Of course, the narrative that matters the most to us, our own lives, is divided into chapters, and there is that chapter that begins somewhere between our early 20s and extends through our 30s where friends marry.
That means, for guys, they’ll need that best man and a few groomsmen to perform duties such as throwing him that killer bachelor party and standing nearby around the altar to lend moral support and bear witness that, indeed, the knot has been tied in a mighty proper way.
In my wedding career, I was a groom once (although that knot seemed to have worked its way loose), a best man once and a groomsman thrice. Additionally, because of my time bartending, I’ve been at enough receptions to have heard and watched “The Hokey Pokey” and “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” more times than anyone should ever have to in one lifetime.
So, I’m pretty familiar with the nuts and bolts of this whole wedding thing. And, one of those nuts or bolts is that token of appreciation given to maids of honor and bridesmaids and to best men and groomsmen. Now, given my gender, I really can’t speak for what those brides are giving their gals, but I do have some familiarity with what the grooms have done for their stand-up dudes.
Through the years, flasks have been a common go-to gift. After all, grooms are typically young as are “his boys,” and they either all are still in their prime imbibing years or have just left them, so it seems like a good token of appreciation, right? However, having been gifted one of these for some groomsman duties decades ago and having no earthly idea where it is at this moment, I will tell any future grooms that a flask doesn’t really have much long-term practical use except for someone whose role model is Otis Campbell of Mayberry fame.
Realizing this certainly carbon-dates me as a pretty darn old fossil, I also remember a couple of times receiving a set of cuff links designed to be worn with French cuff shirts. For those too young to remember, the dress shirt had cuffs that needed folding back to create a double layer before being cuffed with a pair of links. The look was perfect, supposedly, for elegant occasions when fellas sort of wanted to channel their inner James Bond.
Now, I only bought into this whole French cuff deal one time when I forgot the No. 1 rule to which all people should adhere, “Know thyself.” For a cargo shorts, jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts, tennis shoes and ball cap fella, elegant occasions don’t exist, so I should have left that shirt with Misters Hofeller, Hiatt and Clark.
Even in the chapter of my life when I was wearing attire that wasn’t company logoed — my school teaching years — the classroom was not a venue remotely resembling elegance. A lot of roll-up-your sleeves hard work went on within those four walls, and I surely didn’t need the added distraction of those cuff links banging up against the blackboard surface when I was writing. Each school day after entering my classroom, except for that one ill-fated French cuff day, my instinctual first act was rolling up my sleeves.
Among the other tokens I’ve seen, often displayed at receptions, are engraved oversized mugs, many of which, I’m suspecting, soon after became dust collectors on shelves. The best I think one can expect for that oversized flagon when it comes to long-term practical use is to use it as a receptacle for loose change.
However, for me, there was one token provided that has found continuous utilitarian use since I received it from my long-time pal Kevin Daley, who lost his 10-year battle with Parkinson’s on last month’s final Wednesday.
Kevin married Janis, his bride of what would become 33 years, a bit later than many impetuous younger fellas, and maybe that had something to do with his providing a small item that actually has usefulness. He gave each of us in his altar posse a small pocket knife, two inches in length, with cream-colored plastic sides with the wedding date of 6-20-87 and our initials on it. While at the funeral-home viewing, I pulled that pocket knife out to show to both Janis and Kevin’s sister Patty.
Kevin was smart enough to give something that could easily be carried in a front pocket of my pants and something that I’ve found very useful. The engraving has long ago faded, but if I hold the knife up and tilt it, I can still see the date and the “JG.” Every time I clumsily drop the knife, one or both of the plastic sides pop off, but that’s easily fixable with a couple drops of Gorilla Glue.
Despite the faded engraving and frequent Gorilla re-bondings, a little over 33 years later, I use it more than ever. As a quality-assurance inspector for Mid-American Cleaning Contractors, I do housekeeping audits and it’s not unusual for me to use the blade several times during my work day to check the hardness of gum splotches on tile floors, to address calcium deposits around faucet bases and to remove old tape marks on glass surfaces.
And, when I use that pocket knife, I also think for a brief moment of my pal Kevin, especially on his happy day back in June of ’87. I think when we lose a friend to heaven, we still carry a piece of that friendship in our hearts and, in my case, and I also carry a piece in my front right pocket.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.