There is no real job description for the father of the bride. You stand around feigning patience and bravery, telling fibs like, “I'd love to buy that dress for you,” hoping she doesn't catch you gasping at the price tag and smacking your forehead. You find yourself saying, “Sure, go ahead. No problem. I'll write a cheque.” And all the while you have as much control of your emotions as a Brazilian soccer fan. You smile when it makes no logical sense, choke back unsolicited advice, and barricade the tears when she says, “Let's go for one last walk. Tomorrow I change my name.”
The truth is, she's had you wrapped around her pinkie for 22 years. Your sons are another matter. You paw the ground and snort at them, but not her. She bats her eyes and you are cheese in a barbecue.
And when this stunningly gorgeous gal takes your arm and pulls you down the aisle, the minister talks but you don't hear him. You're too busy staring daggers at the boy you've been trying to keep on curfew for months. You're the quarterback on the final play of the Super Bowl and they've asked you to hand the ball to a rookie whose skills are untested, whose motives are not entirely pure—much like yours when you were his age.
“Does anyone have reason these two should not be joined?”
“Me! I have 300 reasons! Where do I start?”
But you choose the right to remain silent and sit beside your wife who is dabbing her eyes with a tissue but needs a beach towel. “I'll tell you why people cry at weddings,” you whisper. “They haven't slept for three days.”
Rachael stands there looking like an opportunity missed by Rembrandt and when she talks I am dabbing too: “Jordan Matthew, I stand before you in white, not because of fashion, tradition, or purity, but because God is giving me to you as a gift. I promise to put Jesus first in our marriage, to love Him more than you, for only then can I truly show you love. I promise to make you laugh often and to be faithful. To make home a place you run to; a place you want to stay. I will care for you, be your helpmate, encourage you in ministry and stand by you no matter what comes. I give my heart to you, to guard and protect. I love you.”
In the row behind us sits Bill. Thirty-four years ago to the day he stood at the altar with snow-capped expectations vowing to be true to my wife's sister. He had no idea they would enjoy nine short years together before Huntington's disease arrived and the slow ride to the nursing home began. Here I am, surrounded by all these saints.
At the reception, my voice quivers like a fat man on a diving board and I'm thankful for notes. “My darling Rachael: We've been praying for this day for 22 years. Not because we wanted to get rid of you, but because we wanted to see you happy and smiling and hanging onto a guy who is head over boots in love with you, reasonably handsome, and relatively responsible. Well, two out of three ain't bad.
“Someone said, 'Don't think of it so much as losing a daughter.' They're right. I think of it as paying to lose a daughter. You're worth every penny. Sadly no one takes pennies. They want twenties and hundreds.
“Most nights when you were small I tucked you in with butterfly kisses. A nose rub. Fluttering eyelashes. 'I love you, Rachael,' 'I love you too, Daddy.' Remember Jordan, I loved her first.
“Your friend Simone asked if I was gonna cry walking you down the aisle. I told her if I did it would be because I was about to hand the Mona Lisa to a 300-pound orangutan. She laughed because she knows that Jordan is anything but. He's actually 200 pounds. Seriously, we love you Jordan. You fit into our family like chocolate on a s'more.
“Rachael, you've brought us up well. Most nights when we knocked on your door, you were listening to country music or reading your Bible or counselling some needy friend on my phone. Thanks for your example. And thanks to both of you for not opening your Christmas presents in September. Sadly, the world we brought you into teaches you to wait for nothing. Like you, Ramona and I didn't share a pillow until our wedding night. We've not regretted it for a single moment.
“Our prayer is shorter than 22 years ago. Today it's 'Thanks!' We thank God for you both. We'll be cheering and praying. And the fridge will always be stocked.
“Grandpa and Grandma would have loved to see this day. They passed along so many great family traditions. For instance, they went along on all of our honeymoons. We can't wait to spend the next two weeks with you in Thompson, Manitoba.
“And to all my friends about to partake in the six course meal, I want you to know that we are enrolled in the Gift Registry at the First National Bank.”