The wedding was set for the first Saturday in August, and the parents of the groom were set to fly to Cleveland to walk their son down the aisle, one on either side.
The three of them, Deb and Peter Levitov and their youngest, Alex.
Until Peter fell playing tennis, 10 days before the wedding.
And Deb was hit by a car, seven days before the wedding.
“It’s just been the craziest thing,” Alex said late last week, packing up to move to San Francisco with his new bride, Jillian.
“It was pretty freakish, actually,” said Deb, grounded in a room at Madonna.
“It was very sad,” said Peter, semi-grounded in his mother-in-law’s house across town.
Alex and Jillian got engaged nearly a year ago. This summer, the 28-year-old Lincoln Southeast graduate, the youngest of three in a blended family, received his doctorate from Princeton.
His older siblings are married, each with two children — a flower girl and a ring bearer for his older sister, and newborn twins for his older brother.
So it’s been an exciting summer for the Levitovs. And as any parent knows, a child’s wedding is one of life’s crowning moments, joyful and momentous and loads of fun — the excitement of birth without the Demerol.
But enough of that. Deb doesn’t need to hear it.
Even now, nearly two weeks later, her mother-of-the-groom dress hanging in the closet back home on 35th Street, it’s hard to talk about missing that day without tears.
But life goes on, and Friday, Deb has come down from her room at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in a wheelchair, paddling with her right leg and arm.
Peter has secured a waiver from his home health-care nurse to visit, limping in his black leg brace.
And a neighbor has arrived with their baby — Harrison, the bichon, newly groomed and happy.
There are wedding photos on an iPad to show off.
And stories to tell.
Of Peter, a retired associate dean of International Affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln playing tennis with a friend on a Wednesday.
One minute swinging, the next on the ground.
A tendon in his right leg had ruptured, and when it did and he collapsed, he fractured and chipped and sprained his left wrist, too.
He called out to his tennis partner. Then he called Deb.
And the next day he begged his orthopedic doctor to delay surgery to repair his tendon until after his son’s wedding.
The nice doctor agreed.
Flying to the wedding with a banged-up body would be tough, but manageable. And with a bulky brace on one leg, and a brace on his wrist, Peter went home to wait.
And three days later — a week from the wedding — hobbling around their house, he heard cars. Crashing.
Which brings us to the story of Deb, managing editor for School Library Monthly, who had returned from buying home health-care supplies to make life easier for Peter and then left to take the dog for a walk.
She and Harrison walked up Calvert Street. They stopped at 33rd for traffic.
Deb saw a car heading east on Calvert. She saw it stop. She saw it go. She saw it go straight into the side of a car heading north.
She saw that car skid her way.
“I was watching traffic and then, boom!”
She was flying through the air.
Her first thought when she landed: the dog.
Her second: the wedding.
The dog was OK. And Deb, lying there in the grass of the yard on the corner, thought maybe she was OK, too.
Until the paramedics came and carried her to the ambulance.
“I practically passed out every time they moved me.”
Even so, Deb’s doctors tried to find a way to get her to Cleveland with her pelvis broken in two places, her left shoulder separated and her left knee torn up.
An air ambulance? A chartered plane? A screw in her pelvis and lots of drugs?
Out of the question, no way and ouch.
And so Peter flew to Cleveland alone, and he walked Alex down the aisle alone, and at every moment of the rehearsal dinner and the wedding and the reception, something was missing.
"It was wonderful," said Peter. "But it had a cloud over it because she wasn't there."
Back in Lincoln, Deb sat in a Madonna office, with a small group of friends and family, watching with the help of Skype and a kind employee.
The connection was spotty, people showed up in pixels. Deb got the general idea, but it just wasn’t the same.
“She (the employee) brought some wine, so it helped.”
And Alex kept calling his mom.
While he was putting his wedding suit on.
After the ceremony.
On the honeymoon.
Other people called, texted, sent pictures.
Her sister read the speech Deb wrote for the rehearsal dinner: Alex, you have brought us joy, you have entertained us, taught us, and amazed us, which we are sure you will continue to do. We are so glad that you and Jillian found each other and that Jillian was wise enough to know she would have to make the first move ...
Back in Lincoln, Deb cried, a lot.
She also knew she was lucky. Lucky that she landed in the grass, that her head was spared, her spinal cord.
In a few weeks, Alex and Jillian will stop in Lincoln on their way to San Francisco and Alex’s two-year post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford.
And sometime down the road, they will come back again, and so will his older brother and his sister and their spouses and children.
And the mother of the groom will get to wear that dress in her closet.
“We’re hoping to have a re-enactment,” she says.
“A mini wedding.”