“You don’t sound embarrassed,” I said. “You sound impressed.”
“I’m not embarrassed. He’s telling the truth. It’s us. Nothing about us would ever bother me, Ray. Besides, it’s probably the most honest thing he’s said all day,” Tanner said, staring at the stage with an interest that made me uncomfortable.
“We thought we were going to lose him,” the senator continued. My mother reached out for a handkerchief that one of the guards handed her and dabbed at the corner of her eyes.
“Nice touch, mother,” I whispered.
“The doctors all said the same thing…that there was no hope for him. They told his parents, Chuck and Ranae to make their final arrangements.” The senator sought them out in the crowd and nodded toward them. “Nice to see you two here,” he said with a smile when he found them. “We were all preparing for the death of my daughter’s best friend.” The crowd gasped. He had them eating out of the palm of his hand, and they were jumping up to eat every morsel he was throwing at them. “It was a strange thing to be thinking about, especially since Margot and I, and I know Tanner’s parents as well, always thought that our two crazy kids would grow up to get married and have a family of their own.” The senator’s eyes went misty. He should win an Emmy. My mother walked up to him and dabbed at his eyes with her handkerchief. No, these two should win an Oscar. “Sorry about that,” he said sniffling. He paused for a moment before looking out into the crowd. “It’s funny how God works. You never know what his plan is going to be. Chuck and Ranae had given up the hope of ever becoming grandparents. Our hearts ached for our daughter and the future that was no longer a possibility for her. On the day that Tanner received the news that his time here on God’s great creation of a planet was coming to an end, my daughter and Tanner made a decision that I don’t agree with, that I don’t support. But in many ways, I see it now as part of the bigger picture; God’s great plan that we as his followers don’t ever have any hope in understanding. That decision resulted in my daughter and Tanner coming to me and my wife in my home office. They informed me that she was pregnant, and I openly wept. My own daughter. The daughter who I raised to clearly understand the values which the Price Family stood for—and believed in—had come to me and told me that she disobeyed my rules and God’s law.
It wasn’t until later that night that I woke from a restless night of sleep and it dawned on me. This is God’s plan. This was his way of providing Chuck and Ranae with the grandchild they’d given up on having and it gave me new cause. And this cause was to reach out to every specialist and doctor in this great country, and even the world, to see if I could save my daughter’s hope for a future, a family, of her own.”
Half the crowd was in tears and Tanner leaned into my neck. “This all sounds so much better than ‘my daughter had pity sex with her sick boyfriend and they didn’t use a condom.’” My father’s head snapped up and he shot us a look that I knew was meant for me, as if he’d heard Tanner’s remark although it was impossible.
“With the help of Dr. Reynolds, in Tennessee, we were able to bring Tanner back from the brink.” The crowd started to applaud and again the senator held up his hand. “I am now proud to say that Tanner has been in full remission from his leukemia and continues to show no signs of the cancer that almost took him from us.” This time he lets the crowd clap. “Come on up here, you two. Bring Samuel.” A hundred pairs of eyes turned to us and we had no choice but to make our way to the stage. Samuel clapped along with the crowd and laughed. I would have given anything to be shrouded in the same beautiful ignorant bliss.
We stood next to my mother who made a show of taking Samuel from my hands and putting him on her hip just as I had him. She turned to the crowd and waved and Samuel mimicked her which just made them grow more wild. “Now I haven’t told you the best part,” the senator said, motioning for the crowd to quiet down. He was the maestro and they were his orchestra, playing to every one of his gestures. This was the grand finale, because I knew what was coming, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. “This morning, in a small ceremony, surrounded by only family and their son, my daughter and Tanner Redmond were married.” The applause from only a crowd of a hundred or so people, was deafening. The senator shouted into the microphone above the crowd. “So, I would like to take this time to introduce you to the new Mr. & Mrs. Redmond and their beautiful son, my grandson, Samuel. May God bless your union.” He came over to me and cupped my face in his palms pulling me in for a hug that made my stomach turn.