From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Picture Perfect

Ed first met my husband, Paul, that fateful fall evening when he came to take my daughter to the junior prom.

“We don’t have time for pictures,” were the first words out of Ed’s mouth as I pulled out my camera complete with a new roll of thirty-six exposure film.

“I think we do,” Paul replied, standing his ground. And with that, the handsome young man in the black tux took his place in front of the drapes. Ed stood proudly next to my sixteen-year-old daughter, Jen. They looked at each other with sparkling eyes. Paul hoped this was a passing phase.

Later Paul asked me, “What type of guy meets the parents stating, ‘We aren’t doing pictures’? This definitely isn’t the right guy for our daughter.”

“Now, honey, give him a chance. You just met,” I counseled, sure that it would be just another crush.

Evidently, Jen saw Ed differently, because they dated throughout high school and married a year later.

Paul tried to avoid butting heads with Ed, he really did. But they were both in love with the same woman, in different ways, but, oh, so competitive. And Ed was very headstrong. It wasn’t that he was mean or cruel; he was just plain ole stubborn. They both were.

“Are Jen and Ed coming for dinner Sunday?” Paul would ask.

“Not this Sunday. Ed wants to take her to a new restaurant,” I’d reply.

“Jen and Ed going to the movies with us next Saturday?” Paul would ask.

“Can’t. They want to stay home alone by the fire.”

And so it went.

Eventually, they moved an hour away from us to San Diego where his Navy base was located. My husband moped. His oldest daughter had been stolen right out from under his nose. At least, he saw it that way.

The happy couple bought a fixer-upper in San Diego. Paul arrived with his toolbox in hand, anxious to help fix up the place.

“Here to put that new fan in for ya,” he said.

“Oh, no need, I’m doing it tomorrow,” Ed replied.

“I’ll fix that leaky faucet,” Paul offered.

“Nah, I’m doing that next week on my day off,” Ed said. On and on. Two stubborn males jockeying for position.

Ed reluctantly shared his family Christmases and Easters with us. We spent lots of weekends in San Diego. An uneasy tension always pervaded when Jen was around.

It was like Ed was afraid we’d steal Jen back. He didn’t know how deeply he was embedded in her heart.

One such weekend she told me that Ed and her dad were a lot alike; men who knew what they wanted and weren’t afraid to go after it. She said that was one of the sterling qualities that had attracted her to Ed.

I shared this with Paul and all I got was, “Hrumph!”

On an evening in June the phone rang. “Mom, get Dad on the extension, I have exciting news for you both.” I called Paul and while he listened in, Jen talked a mile a minute. “We’re being transferred to Japan for three years; isn’t that a hoot?”

My heart gave a jump; I stared numbly at the receiver. Japan! Oh, no, how could Ed take our Jennifer so far away?

I didn’t want to rain on her parade, but let’s face it, at that moment Ed wasn’t winning any points with either Paul or me. I wondered how Paul felt about this; he hadn’t said a word. Paul feigned an enthusiasm I was sure he didn’t feel.

“Well, we’ll just have to come visit you,” he replied cheerily.

They left for Japan and a funny thing happened. We missed Jen and the children tremendously, but we missed Ed, too. We missed his smile, his personality, and his sense of humor.

Paul and I always listened in on different extensions on our weekly phone calls. One Sunday Jen called so breathless she could hardly speak.

“Mom, Ed got the Sailor of the Year Award!”

“Wow, Jen! What an honor,” I replied.

“Yes, and he’s getting promoted to officer’s school. The Mustang program.”

Evidently Paul understood this military jargon, because he was excited.

Then Ed got on the line.

“Hey, you folks will have to come to the ceremony. You two would love Japan. Besides, I would be honored to have you as my guests.”

“I think it’s time for that visit,” my husband replied.

I was surprised, actually shocked. Was this an offer of a truce in the war for Jennifer’s heart?

I couldn’t take time off from work, but Paul was determined to go. He traveled over five thousand miles for twelve hours to proudly stand beside his son-in-law at the ceremony.

It has been many years since that first night when Ed said, “We’re not doing pictures.” Paul came home from Japan with over 200 digital photos on his camera. I look at these images of Ed and Paul on either side of Jennifer, both grinning from ear to ear. I guess they both have matured through the years and decided her heart has enough love for both of them.

Sallie Rodman

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