We recently received some very good news, news of which I had to ask permission to write about. Normally I just dig freely into the comic gems of my own life and that of the tolerant Mrs. G. (and of course, our dog, Milo) with gleeful abandon because reality is far funnier than anything that I could imagine. These are my recurring characters, carefully rearranged each week and then placed into new situations. I don’t often include my daughter or her circle of friends because it feels a little too invasive, but I had to tell somebody about this, so why not thousands people I don’t know.
My daughter is getting married.
Women may commence screaming and guys—you can do whatever it was you were doing because unless it’s your own daughter, I completely understand your ambivalence. It’s just how we are; we can’t help ourselves, but this is my daughter, my only daughter and in fact, my only child who is getting married. My overall guyness is now in conflict with my paternal yearning to be there for her.
Marriage is something that has played out in one form or another since we crawled out of the primordial soup and decided that life was better on dry land with a partner and ultimately with children—and that at some point those children would repeat the process. They will move on, glancing over every so often from a new branch on the family tree. This is our job as parents and if we do it well, we will have raised good adults who will always appreciate and love us, but will ultimately need us less.
A month or so ago, I was over to their house talking with her boyfriend about plumbing. He had off from work that day, she was working, and it was just two guys talking about shower knobs—one of which my daughter had recently snapped off the wall in their shower. In her defense, the plastic inner bits had probably dried out with age and it was just her luck to be the one to rip it off the wall. It happens. Suddenly the air shifted during a lull in the conversation and in my gut, I knew what was coming. Don’t ask me how. I just knew.
He told me that he loved her and that he wanted, with my permission, to ask her to marry him. I said of course and when the air came back into the room, we talked about some practical matters. One of these was that it would be about a month until he would ask her, so the public announcement would have to be kept quiet.
Now I just want to say that I’m well aware that this is 2013, and that hands in marriage don’t have to be requested—after all, she isn’t a goat being traded for some farm tools. She’s a bright, highly educated, independent young woman and there isn’t a dowry of livestock and heirlooms to be dispersed, but do you want you know something? I appreciated the courtesy and the respect a great deal. It meant a lot to me that these traditions were observed.
Over the next few weeks, he and I talked only briefly about it and on Thanksgiving, he let me know that the ring would be ready soon and that the big day was coming up. I was nervous for him. It’s not as if she would say “no,” but this was by all accounts, a huge big deal.
So let’s move ahead a few days, past several bottles of wine, some tears and a lot, and I mean a lot of talking. Oh yeah, she said yes.
We got together with the betrothed couple on a Sunday afternoon and talked about some of the details over our kitchen table. Eventually my future son-in-law and I were asked to leave to “go talk about guy stuff someplace else.” Daughter and mother wanted to talk about hair and dresses and whatever other little details were going to pop up over the next few months. Just like that, the menfolk were banished to the basement where I swept up wooden curlicues off the floor near my workbench and we talked about stuff, none of which was wedding related. He’s a good man and he’s good for her and she, I believe, is good for him. The ball was tossed with the dog for a bit and we eventually went back upstairs, where I presume only a tiny fraction of the million and one details of a wedding were resolved.
After they left, Mrs. G. and I were going in spurts between watching TV and talking about the wedding. It was then that I noticed myself absent-mindedly fiddling with my wedding band, going over in my head what we’ve been through over the past thirty-one years. When the book of our marriage is written, it will be different than that of our daughter’s, but it will no doubt be remarkably similar. Here’s what I’ve learned, in a nutshell.
Married coffee tastes better in the morning. Married walks feel better. Married dinners feel better. Married everything feels better and in a very short amount time, my daughter and her fiancé will understand that. It’s not the big events that shape a marriage; it’s the accumulated minutiae of each day as it passes. This simply can’t be explained. It’s just something that has to be experienced.
She understands commitment and she understands love, and I have no doubt that she’s going to be a wonderful wife and that he’ll be a wonderful husband. As the years go by, they’ll have their own stories to tell and reminisce over and I’m hopeful that someday they’ll have children of their own.
And yes, that did hit me like a ton of bricks. Two tons, actually.
When she and I walk up that aisle next year, arm in arm in front of all those people, I’ll be sending her off for good. Not really, but yes, really. This will make that first day of kindergarten or dropping her off at college seem like a trip to the mailbox. Yes, I’ll still be there for her, but as dances are danced and speeches are given, at the end of what will be a very happy and joyful day, I know I’ll wonder just one simple thing.
Where did the last twenty-eight years go? When did that little girl with the crooked bangs and the bowl of macaroni and cheese on her head turn into a married woman? I’m having my moments already, trying to justify this as common and expected, but honest to goodness, didn’t I just take the training wheels off her bike? When the nurse hands you the baby and wishes you well, nobody prepares you for what will come after that, and I just know that on that day, every one of those moments I’ve spent with my daughter will come rushing back in a collage of memories.
On the day after the wedding ceremony and the reception that follows, after all the dishes are cleared and the music has quieted, things will begin to settle back to normal, a better normal. I have no doubt that there will be a few bittersweet moments for my wife and I, but the days and years that follow will be ones I can’t wait to see unfold.
They’re going to be great
©Rick Garvia 2013. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Electronic or print reproduction, adaptation, or distribution without permission is prohibited.