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A young Canadian boy named Kyle, had a complicated relationship with his father. His dad had met Kyle’s mom when he was in the army, and quickly got into a relationship with her. He and Kyle’s mom had gone to a party, had a few drinks, and then headed home for the night. Low-and-behold, nine months later, out pops Kyle. The already rocky relationship eventually fell through, Kyle’s dad left his mom and Kyle was left to be raised by his mom. As a boy, Kyle heard stories of his dad’s numerous vacations to places all over the world, including England, Grenada, Thailand, Singapore, Africa, and India. Years later, when Kyle was eleven, his dad called him up, and wanted to finally be a part of his life. His dad was willing to fly Kyle to see him in Singapore, where he was living at the time. This situation repeated itself about once a year, with Kyle getting a phone call or an e-mail that said that he would be flying in to see his dad, wherever he happened to be in the world at the time. Besides those trips overseas, the only time he saw his dad was when he was fifteen, at his Granddad’s funeral. But now, six months later, Kyle found himself the best-man at his dad’s wedding, in England, to a young British woman named Clare.
He knew he had to do something special for his dad and, soon to be, step-mom, but he couldn’t think of anything. How could he express how proud he was of his dad for finally manning up and settling down to start a family, even if he didn’t do that for him when he was little. How could he show how he felt about his dad travelling all over the world and now, after so long, taken the burden of responsibility on to his broad shoulders? Telling him would be too cowardly, too low; he needed to make it special, especially after granddad’s death. But what could he do?
So, Kyle called up his Dad’s mom, his still grieving granny back in Canada, who was flying over for the wedding in just a few days. He called, explained his predicament to her, and asked what he should do to make the wedding, which was three days away, something his dad would never forget.
“Tell him.” She replied, “All you have to do is tell him, but not just him. As his best man you should give a toast anyway, why not tell him in a toast, for all to hear?”
After he hung up, he thought. He thought, and thought, and thought. It was so simple, yet so brilliant; why hadn’t he thought of it himself? It was perfect, but how was he going to keep it a secret from his father, who was bunking in Kyle’s room because of how soon the wedding was. What if he could get away for a few hours? Could he just tell his dad that he was going to explore the countryside for awhile with Clare’s dog? Sure, why not?
Kyle asked his dad for permission, (“Be back in time for the rehearsal dinner at 5:00.”), grabbed a backpack, snatched up the dog and its leash, and then headed out the back door.
He walked the English countryside for about a quarter of an hour until he was in the perfect spot. He seated himself at the peak of a high, rolling hill that faced the house, just behind a small bush. From this location he could recline against an old, thin tree, throw a ball for the dog, watch to see if anyone was coming up the hill, and write the toast with a pen and some paper he kept in his knapsack. He thought that the fresh air mixed with the beautiful scenery would be the perfect place to write some beautiful words. Reclining against the tree, he thought a moment, and then began to write.
He sat like that for the entire afternoon, thinking, scribbling, erasing, and fashioning what was to be the worst toast in history. He couldn’t get what was on his mind, onto the paper. No matter how many times he took a break or how hard he thought, he couldn’t do it, it was impossible. By the time his watch beeped, warning him of the dinner, he had zilch to show for his efforts. So, begrudgingly he started the trek home.
“I can’t do it Miyo!” Kyle exclaimed suddenly to the dog, as she sprinted past him down the hill, her jowls flopping comically at such speeds. As she ran, she dropped the ball that was in her mouth, turned to retrieve it, tripped, flipped and sat down hard, looking confused. Laughing, Kyle said, “You don’t even try, but everyone loves everything you do.” Then more quietly, “I wish I didn’t have to try so hard.”
There, right there, was where he figured it out. He just had to stop trying so hard. If he could just write it all down and make it perfect later, maybe it wouldn’t suck so much. Kyle reached around, grabbed his paper and pen and wrote for five minutes without even lifting his pen off the paper. However, he was now late and needed to get to the dinner fast.
He ran the rest of the way down the hill, hurdled the fence, deked out the horse, and arrived, breathlessly, back at the house. He got ready as fast as he could; showering, dressing, and brushing his teeth, all within five minutes. He then, raced over to the pub where the dinner was being held. He slipped through the door, just as his watched chimed 5:00. Perfect.
