45: Dad’s Handout

45: Dad’s Handout

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Dad’s Handout

A daughter may outgrow your lap, but she will never outgrow your heart.

~Author Unknown

I stood in the church nursery, now converted to a bride’s dressing room, and stared at the two-inch by three-inch piece of paper my mom had just handed me. Her 1970s lace-covered wedding gown graced my shoulders, flowing to the ground. Despite a minor mustard-dripping incident, the day had gone as smoothly as possible thus far. But this little piece of paper that she had just handed me might be my undoing. I looked at her in confusion and asked, “What in the world... When did he...?”

“I know. It took me by surprise, too.” Her deep brown eyes, mirrors of my own, looked up at me with a mischievous glint.

The night before, Mom had come down the short stairway of our tri-level home looking for my dad. When she rounded the corner into the living room, she discovered him sitting at the computer, half-laughing, half-crying, with tears streaming down his face.

“What’s wrong?” she asked. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know!” he replied. He wiped his eyes, then handed her the small piece of paper that I was now holding. Adorned with a little graphic of a bride and groom at the top, the small sheet of paper read:

“I am the father of the bride. Over the last twenty years, I watched my daughter learn to walk and ride a bicycle. I bandaged scraped knees and let her cry on my shoulder when she was hurt. When she turned sixteen, we spent all morning in the car driving around the county. It was my responsibility to provide all that she needed. As I walk her down the aisle today, I will turn that job over to someone else. I am not losing my daughter today, but gaining a new member of my family. Pray with me that Amelia and Kedron will have a happy and joyous life together.”

He had seen something similar at a wedding earlier that summer, and decided at the last minute to print up his own version. I held back tears, not wanting to streak mascara down my face.

While I attempted to compose myself, Mom said, “He printed off a couple hundred of these and is handing them out to everyone as they come in the door.”

My eyes sprang open in surprise and adoration. “He is?”

Mom looked at me. “Everyone loves it. He’s having a field day.”

My heart swelled. I had a special relationship with my dad. He was a hobby magician, and from the time I was five years old, I’d been his assistant. We’d spent hundreds of hours making up silly songs and poems, nonsensical stories and skits. When we started performing as clowns, he would drive through McDonald’s for a snack, just so he could ask if Ronald could come out to play.

Not long after Mom left the dressing room, Dad came in for pictures. His six-foot frame dwarfed me. When he started balding in his thirties, he decided to shave his head rather than sport a comb-over. He said that his head held so much knowledge it could no longer hold onto his hair. I often told him he looked like Mr. Clean. All he needed was a little hoop earring, which he’d threatened for years to get.

I smiled up at him and said I knew about his secret handout. He grinned, and his chest puffed out a bit.

“I just got the idea last night and decided to make it up really quick.” He pulled a few out of his tux pocket to show me.

The photographer came in, and I stood on my tiptoes to give Dad a kiss on the cheek. His strong arm wrapped around my waist, making me feel small. His bright blue eyes glistened with the hint of tears even as his smile stretched ear-to-ear. I smiled through the kiss and then asked, “How did I get so lucky to have a dad like you?”

Moments later, we stood in the lobby, ready to make our grand entrance. The wedding march was coming to a close as my last bridesmaid approached the front of the church.

“Wait! Wait!” Dad said as he rushed into the other nursery, which had been converted to the men’s dressing room. I thought maybe he was having second thoughts about giving me away. Instead, he rushed back out with a couple tissues. My big, strong, emotionally controlled dad — whom I’d only seen cry a couple of times — was having a hard time holding it together. And, now, I was, too.

He dabbed his eyes and asked the pastor’s wife, “Does my hair look okay?” At that point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

We were a happy mess walking down the aisle, trying not to giggle and completely melt down in tears all at once. It was one of the happiest moments of my life as the two men I love most in the world looked eye-to-eye in silent understanding. I was their jewel. I was their treasure. They would do anything for me.

My father stepped back and released my hand after saying, “Her mother and I.” But he’s never released my heart. I’ll always be Daddy’s girl.

~Amelia Rhodes

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