48: The Father of the Brides

48: The Father of the Brides

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

The Father of the Brides

A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future.

~Author Unknown

Three wedding days. Three brides. One father of the brides… Sometimes, I still get choked up thinking about my husband, that father.

I think of the way he looked on those wedding mornings as the chaos in the house swirled around him, and he stood just out of the eye of the hurricane, looking a tad lost. And he was.

But he was so much more.

And I sometimes wonder whether those brides of ours fully understood what their father was feeling on their wedding days.

Our daughters always knew that their dad came from very different roots from theirs. That he was first-generation American, with all that means.

They knew, but only sketchily, about his early years on a Central New Jersey chicken farm. Those were tough years.

A farmer’s kid doesn’t do after-school sports or clubs. Not when those endless chores are waiting.

Their dad didn’t take anything for granted. Not luxuries, surely. Not leisure. Not college. There was no sense of entitlement back in Perrineville, New Jersey.

But there were teachers who recognized that this young man had promise. There were mentors who guided him.

And there were scholarships to college and law school or neither would ever have happened. Nor would his long run as a judge of the New Jersey Superior Court.

Maybe that’s why this father of three brides was so happy and proud to give his daughters three much better childhoods than he had. Why he wanted life to be easier for them.

I’m sure he didn’t remember, on each of their wedding days, that he was the first to bathe each of these tiny creatures because I was positive I’d drop them. But I remembered.

He taught our daughters how to whistle, snap their fingers, ride their two-wheelers, and march like he’d done in the Air Force. He also gave them values that endure, and a sense of worth that has sustained them.

It wasn’t always easy. We all used to joke about how the poor man lived in a harem. Four women. Four sets of mood swings, neurotic worries about hair, clothes and weight. And one steady anchor through all the turbulence of three adolescences and one wife seeking her destiny.

And how the man worried. He worried about their safety, their disappointments, the student government elections lost, the teams they didn’t make.

When these daughters left for college, his worrying didn’t stop — it escalated. How would they fare on those distant campuses? Would some T-shirted, long-haired sophomore break their hearts before Christmas break?

They never knew how his face lit up when they remembered to call on Sundays, or on his birthday, before cell phones and e-mails, let alone texting, took hold. They never knew how he marked their final exam schedules on HIS calendar.

And then along came the men who would become the husbands of his daughters, the men he hoped would love them as he had, fully and forever.

They never knew how their father prayed, in his own way, for happy endings.

Who else would have become an instant expert on the best, most waterproof tents for three home weddings? Who else would lose sleep worrying about the outdoor toilets for those weddings?

And who else would gamely walk each of them to their waiting husbands, bravely smiling, on three beautiful June afternoons?

Yes, it was all of this that this father of the brides, who asked nothing in return on those days, gave his daughters.

There are three photos I often turn to in our daughters’ individual wedding albums.

They show a man on a dance floor holding a bride in his arms and trying hard to smile for the wedding photographer.

But each time, the look on his face is of mingled joy, pain, and bafflement.

How did it all go by so fast?

Would this new man in her life be good to her?

Would he keep her safe?

The next frame shows a father hugging his daughter, the bride, as she turns and runs to her waiting groom.

Smudged endings and beginnings are etched into those photos.

I study them sometimes, and remember how, after each wedding, we would collapse on the den sofas and just stare at the ceiling.

Neither of us needed to say it: nothing would ever be the same. Each bride was walking into her own life, and symbolically pulling the door shut.

It was just as it should be.

It was time to move on.

And I was the only eyewitness to the father of the brides as he quietly wiped away a tear.

~Sally Friedman

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