Title: The Wedding.
Author: Nicholas Sparks.
Genre: Fiction, chick-lit, romance.
Publication Date: 2003.
Summary: After thirty years of marriage, Wilson Lewis, son-in-law of Allie and Noah Calhoun, is forced to admit that the romance has gone out of his marriage. Despite the shining example of Allie and Noah's marriage, Wilson is himself a man unable to easily express his emotions. A successful estate attorney, he has provided well for his family, but now, with his daughter's upcoming wedding, he is forced to face the fact that he and Jane have grown apart, and she may not love him anymore. Now, with the memories of his in-laws' magnificent fifty-year love affair as his guide, Wilson struggles to find his way back into the heart of the woman he adores.
My rating: 5.5/10.
♥ Is it possible, I wonder, for a man to truly change? Or do character and habit form the immovable boundaries of our lives?
♥ All of those events create their own stresses, and when two people live together, the stress flows both ways. This, I’ve come to believe, is both the blessing and the curse of marriage. It’s a blessing because there’s an outlet for the everyday strains of life; it’s a curse because the outlet is someone you care deeply about.
♥ “Do you remember when Allie got sick? When I used to read to her?”
“Yes,” I answered, feeling the memory pull at me. He used to read to her from a notebook that he’d written before they moved to Creekside. The notebook held the story of how he and Allie had fallen in love, and sometimes after he read it aloud to her, Allie would become momentarily lucid, despite the ravages of Alzheimer’s. The lucidity never lasted long—and as the disease progressed further, it ceased completely—but when it happened, Allie’s improvement was dramatic enough for specialists to travel from Chapel Hill to Creekside in the hopes of understanding it. That reading to Allie sometimes worked, there was no doubt. Why it worked, however, was something the specialists were never able to figure out.
“Do you know why I did that?” he asked.
I brought my hands to my lap. “I believe so,” I answered. “It helped Allie. And because she made you promise you would.”
“Yes,” he said, “that’s true.” He paused, and I could hear him wheezing, the sound like air through an old accordion. “But that wasn’t the only reason I did it. I also did it for me. A lot of folks didn’t understand that.”
Though he trailed off, I knew he wasn’t finished, and I said nothing. In the silence, the swan stopped circling and moved closer. Except for a black spot the size of a silver dollar on its chest, the swan was the color of ivory. It seemed to hover in place when Noah began speaking again.
“Do you know what I most remember about the good days?” he asked.
I knew he was referring to those rare days when Allie recognized him, and I shook my head. “No,” I answered.
“Falling in love,” he said. “That’s what I remember. On her good days, it was like we were just starting out all over again.”
He smiled. “That’s what I mean when I say that I did it for me. Every time I read to her, it was like I was courting her, because sometimes, just sometimes, she would fall in love with me again, just like she had a long time ago. And that’s the most wonderful feeling in the world. How many people are ever given that chance? To have someone you love fall in love with you over and over?”
♥ I knew that Anna’s comment had brought back a painful memory for her, for it was this same lack of faith that led us to be married on the courthouse steps. At the time, I felt strongly that marrying in the church would make me a hypocrite.
was an additional reason we were married by a judge instead of a minister, one that had to do with pride. I didn’t want Jane’s parents to pay for a traditional church wedding, even though they could have afforded it. As a parent myself, I now view such a duty as the gift that it is, but at the time, I believed that I alone should be responsible for the cost. If I wasn’t able to pay for a proper reception, my reasoning went, then I wouldn’t have one.
At the time, I could not afford a gala affair. I was new at the firm and making a reasonable salary, but I was doing my best to save for a down payment on a home. Though we were able to purchase our first house nine months after we were married, I no longer think such a sacrifice worthwhile. Frugality, I’ve learned, has its own cost, one that sometimes lasts forever.
♥ “Well, old Gus,” Noah explained, “used to love tall tales, the funnier the better. And sometimes we used to sit on the porch at night trying to come up with our own tall tales to make each other laugh. There were some good ones over the years, but you want to know what my favorite one was? The tallest tale Gus ever uttered? Now, before I say this, you have to understand that Gus had been married to the same gal for half a century, and they had eight kids. Those two had been through just about everything together. So anyway, we’d been telling these stories back and forth all night, and he said, ‘I’ve got one.’ So then Gus took a deep breath, and with a straight face, he looked me right in the eye and said, ‘Noah, I understand women.’ ”
Noah chuckled, as if hearing it for the first time. “The point is,” he continued, “that there’s no man alive who can honestly say those words and mean them. It just isn’t possible, so there’s no use trying. But that doesn’t mean you can’t love them anyway. And it doesn’t mean that you should ever stop doing your best to let them know how important they are to you.”
