My eldest child, my twenty-three year old, beautiful, sweet daughter, just got engaged this past week. It had to happen eventually, but I’m still having trouble wrapping my mind around the thought of her getting married (too bad I can’t just sit on it; I’d be sure to get around it then). She’s had a boyfriend or two in the past, but they came and went, as I secretly (and often openly) hoped they would. Now here’s one who, despite my considerable size and the tacit threat of bodily injury, has seemingly run the gauntlet and was brave enough to ask for her hand in marriage. I’m starting to think this might be serious.
I found out I was going to be a dad when I was twenty-seven. To say that I was not ready for parenthood would be the same as to declare I was unfit as a nursing mother (forget the obvious; there’s also the hair, the hair…). I can honestly say I had given little thought to ever becoming a father; most who knew me then would say I was only marginally able to care for myself. Over the following months, I was swept away by the tide of pregnancy: changes in my wife (still beautiful), in my home (women definitely prepare the nest in anticipation of a child), and in income after my wife was confined to bed rest because of pre-eclampsia all occurred and I was powerless to affect any of them. I was overwhelmed and still unprepared for fatherhood by the time my wife was admitted to the hospital.
Because of the pre-eclampsia, the doctors induced labor and some time later determined that our baby was becoming stressed; they would have to perform a caesarean section. During the surgery, the doctor giggled and said he nicked our baby’s head with his scalpel, and it was then that the paternal impulse first kicked in: How’s about I nick your junk with that scalpel? He assured me that everything was fine, and asked if he could please have his scalpel back to finish up the operation.
When he finally lifted up our beautiful baby, I thought he might have nicked more than its head, as my son was clearly missing his defining parts (we didn’t know the gender beforehand; I assumed, being ridiculously manly, that I carried only the male chromosome). A girl! No matter; to me, one need look no further for proof of the living God: I was instantly transformed from Ignorant, Ill-Prepared Potential Father to Ignorant, Ill-prepared, Hopelessly in Love Father. I know now that this is how you truly become a parent, and anything you might do by way of preparation is meaningless by comparison: God instills in you a love for your child, exceeded only by His own. When you act on their behalf, using that love to guide you, how can you fail?
I guarantee that I am not the world’s best dad, but I know there is only one Father who loves His children more. Fortunately for my daughter, she has the world’s greatest mom. By her mom’s hard work and unwavering devotion to her children, along with God’s help and through His provision, my baby girl is now a beautiful, accomplished, smart, funny and sweet young lady. I could not be more proud of her; when people compliment me for the good job I’ve done (happens all the time), I accept it readily, though I really don’t deserve it. I can only lay claim to loving her as much as I am able to love, and a will to protect her until my dying breath. Sometimes I envy people who can buy whatever they want, but thanks to God, who entrusted the care of her and our other children to us, it’s easy to remember we have wealth beyond compare.
This young man who has asked for my daughter’s hand (I wish she had three; he could take one and we’d keep the rest of her) is a good, decent person. He is one of my son’s best friends and my boy loves him dearly. He is no stranger to hard work, has many talents and I have no doubt that he will do all that he can to provide for my daughter and their family, whenever that happens (immaculate conception, anyone?). He asked for my permission to marry her – twice, which I appreciate (why didn’t he listen to me, then?). Most importantly, though, is that he makes her happy. My reticence crumbles in the face of her joy. I suppose the best gift I can give her is to be happy as well (that’s all they’re getting). I’m working on it.
My daughter has been doing an internship at a hospital out-of-state since August. It’s been hard not seeing her whenever I want. I miss her. I never really considered that someday my children would live somewhere away from my wife and me. I thought ideally that she might start her work life back here in Tucson. Now she’ll be married soon, and careers, marriage and life could take them anywhere. I’ve always hated change, but I hope soon God will show me the good things that will come of it: their successes, a home of their own, perhaps a grandson named Richard for me (it’s a dying name, like Bernice, or Myrtle. Maybe for good reason).
I know I have to come to grips with this, and realize I’m not losing a daughter so much as gaining a son. So, in closing I say the following to my daughter’s fiance, who I cheerfully accept as her future husband and embrace (figuratively) as my eventual son in law:
To you I present that which is most precious to me. Though she is not mine to give, she has chosen you, and secure in the knowledge that God is involved, that is enough for me. He has blessed you with a gift that few, if any, deserve; nurture her, care for her, love her with all your heart, and protect her with your life if necessary. Do these things, and I will love you as a son. Do them not, and I will snap your spine and pummel your scrawny body into a whimpering, unrecognizable bloody pulp.