Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Father Daughter Dance...A Dance that Lasts a Lifetime

Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes. ~Gloria Naylor

Growing up I specifically remember thinking that my father could do anything. He could fix anything, answer any question, move heavy objects, and, most importantly on my list as a child, he had an uncanny ability to predict when the traffic light would turn green! As the years went on and I came to know my father as not just a Herculean god but also a human being, we grew apart and back together again many times. Through tumultuous teenage years we ebbed and flowed like the tide just trying to get the job done. As I become more of an adult myself, however, I began to see him in a much different light and realized that I could learn much from both he and my mother. Married at just 17 and 21 my parents have been the ultimate example of a “good marriage”. The night I came home with a ring on my hand I remember wanting to see his face first. My fiancé (now husband) told me he had lunch with my dad weeks before and showed him the ring, but I wanted to actually see what he thought. Overcome with the joy that poured from both of my sisters and mom I did not have a chance that night to really hone in on my dad. However, when the excited had slowed a bit a few days later, he sitting in his chair having his customary after dinner Pop-Tart, said simply, “It will be great.” Those four words partnered by the fact that we were the only people in the room gave me just what I needed from him. Of course I did not need him to tell me I could get married; it was just the basic recognition that he not only knew about it, but was confident in the choices I had made.

Cultures all over the world celebrate family ties and the role of a father figure in a woman’s life. A close friend of mine would often make comments growing up about her grandfather (who raised her) being the most intelligent person she knew. He passed away before she walked down the aisle but in her heart he was there and was just as proud as the day she first rode her bike without training wheels. Traditionally, the “daddy-daughter” dance at wedding receptions is one filled with tears and smiles as the little girl, now a grown woman, once again takes her place in the arms of the first man that held her. Memories of a child with pig tails, first dates and the occasional curfew breakage flash in the minds of those closest to them as the couple dance. As a planner, I am constantly reminded of the strength of this bond. Recently, needing to tie up a few loose ends on a quickly approaching ceremony, I called a bride to ask a few questions. The bride, who lives a few hours away from her hometown, was in town until the Big Day and I knew we could hammer away at some business as she is an all business type of woman. To my surprise, the mother of this fiercely independent and corporately successful bride answered the phone and informed me that her daughter was taking her last walk as a single woman on the beach with her daddy and she would call me back as soon as she could. Smiling, I hung up the phone and had a mini reflection session on the relationship that seems to transcend all personality types, income levels, education status and more. When I got married I remember seeing all my bridesmaids boohoo during my dance with my dad. In March, as a bridesmaid, I sniffed away tears as my best friend’s father gave her a locket engraved with the words, “Still my little girl”. What often sticks out most in my mind, however, was the reversal of roles that took place in yet another friend’s wedding about four years ago. As a child my friend and her father were not close. In fact, I would dare say that she and I both were a bit afraid of him. Ever the traditionalist she decided to stick to the plan of the father daughter dance for appearances and stuck to the world’s most appropriate song for any occasion, “What a Wonderful World”. We all smiled as the croaky voice of Louis Armstrong filled the air. Then suddenly something went terribly wrong; just past the ever so sweet words of “I see babies crying…” the father stopped dancing, clutched his daughter and began to weep-loudly. Completely unaccustomed to seeing this man show any type of emotion I was actually alarmed. Had she stepped on his foot? Was he having a heart attack? Had he been stung by a bee? Still confused any worried I rushed over after the dance and searched for signs of an injury. Dazed, but beaming my friend shrugged and said, “Well, he does love me after all!”

Marriage for a woman is a time of planning and fun for a daughter and mother. For a father it is a different scenario entirely. While he may highly approve of the match and while a mother will still miss her daughter when she is gone, I believe a father sees the ghost of the woman he married and all the newlywed mistakes that he knows his new son-in-law will bestow upon his bride. Ever practical, a father foresees financial hardships, arguments over the right way to load a dishwasher, and a little girl who is not so little anymore. So, while you are walking down the aisle remember these things about the man who escorts you. This is a fairytale for you but a bit of reality for him. He loves you and only wants the best for you as any good father would. Tread lightly for a few days; he will come around and you will be amazed at the man your father has become and you will continue to dance together for all his years to come.

“Hi Britt, I know you don’t have a signal in Mexico since you are on your honeymoon and all, but I just wanted to call. I am so happy for you and Travis; it will be great. I guess I just realized today that you are really married. Silly, huh? Mom says that I am a mushy man, but that’s what happens when you have three daughters, a wife and all female pets for 25 years. I hope you are having fun; I’m sure you are. I should take your mom some place soon; she would like that-….”

“Hi Britt, sorry, I ran out of message time. I have never done that before! I guess you still don’t have a signal. Well anyway, I love you. Tell Travis to watch out when you go out at night. Robbers can spot a tourist a mile away you know. Ok, I love you. Bye.”

-Messages from my dad three days after my wedding

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