♥ In addition to frequently placing my career above the needs of my family, I’ve always taken the stability of our marriage for granted. As I saw it, ours was a relationship without major problems, and Lord knows I was never the type to run around doing the little things that men like Noah did for their wives. When I thought about it—which, truthfully, wasn’t often—I reassured myself that Jane had always known what kind of man I was, and that would always be enough.
But love, I’ve come to understand, is more than three words mumbled before bedtime. Love is sustained by action, a pattern of devotion in the things we do for each other every day.
Now, as I stared at the picture, all I could think was that thirty years of innocent neglect had made my love seem like a lie, and it seemed that the bill had finally come due. We were married in name only. We hadn’t made love in nearly half a year, and the few kisses we shared had little meaning for either of us. I was dying on the inside, aching for all that we’d lost, and as I stared at our wedding photograph, I hated myself for allowing it to happen.
♥ I was going to walk across the room, I told myself, and reach for her hand, just as I had outside the chapel at Duke. She would wonder what was happening—just as she wondered then—but I’d pull her body next to mine. I’d touch her face, then slowly close my eyes, and as soon as my lips touched hers, she’d know that it was unlike any kiss she’d ever received from me. It would be new but familiar; appreciative but filled with longing; and its very inspiration would evoke the same feelings in her. It would be, I thought, a new beginning to our lives, just as our first kiss had been so long ago.
..She paused for a moment, staring out the living room window, watching the gray sky as it slowly darkened in color. She was the greatest person I’ve ever known, and I would tell her this in the moments following our kiss.
♥ Watching her expressive face, I marveled at the fact that at one time or another, I’d kissed every part of it. I’ve never loved anyone but you, I wanted to say...
♥ The first time she did this, I remember thinking how right it felt. Though it sounds ridiculous, when a couple holds hands, it either feels right or it doesn’t. I suppose this has to do with the intertwining of fingers and the proper placement of the thumb, though when I tried to explain my reasoning to her, Jane laughed and asked me why it was so important to analyze.
♥ I had come to crave the quiet of the mornings. There were few cars out at this hour, and my senses seemed heightened. I could hear my breath, feel the pressure as my feet moved over the asphalt, watch the dawn as it unfolded—at first a faint light on the horizon, an orange glow over the treetops, then the steady displacement of black by gray. Even on dreary mornings, I found myself looking forward to my walks and wondering why I’d never exercised like this before.
♥ I knew that Noah sat here frequently in the evenings, for in the drawers were the possessions he treasured above all else: the hand-scripted notebook in which he’d memorialized his love affair with Allie, his leather-bound diaries whose pages were turning yellow with age, the hundreds of letters he’d written to Allie over the years, and the last letter she ever wrote to him. There were other items, too—dried flowers and newspaper clippings about Allie’s shows, special gifts from the children, the edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman that had been his companion throughout World War II.
Perhaps I was exhibiting my instincts as an estate lawyer, but I wondered what would become of the items when Noah was finally gone. How would it be possible to distribute these things among the children? The easiest solution would be to give everything to the children equally, but that posed its own problems. Who, for instance, would keep the notebook in their home? Whose drawer would house the letters or his diaries? It was one thing to divide the major assets, but how was it possible to divide the heart?
♥ As I glanced toward the window, it was a moment before the answer came, and all at once, I knew I hadn’t been imagining it. No, somehow, even accidentally, I’d stumbled onto the key to my success in courting her so long ago. Though I’d been the same man I’d been for the past year—a man deeply in love with his wife and trying his best to keep her—I’d made one small but significant adjustment.
This week, I hadn’t been focusing on my problems and doing my best to correct them. This week, I’d been thinking of her; I’d committed myself to helping her with family responsibilities, I’d listened with interest whenever she spoke, and everything we discussed seemed new. I’d laughed at her jokes and held her as she’d cried, apologized for my faults, and showed her the affection she both needed and deserved. In other words, I’d been the man she’d always wanted, the man I once had been, and—like an old habit rediscovered—I now understood that it was all I ever needed to do for us to begin enjoying each other’s company again.
♥ He motioned toward the house. “I’m glad you’re finally doing something about it. That’s a wonderful place. Always has been.”
