.J. Flowers were planted. Trees were trimmed. Invitations were ordered. And then Nicolette, daughter-in-law, matron of honor, held a wedding shower for the bride to be. "So, what about this wedding?" said Adrienne's mother to me. "What can I do to help?" "Um, how about if you do the flowers, the cake and Adrienne's dress?" I said. I knew she would do well at all those things. You see, we used to be friends, before I stepped on that roller coaster with Sven and her daughter and left her standing on the hot asphalt. Just thirteen days before the big day, came some bad news. Angel was in the hospital. He was having trouble breathing. Just eleven days before the big day, we learned that Adrienne was still capable of making bad decisions. It seemed that the roller coaster was out of control again and heading for a turn that was way too sharp for the speed we were traveling. It looked as though every body was going to be thrown from their seats and over a cliff. It looked like there would be no survivors. But that carnie and his greasy lined fingernails pulled some hidden lever and gave it just the right amount of pressure and slowed that thing down. There were a few bumps, a couple of bruises, some minor scrapes, a lot of screaming and some tears were shed. But that was about it. And then the guy standing there, holding onto the lever said, "What in the fuck are you people still doing on my roller coaster? This ain't no free ride, ya know. Now get the hell out of here."
August 15, 2015 2:00 P.M.
WEDDING AT 3:00 P.M.
"You may kiss the bride." he said.The crowd sitting and standing in the blazing sun cheered as the couple, kissed for the first time, as man and wife. At the reception Sven made the first toast. Then it was the best man. Then the matron of honor had everyone sniffling. And soon after, Adrienne's mother and I walked up to the microphone and we turned around. We stood in front of the crowd of happy faces and raised champagne glasses, framed by an elegant white tent, draped with tea lights, white linens and a beautiful, breathless, teary eyed, bride, seated in the middle of the head table, next to her handsome husband. "How should I introduce you?" asked my nephew. Adrienne's mother looked at Magic Mike and said, "Introduce us as the mothers of the bride." John Hyatt sang, "Have a little faith in me," as Adrienne and Angel pressed against each other in the spotlight and swayed to their wedding song. And on this night, more than thirty years later, all was forgiven. When love is so strong that you jump on a roller coaster and you take some people with you and you leave some people behind, that is how long it takes.