EDITOR’S NOTE: Sports editor Mitch Lucas and family are attending the wedding of his daughter, Teresa Leigh, and her fiancé, Nate Gurany, as well as his niece, Jennifer Thompson, and her fiancé, Sam Engel. This is the fifth and the finale of a series this week that finds them traveling for the weddings. To read all five entries in the series, go to kilgorenewsherald.com.

We’ve seen shuttle rides, snorkeling trips gone awry, midnight pick-up basketball games that drew standing-room resort staff crowds, pepper spray hold-ups in TSA lines, ankle-grabbing monkeys, and finally, eloquent speeches and beautiful brides.

Our final few days brings us to the wedding of one Teresa Leigh Lucas and Nathan Gurany, the former, my oldest child, seems like I should probably should still be buttering her pancakes and rewinding the almost-broken VCR “Best of Scooby Doo Volume I” tape to the “Jeepers, It’s The Creeper” episode.

Instead, fast-forward to the present, Tuesday afternoon, and my past-my-collar length hair – more gray now than brown – is whipping around my face as I turn around on the beach, to see an angel coming toward me. It’s not really, of course: it is Teresa Leigh, or Tee, as we nicknamed her many, many years ago, and as Nate called her during the ceremony.

“You look great,” I whisper, “no surprise.”

“Thank you,” she whispers.

“No running now,” I joke. “…I’m kidding.”

“I know,” she smiles. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

■ ■ ■

Tuesday morning I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her for the duration of the day.

My wife Jenna and Ashtyn, my youngest, would be getting ready for the wedding with Tee, and just being there with her while all of those things (hair, makeup, etc.) are done.

Mine was to just be dad and wait until I was summoned to the beach area. Surely, not even I could mess that up.

I text Tee.

ME: Good morning. Happy wedding day. I love you. I know they’ll be seeing you soon. I hope you have a great day.

No response, but I understood.

The swim-up.

OK, so this is something I haven’t talked about.

Our room and two other of our rooms were upgraded to swim-up rooms – you guys have probably seen those, where you have a fairly-nice hotel room, with all the usual nice things, and then your patio/deck/whatever has a stairway that leads down into a lengthy – well, for lack of a better term, a moat. (I’m laughing as I write that. You can laugh.)

It’s not really a moat. It’s a gigantic pool that runs the length of the building. They double as a pool. And I’ve enjoyed the pool part. But I don’t know that I need to swim up to the door. For 51 years, walking up to my door has done me just fine. I guess a swim-up for a few days has been ok, though.

FYI, the building we’re in is named the Eden building (and there’s some irony there).

At any rate, I start out for the gym Tuesday morning, and go the back way to the pool. After a few near embarrassing moments and a quick conversation with my mom, sister, and others, I start out for the gym. I run into security and decide, you know what? I think I’ll just detour and head back around the resort and turn my music really, really, really loud. “Head Games” by Foreigner.

“…I daydream, for hours it seems; I keep thinking of you, yeah, thinking of you…

These daydreams, what do they mean; they keep haunting me; are they warning me?”

I get my miles in, snap a ton of photos, and then get back to the (ahem) Eden building.

I put a post on Facebook about Tee and Nate, and I’ll be honest: I said no real nerves for me, at the six-hours-away mark, and I was straight-up truth.

As it turned out, those six hours went quickly.

Before I knew it, at 3:49 p.m. ...

My phone gets a text.

TEE: Be at the beach at the wedding area at 5 p.m.

OK, you don’t argue with that.

I get my official Tee-and-Nate-commissioned wardrobe (navy button-down shirt, khakis, dress shoes, which match Nate’s father’s wardrobe) and get ready, and I’m on time. The Eden building is the farthest end of the resort, but right near the beach. I make the 40-to-45-yard walk, and I’m the first one on scene, right alongside my mom, stepdad Verlin, sister Jen, and the brothers big Ty and ball-of-energy Spencer.

Other members of both Tee’s and Nate’s respective families and mutual friends begin showing up here and there, but I’m right on time at 5. Wedding still 30 minutes away.

Photos are included with this column, but we’re at the beach, and it is windy. SUPER windy. There’s a sign…SHOES HERE, VOWS THERE, complete with arrows. Large white tables, set for dinner afterward and lined with red and white, are ready.

The wedding area itself has the aisle, of course, with plenty of seating, and roses everywhere. I’m used to describing how people get first downs, here, guys; I’m doing the best I can, but it was a beautiful scene.

Jenna’s mom and my mom are brought away from the crowd and given their escorts (their husbands, Verlin and Jenna’s dad, Pete), and Jenna gets an escort of her own, my son, Jacob, who is much more of a special young man to me than he will ever know.

I get a last-minute handshake from Nate’s dad, Danny, and a hug from Nate’s mom, Dora, and it’s easy to see where Nate learned not only his manners, but his demeanor, his kindness, and his intelligence.

Nate and his father share some final words of advice, and then Nate gets a hug from his mom.

The guests take their seats, and the wedding coordinator, Grace, is whispering instructions to Jenna and Jacob. Only two people are missing: Ashtyn, and of course, the guest of honor.

“Where’s Ashtyn?,” I whisper loudly, to Jenna, Jacob, Grace, and pretty much anybody else in earshot. Then, realizing what I’m saying, I get louder. “Heck, where’s TEE?”

Ashtyn blows through the door, sunglasses and all, at 50 miles per hour, her duty to make sure the train – is that right, ladies? – of the wedding dress is correct and in place. She takes her place, and then the music begins.

Before long, I’m the only one standing there. I’m alone.

And then, she’s there.

■ ■ ■

Don’t tear up, I think. Don’t tear up.

