Father of the Bride
(Or how in the world can baby daughters grow up so quickly?)
By Ed Lange
This one is for you guys out there with young daughters. A simple word of advice: hold onto your hat, because the space-time-emotion continuum is about to warp all over you without the slightest regard for your precious self-image-delusions. It doesn’t matter if your daughter is a diaper-wearing baby of six months, a front-tooth missing seven-year old, an independence-establishing teenager, or like my daughter, a 20-something early career woman. Regardless of what age your daughter is right now – at the instant you’re reading these words, the theory of relativity is going to leap up mischievously and smack you right in the kisser. And Albert Einstein with his shock of white hair and bright, impish smile is going to titter gleefully and inquire, “Und zo? Vhat dit you exschpect? Din’t I tell you time kut be bent?”
The bending of time
And dear brother reader, believe me, time is gonna bend like a Twizzler on the booster seat of a car in July – on the day that you take on the mantle of “father of the bride.” You know that old speculation that your life flashes before your eyes on the verge on death? Well, buddy, you ain’t gotta wait for death for it to happen. It’s going to happen as you walk down the aisle with your daughter on your arm or during the father-daughter dance or through the entire exchanging of vows or through the entire reception or when she climbs into the limo and disappears into her future.
There she’ll be in her wedding gown, looking as unbelievably beautiful and happy as she has ever looked in her life, and you’ll experience a flashback of her as a tiny, pudgy infant babbling merrily away in her crib. You’ll walk down the aisle with her, as proud as any Nobel Prize winner when you see the wedding guests beaming with delight – and you’ll remember a day you and she walked hand in hand on a beach when she was six. Standing at the altar, you’ll kiss her on her cheek aglow with a lifetime of sunrises to come, and you’ll remember kissing her as she slept in her bed on a night that you came home from a late night’s work. You’ll look her into her eyes so bright with possibilities, and remember those same eyes wide with wonder at a shooting star, a phosphorescent jellyfish or a dinosaur skeleton.
You’ll take her hand and remember the time you took that hand to help her up after she fell on the ice or walked in the woods, and then you’ll place that same treasured hand into the hand of the good man she has grown to love and take as her husband for life.
And then … then, somehow you’ll actually find the strength to turn away from her, from them, to take your seat, and leave her with that very fine “other guy”, your new son-in-law. What an inexpressible and incomprehensible moment that is - that moment of turning away. The human mind can’t possibly process the infinite thoughts and emotions that cascade through a father in that instant. Love, prayer, hope, joy, doubt, fear, sadness, promise, worry, happiness, pride, confidence, concern, peace, anticipation, excitement, delight. All simultaneously competing for priority attention as you think to yourself, “I’m supposed to turn and walk away now. After all these years of skinned knees, dance recitals, t-ball games, winter colds, high school proms, adventures and anxieties, accidents and arguments, shared laughter and songs, wiping away tears, hugs and kisses, singing lullabies and telling bedtime stories. After all the years of struggling with yourself as you tried to find a balance between protecting her and empowering her - striving to give her strong roots and soaring wings. Now, I’m supposed to turn and walk away.”
But that is our destiny as fathers. Our purpose as fathers. To raise our children with love and discipline, with guidance and confidence, with strength and courage and independence, so ultimately they can strike out on their own, blaze their own path with self-reliance and self-assurance, with ethics and honor and love. Birds teach their fledglings to fly, bears teach their cubs to hunt, and like them, we teach our children how to make their way in the world, because daddy bird, papa bear, and we fathers won’t be around forever. So, we turn and walk away, trusting that our precious daughter is prepared for the world ahead and that she has accepted a person who will be her friend, lover, teammate, partner, companion and will love and treasure her as much as you do.
And then we danced
When she was a little one – small enough to lift off the floor and hold in our arms – my daughter, my wife and I enjoyed a bit of goofiness we called “kitchen dancing”. This was nothing more than bopping and spinning to the beat of our own silly singing, laughing and whooping. Not much of a dancer, I was a little apprehensive about the traditional father-daughter dance at the wedding. I needn’t have been. As Billy Joel sang “Lullabye,” my now-married daughter and I were transported to a public solitude where we were reminded that although I had turned and walked away from her at the altar, and although her husband had become the number one man in her life – as it should be – I promise I would never leave her and no matter where she may go, I never will be far away. Because, unlike the birds and the bears, we human fathers and daughters are blessed by a bond that endures beyond the present and continues far into that space-time-emotion continuum – maybe even into infinite eternity. Who can tell? Maybe Albert Einstein knows … now.
A freelance writer, three of Ed Lange’s plays were finalists for national Audie Awards, in 2000, ’05, and ’07, and one of the three won. His articles have appeared multiple times in national magazines: Sail, Soundings, American Theatre, and Dramatics.