A strange realization occurred to me last Saturday afternoon.
It came when I was watching my brother-in-law walk his youngest daughter down the aisle at Asbury United Methodist Church in Salisbury. My thoughts immediately turned to what was going through his mind as he led his beautiful daughter to the altar and handed over his little girl to her husband-to-be.
It goes without saying there’s a pure happiness for the bride and groom and sincere hopes life will turn out for them the way they envision it. However, as I observed the pomp and circumstances of the wedding ceremony, I found myself not thinking about the man and woman directly involved. No it was their parents and what they were thinking and feeling that captured my attention. That was unexpected.
Were these folks happy? Sad? Overwhelmed? Mixed emotions? How did the father of the bride feel symbolically leading his daughter to another man?
It seems I have changed and appear to be continuing to chart this long and winding course to maturity. Rather than wondering about the thoughts and feelings of the couple getting married, I was putting myself in the father’s shoes. I was curious as to the emotional roller coaster I assumed he was riding because I, too, some day will be sitting in a church and feeling similar emotions.
It more than likely has something to do with the proverbial "been there, done that" as far as being the groom at one time in a huge wedding. That’s been checked off my bucket list for a while now. Being the parent in that role or any other kind of wedding is an unknown and that interests me and scares me at the same time.
Later, at the wedding reception, more moments of clarity followed. While Gerry, the brother-in-law, toasted his daughter and new son-in-law, he fought off a raw wave of emotions. I identified more with him that night than the subjects of the sentiments involved. It’s because parents have a bond. No matter how different individual parents are, and there is no question some place an emphasis on certain values more than others, we can all appreciate the unique lens we see life through. It’s just different.
As I watched the wedding and the reception that followed, I could not help but fast-forward a number of years. This is ridiculous, I know, as my son has just begun working on his 15th month of life. Nonetheless, despite the absurdity, I found myself wondering how I would be feeling on my son’s wedding day, whenever that may be.
I think these odd thoughts surfaced because Beckett stayed home for this wedding. We thought it was best for all involved. Unless he is asleep, I can’t remember the last time my son was absolutely quiet for more than a few minutes. We just knew there would be some sort of outburst or at least a raspberry or two at an inopportune time, more than likely during the exchanging of vows. Later, we knew the wedding reception would be a tricky matter as well, as thoughts of Beckett pulling out the tablecloth underneath the wedding cake danced through my head.
Yes, it only took a couple minutes to realize this would be better as a husband-and-wife night than a daddy-and-mommy event. It’s needed every once in a while. Of course, it’s funny how throughout the night you find yourself thinking about your child. That’s simply inevitable.
As my brother-in-law gave his toast, he acknowledged he’s an emotional guy. Subsequently, he asked that family and friends whistle when it seemed his passion for his daughter was getting the best of him. That only happened once, which I found impressive.
I do not have a daughter, but I understand the feelings he was experiencing that day. It’s the parenthood bond that allows you to identify with others, even if it’s an experience foreign to you at the time. I don’t know everything he was thinking about on that day and those preceding as the realization swept over him that his little girl was going to have another man in her life to care for her as he has and will always. I can only imagine.
It seems to me watching your child get married has to be one of those special moments for a parent. There are so many major milestone accomplishments along the way – high school graduation, taking your kid to college for the first time and the empty nest feeling that follows and college graduation, to name a few of the older variety. Marriage is right up there, and Gerry’s feeling of pride and respect came through clearly in the words he uttered.
As I looked around the room as he spoke, many shed a tear (including my wife, who relishes heartfelt moments like that). Being a father, I was interested to see some of the male reactions around the room. Some were stoic, while others let’s just say felt what Gerry had on his mind in their hearts.
The relationship will not change for Gerry and his daughter, Linnea, because she got married. There will always be the father-daughter bond, a special and unique connection among the parent-child relationships. The wedding day was more symbolic than anything. Long before she walked down the aisle, his daughter was a strong and independent woman. Getting married will not change anything on that front, but that does not diminish the intense emotions a father goes through watching his child get married. It’s another transition of sorts in this ongoing adventure called parenthood.
I must admit I am glad that’s years away for me. In the meantime, my thoughts are consumed with how my son is coping with the arrival of a mouthful of teeth, and that’s fine by me at this point.