Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thoughts Before a Wedding

It is my daughter's wedding this Saturday, the 12th.  That has certainly been a long time coming - but as the actual date approaches, a mere six days away, it is certainly much on my mind.

It was thirty years less three days that I married my daughter's mother, on November 15, 1986.  That sure feels like a long time ago.  I remember my state of mind: confident, sure of myself, no concerns whatsoever that I was doing the wrong thing.  I loved Michelle and I had no doubts whatsoever about wanting to spend the rest of our lives together.

I do remember the night before.  There was a terrible storm.  I was resting, wide awake, in my best man's basement apartment.  The window was over my head and I could hear the sound of sleet pounding against the glass.  I was pondering the absurdity that I was doing something so "adult" - I was all of 22.  I did not feel like a kid but I definitely did not feel in the least way like my father and mother.  I supposed at the time that it was like that for everyone . . . that the fact of doing something big and final is a sobering moment, especially those moments that have the social consequence associated with tradition, the law and such.

Now I find myself in the equally strange place of being the Father of the Bride.  The process of walking the daughter down the aisle, giving the daughter away ~ and naturally the speech.  I've been working on the speech in my head for months now.  I haven't written a word, not yet ~ and as yet, I don't know how that speech is going to end.  I'm at sixes and sevens with it, my mind is all over the place and I find that I am waiting, as ever, the epiphany that will pull it together.

That is in part what drives me to write this post.  Epiphanies often help those who help themselves . . . and writing about wanting a moment of clarity is doing more than merely hoping it comes along of its own accord.  So all of you, O Gentle Readers, are caught up in this moment as I argue with myself.  This makes a strange post for a D&D blog, but surely the readers must notice that the vicissitudes of life must interfere from time to time with the writing process.  Choose to stay and listen, or feel free to await the next post.

My thoughts have gravitated towards "requited" love.  "Unrequited" is more commonly the adjective associated with love, but this being a wedding we are dealing with the antonym.  The word itself is interesting, as it does not refer to love.  It refers, specifically, to debt.  Middle English defines "quite" as to pay up, and "requite" as to pay back.  In effect, to be quit of the debt that is owed, which my etymology dictionary describes as something that is done "for good or ill."

An interesting phrase, unquestionably, given the phrase more commonly being for richer or for poorer.  But while I do find amusement in it, I wonder if a wedding is really the time and the place to be speaking of debts, given the negative association we make with such things and the unquestionable desire to express joy on the day of a wedding and not the crass elements of pecuniary obligation.

Over the decades, I have been to many a wedding and heard the speeches of many brides' fathers.  We will talk of young people finding their way, we will talk of learning to get on with one another, we will talk of the difficult times and the better times, we will advise, we will subtly threaten, we will be funny.  I've heard it all.  I could stand up and give a cookie-cutter speech like that, I could steal lines from all over, I could punch the patently obvious buttons of the reality-show addicted rabble that passes for my family, channeling the mix of Barney the Dinosaur and Real Wives of Orange County into a sappy confection that ~ provided I am able to hold my gorge in check ~ will bring on tears.  That would be the smart route.  The friendly route.  The route most likely to surprise these people who have known me a long, long time.

I am the black sheep of my family.  My daughter is as black as me, to boot, but being a girl she gets away with far more than I did.  Besides, she looks quite charcoal grey standing beside me.  Were it possible, if my daughter would agree to it, I'm quite sure that my family would be happy to hire a father to stand in on Saturday . . . so we have a sense of what I'm up against, standing up to give a speech about what I think a marriage is, my supposedly last chance to weigh in.

Ridiculous, of course.  My last chance to weigh in came something like 13 or 14 years ago, when she was still in Junior High School ~ that's the reality most of us don't want to face.  Only there's no grand ceremony for the "last day your daughter takes Dad at his word" . . . that day just sort of passes without fanfare.  It would be nice if we had a little warning, but it's up and gone before the chance comes to think a little longer about what should have been said when the chance was still there.

But . . . we pretend that the speech is going to mean something, we pretend that someone in the room is going to remember it a year hence or that any of the advice is going to be taken.  We pretend, because it is nice to pretend, it is sweet, it plays into the whole "joy" thing and hell, why rock the boat?

So there I am, thinking about debt, thinking about a room full of discord (thankfully, they almost hate each other as much as me), thinking about my daughter already being long past Daddy's advice, thinking that I'm glad of that.  I like that she does it her way, takes names and kicks ass, without any help from me.  That was the plan from the start, after all.

She has a t-shirt that says, "Personally, I think Romeo and Juliet could have handled the situation better."

There's a speech in there.  Somewhere.


Dani Osterman said...

Congratulations, Alexis.

Keith S said...

Congrats, and good luck. As a fellow father of a daughter, I expect someday to be in similar shoes. Hopefully I'll be able to convey how proud I am to be her Dad. "I like that she does it her way, takes names and kicks ass, without any help from me" sounds perfect.

Samuel Kernan said...

Best wishes to you and your kin.

James Clark said...

Congratulations Alexis. I hope the speech and the wedding went well for you.

JB said...

Congratulations to your daughter...and to you (as a long time fan of the institution, I appreciate the father's role in the gig).

Enjoy it, man.
: )