And I actually pull it off! I’m the only one in the entire wedding party – besides Grace – that can actually see Teresa Leigh, as she comes through the back entrance. She’s Tee, and she always looks amazing, and she will always be daddy’s girl. But today, she’s Nate’s girl, too. I just have to share her a little. Just with one more person.

She comes through the entrance and we’re back to that conversation.

“You look great,” I whisper, “no surprise.”

“Thank you,” she whispers.

“No running now,” I joke. “…I’m kidding.”

“I know,” she smiles. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

That music begins and we take the first steps.

“I’m saying ‘Her mother and I,’” I whisper.

“Down there?,” she says.

“Yes,” I say. “When they ask me, ‘Who gives this woman to this man,’ or whatever, I’m going to say, ‘her mother and I.’ You and I never talked about it. Is that ok?”

“That’s fine,” she laughs.

And we’re there. My role is done.

And before long, my line is done.

I step back, take my place on the front row, and look at Tee and Nate… and beyond them, out into the ocean.

The ceremony is beautiful.

They do their own vows, and there’s just a little funny, but mostly romantic, rings are exchanged, beautiful words that writers much, much better than me on that day – Nate and Teresa – put together. Tee out-wrote her father, and Nate out-wrote his father-in-law.

They’re proclaimed husband and wife, and they greet their guests. Pressure lifts, families merge and smiles abound. I get a hug from Danny, and I hug Nate and Tee.

Everyone enjoys dinner, and then it comes time for those – dances.

This is something even Tee doesn’t know.

First, an explanation.

Tee and Nate, as the married couple, go first, and their first dance as a couple was spectacular, and I mean SPECTACULAR. It was to Aerosmith’s “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” From the Bruce Willis film “Armageddon.”

Lights go down, and every eye is on the dance floor, no sound except the music, and at the end, the resort actually has pyro go off as Nate lifts Teresa into the air and around. It was an amazing scene.

And I know the daddy-daughter dance is next.

And I’m water-works in the corner.

“Daddy?,” Ashtyn asks. “What’s wrong?”

She couldn’t know, and not one other soul did, either, but I guess I can tell it now, here in this column.

Back when Tee was basically just a baby and I was a new dad, an impressionable new dad, I saw that film in the theater. Tee and Jenna were out of state, and I went alone. Brief synopsis: Willis and his team of miners are tasked with saving the entire world when an asteroid is headed for earth. They have no real training. Willis’s protégé, Ben Affleck, is also his daughter’s boyfriend.

At the end of the film, it looks like they’ve failed and Earth is going to be destroyed and all life on it unless someone can stay behind and detonate it manually. Affleck draws the short straw. The others are all leaving.

In a selfless act, Willis throws Affleck into the ship, and stays behind himself, telling Affleck to take care of his daughter and raise a family. Always loved that film. Always wondered the courage it would take to do anything like that. At the end of the film, one of the actual astronauts finds Willis’ daughter and says, “Miss Stamper? Colonel Willie Sharp, United States Air Force, ma’am. Requesting permission to shake the hand of the daughter of the bravest man I’ve ever met.”

In short, most people see the movie as a disaster movie, or a love story IN a disaster movie between Liv Tyler and Affleck.

I saw it as a disaster movie, and the love story, and as a story of the love the father has for his daughter.

I know that’s probably hokey. But I still hear that song and tear up. And boy, did I tear up Saturday night.

I always wanted to be the best dad for Teresa, Jacob and Ashtyn that I could possibly be, and I hope I’ve done that. But I know – I know for an absolute fact – that she made a fantastic choice in Nate.

I told Ashtyn to hang on, and wiped my tears enough to fool Tee briefly, and headed out onto the dance floor.

All I could think of is that if she had picked the Aerosmith song for the daddy-daughter dance, I would be bawling during it.

Thank goodness.

We’re on the dance floor.

We made small talk. And some of it I don’t remember!

About half-way in…

“So,” I said.

“Yeah?”

“How long are we out here, anyway?”

She laughed. “The entire song.”

“Really? That long, huh?”

She nodded, and laughed again.

It was the shortest dance of my life, but it was the longest. And I will always remember it.

Ashtyn greeted me just off the dance floor.

And laughably, somewhat, so did a waiter.

“Sir? You ok?” he said. “You need 7-Up?”

Now, THAT was funny.

“Yes,” I laughed. “I DO need a 7-Up. Would you get me one?”

Tee took her place back at Nate’s side. And Ashtyn pulled me off to the side.

“What happened?,” she said. “You were crying before you even went out.”

“And you’re crying now!,” I laughed. “We’re both crying, and we don’t know why!”

The wedding concluded, Spencer got to dance, so did everybody else, and I looked off into the ocean over the nighttime June 14 sky.

Tee and Nate may or may not have thought about this, but her grandfather, my dad, the late Mitch Lucas, loved the ocean. Loved it. Was a pastor, a SCUBA diver, spent so much time in the ocean everywhere he went.

He passed away in 2010, after complications of a stroke. Teresa Leigh was only 14 when he passed, but she got to know him so well. And I can’t imagine a more perfect place for her wedding than that ocean setting. He wasn’t there, of course, but I believe he would have been smiling and telling stories, and he would have given Nate a bear hug.

We’ll finish this trip and come home with another family member, a new smile, strong arms, big confidence, and a new union. Tee and Nate are a beautiful couple, just as her cousin Jennifer and Sam were earlier in the week, and they both had phenomenal settings for their weddings, and so many people to love on them on this trip.

I renewed some things inside myself, too, and reaffirmed some things in my heart: God always has to be number one above all else. Put others before yourself. If you can make someone smile, and help them, do it. Don’t think too hard about where you’re going tomorrow that you take your eyes off today.

And don’t blink. You might miss it.

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Sports editor

Mitch Lucas is the sports editor for the Kilgore News Herald, and has been since June 1, 2002.

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