When exactly does a father know when his little girl is no longer his little girl? Is it when a father is walking down the aisle, with her arm on his, and she is smiling so radiantly as gazes at her husband-to-be waiting for her? Or is the moment of realization when the father hands his daughter to the man she is about to wed, and they join hands, and the father walks, empty-handed, to his chair? Does the reality set in when the words “I do” are uttered, the final contract that seals the intentions of both bride and groom?
For each father, it must be different. But for every father, there must be a moment, that instant when, like a shock wave, it hits you. She belongs to another man. And it nearly takes your breath away.
That moment came, for me, about an hour after the wedding ceremony. Until then, I had hung in there pretty well. Or so I thought. My good friend told me later that night at the reception, that when Melissa and I first emerged to walk down the aisle, I looked absolutely sick. Fortunately, I think all other eyes were on Melissa, who was having the time of her life. This was not a nervous bride, believe me. This was a young woman who had planned every inch of this wedding for months, but on the morning of the wedding was able to put aside all of that, and just lived every minute of that day’s special dream.
People always advise the bride—and the dad—to relax and enjoy the wedding. So many good folks urged us to relish every minute. Melissa didn’t need the advice, but I did. My job, I told myself, was to get through this wedding without either fainting or crying, or both.
So, walking down the aisle, and handing Melissa to Anthony, and hearing the words “I do” left me somewhat numb. I don’t think I realized the full impact of what had just occurred. I was not at all prepared, therefore, for what was to happen soon after. Melissa fainted.
Fortunately, it was not during the wedding ceremony. It was afterward, far from the crowd. She had been standing in the 100-degree sun in her wedding gown, posing for dozens and dozens of photographs. All of a sudden, her legs buckled, her eyes closed, and down she went. Right into the arms of her Prince Charming, Anthony.
A father’s reflex is to run to his daughter, sweep her up, yell for a moist towel, dab it on her forehead, and ask her, as she awakes, “Honey, are you all right?”
That, after all, had been my job for 23 years. Any nick, any cut, any bruise, any tears, and Dad would be there. But as I headed for Melissa, Anthony looked up and said, very appropriately, “It’s all right. I’ve got her.”
Of course, you do, I thought. You are her husband. I am but her father. My job now is to get that wet towel for Anthony. Which is what I did. I handed him the moist towel, and Anthony dabbed it on Melissa’s forehead. Melissa came to, looked into her husband’s eyes and smiled.
That incident was my moment, the very instant when I knew I had been replaced. Oh, it was so much tougher than anything I had experienced at that wedding.
September 13, 2000 ©The Overland Park Sun 2000