He removed his spectacles and began wiping the lenses with his shirttail. “Yeah, I’ll tell you—it’s been a shame watching what’s become of it over the last few years. All it ever needed was for someone to care for it again.” He put his spectacles back on, smiling softly. “It’s funny, but have you ever noticed that the more special something is, the more people seem to take it for granted? It’s like they think it won’t ever change. Just like this house here. All it ever needed was a little attention, and it would never have ended up like this in the first place.”
♥ “I thought you were sleeping.”
“Nah,” he said. He began to sit up in the bed. “I had to fake it. She’s been fussing over me all day like a baby. She even followed me into the bathroom again.”
I laughed. “Just what you wanted, right? A little pampering from your daughter?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s just what I need. I didn’t have half that fussing when I was in the hospital. By the way she was acting, you’d think I had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel.”
♥ Throughout our marriage, you’ve been my dream, and I’ll never forget how lucky I’ve felt ever since the first day we walked together in the rain.
I often think back on that day. It’s an image that has never left me, and I find myself experiencing a sense of déjà vu whenever lightning streaks across the sky. In those moments, it seems as if we’re starting over once more, and I can feel the hammering of my young man’s heart, a man who’d suddenly glimpsed his future and couldn’t imagine a life without you.
I experience this same sensation with nearly every memory I can summon. If I think of Christmas, I see you sitting beneath the tree, joyfully handing out gifts to our children. When I think of summer nights, I feel the press of your hand against my own as we walked beneath the stars. Even at work, I frequently find myself glancing at the clock and wondering what you’re doing at that exact moment. Simple things—I might imagine a smudge of dirt on your cheek as you work in the garden, or how you look as you lean against the counter, running a hand through your hair while you visit on the phone. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you are there, in everything I am, in everything I’ve ever done, and looking back, I know that I should have told you how much you’ve always meant to me.
♥ “It sure brings back memories,” she said. “Daddy used to listen to big band all the time.” She ran a hand slowly through her hair, lost in reminiscence. “Did you know that he and Mom used to dance in the kitchen? One minute, they’d be washing dishes, and the next minute, they’d have their arms around each other and be swaying to the music. The first time I saw them, I guess I was around six and didn’t think anything of it. When I got a little older, Kate and I used to giggle when we saw them. We’d point and snicker, but they’d just laugh and keep right on dancing, like they were the only two people in the world.”
“I never knew that.”
“The last time I ever saw them do it was about a week before they moved to Creekside. I was coming over to see how they were doing. I saw them through the kitchen window when I was parking, and I just started to cry. I knew it was the last time I’d ever see them do it here, and it felt like my heart broke in two.”
♥ “I wish they could understand.”
“My kids. The nurses. Even Dr. Barnwell.”
“You mean about Allie being the swan?”
For the first time, he looked my way. “No. About me being Noah. About me being the same man I’ve always been.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant but knew enough to stay silent while I waited for him to explain.
“You should have seen them today. All of them. So what if I didn’t want to talk to them about it? No one believes me anyway, and I didn’t feel like trying to convince them that I know what I’m talking about. They just would have argued with me about it like they always do. And then, when I didn’t eat my lunch? Well, you would have thought that I’d tried to jump out the window. I’m upset, and I have every right to be upset. When I get upset, I don’t eat. I’ve been that way my whole life, but now, they act like my mental abilities have slipped another notch. Kate was in here trying to spoon-feed me and pretending nothing happened. Can you believe that? And then Jeff and David showed up, and they explained it away by saying that she probably went off to forage, completely ignoring the fact that I feed her twice a day. None of them seems to care what might have happened to her.”
As I struggled to understand what was going on, I suddenly realized that there was more to Noah’s sudden rage than the way his children had reacted.
“What’s really bothering you?” I asked gently. “That they acted as if it were just a swan?” I paused. “That’s what they’ve always believed, and you know that. You’ve never let it get to you before.”
“They don’t care.”
“If anything,” I countered, “they care too much.”
He turned away stubbornly.
“I just don’t understand it,” he said again. “Why would she leave?”
With that, it suddenly dawned on me that he wasn’t angry with his kids. Nor was he simply reacting to the fact that the swan had vanished. No, it was something deeper, something I wasn’t sure he would admit even to himself.
..Noah, I knew, was angry with himself. He’d spent the last four years believing that the swan was Allie—he’d needed to believe that she would find a way to come back to him—but the swan’s inexplicable disappearance had shaken his faith profoundly.
As I left his room, I could almost hear him asking, What if the kids had been right all along?