Over the next few days, Clare, his step-mom, kept Kyle extremely busy, but he secretly read and re-read what he had wrote on that hill whenever he could. He only made a few edits, but also decided to type it out, so as to make sure it was spelled correctly, and grammatically correct for when he memorized it.
Finally, the big day was upon them, the house was a pig sty, the priest was late, his dad couldn’t shut up, but Kyle felt great. Standing beside his father up on the altar of the thirteenth century stone church, looking down at the anxiously waiting crowd, he had what he needed. His jet black Morning Suit was lint free, his top hat was set at a perfect angle, his granny had arrived safely from the airport, and his speech was memorized deep in his brain; as long as his dad didn’t bolt, all was good.
After a few more minutes, the ball was set in motion. The priest arrived, the ceremony went smoothly, and the pictures afterwards where beautiful; all that was left was the reception where Kyle would say his speech.
“Hey Kyle,” called his granny, “you will be travelling to the pub with me, ok?”
“Of course granny,” I called back, while looking sheepishly at my dad. “Is that all right dad? I can’t really refuse you know?”
With a nod of assent from his dad, Kyle slid into the cab with his granny. As soon as the door closed, Granny turned to him and asked to hear his toast. Kyle, having already thought this was why she wanted to travel with him, was prepared. He calmly stated that it was a surprise and she would have to wait for it like everyone else, but if she wanted, she could pick when he would say it. To Kyle’s surprise, she nodded gravely and said that she would like that very much. (Kyle thought she was going to put up more of a fight)
The pub that the reception was being held at was the same pub as the rehearsal dinner. It had low, wooden, ceilings that seemed to sag wherever there wasn’t a post to hold it up. The whole bar smelled and tasted like old cigar smoke, but had a sharp bitterness that announced the presence of alcohol. Seeing as it was over three hundred years old, it was very dark inside and had strangely placed lights, so that you could hardly see the picture of the queen above the bar. The bar area was separated from the restaurant area, so the wedding guests had a nice place to eat their authentic countryside meals, consisting of either Veal or Duck.
After dinner that night, before the tables were cleared, Kyle’s dad stood and made a speech. He wanted to thank everyone for coming and celebrating with him and Clare. Just as his dad was about to leave the table, Kyle saw the prearaged signal from his granny. Kyle stood slowly, clinked his glass, and got everyone’s attention again. His dad looked at him slowly, but sat again in curiosity. Kyle took a deep breath, looked at his granny again, and began to speak.
He started by saying that he was very thankful that everyone could be there for his dad on such a special day. He explained how proud he was of his dad for finding such an interesting, beautiful woman who would share his life. He also said how he was looking forward to seeing little half siblings running around, doing as much damage as Kyle himself had caused when he was little. He shared with those who didn’t know, that Kyle’s granddad had died just a few months before the wedding, and couldn’t physically be there, but was there in spirit to watch his son take a giant leap in life. He ended with a toast to the bride and groom, and sat down feeling proud.
As he looked around he saw that everyone was still staring at him in wonder. He looked for his granny, and saw that she was shaking uncontrollably into the shoulder of her neighbor, obviously crying. He looked for Clare, and found she had a tear rolling down her cheek as well. Finally he looked to his army raised, battle hardened dad, and found him trying to control himself. His dad slowly stood, walked to Kyle, hugged him, and then left the pub silently; swiftly to be followed by his step-mom, who also paused to hug him.
The room started to disband, and many people that Kyle had never met in his life, walked up to him and thanked him for his words. His granny was last in line. She took his hand, kissed it lightly and said that he had made this the happiest day in her life. Kyle was extremely flattered, but he knew inside that this was the reaction that he had been hoping for. So, he took her hand and led her out to the back, to talk with his dad and Clare.
When he found his father, he was slumped against the wall, looking extremely sad, but proud. Seeing his dad like that, Kyle felt overwhelmed.
“That was the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me,” his dad mumbled to Kyle. Then he stood up straight, brushed invisible fluff from his pants, and wrapped Kyle up in a great bear hug. Barely audible, Kyle heard his dad whisper in his ear, “I want you to know that you are the greatest achievement of my life. I know I left when you where little, but I am so proud of the man you have become.”
As they separated, Kyle gathered Clare, Granny and his dad into a group hug and simply said, “Congratulations dad.”