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Life Notes: Father of the Brides
The special spirit of a husband and dad

At dawn on the June morning of our daughter Jill’s wedding, I couldn’t find my husband. He wasn’t upstairs or downstairs or in the basement.

I was on the verge of total panic when I spotted him in the side yard where the wedding ceremony was to be. In a T-shirt and shorts, silver hair wild, here was this man stooping over 150 rented chairs, removing the dew from each and every one of them.

“What are you doing?” I demanded. And my husband barely looked up as he said, “I’m making things right.”

I’ve never forgotten that scene or those words. They were – and are – a perfect metaphor for my husband, the father. I sometimes believe the man I married when I was 21 and he was an older man of 27 was put on this earth to make things right.

I was one of the lucky women of my generation who actually believed those Doris Day/Rock Hudson romps about picket fences and happily ever afters. We were practically brainwashed to go out and find our own Rock Hudsons, be sweet and flirty, but not too flirty, and then snare them as husbands.

As was the custom, my parents planned our wedding since I was taking my college finals, and the rest – the happily ever after – was up to us.

I was pregnant by our first anniversary, and that’s when I discovered a whole new dimension of this man. He was meant to be a father.

Jill burst into the world early and tiny, and it was her father who took on her first bath, because I was too nervous to do it. When I was overwhelmed or just plain exhausted, there he’d be, instinctively knowing not just how to calm a tiny girl with a thatch of blonde hair, but her mother, too.

Two more babies tumbled into our lives, and even though I knew he yearned for a son he would name Jonathan, he got an Amy and a Nancy instead.

While I lamented the ages and stages that whizzed by, their father somehow always accepted the present. Never mind the goodbyes on three college campuses that were downright traumatic, as was each daughter’s decision to spend a college or post-college year in Israel on service projects.

And then came those weddings. Let no one ever tell you the decision to have a home wedding makes things easier – or less expensive. The opposite is true in both cases.

But there was this man, trained in the law, and humbled and honored to become a judge, investigating porta-potties and plotting out the dimensions, inch by inch, of tents that would ultimately cost that proverbial arm and leg. The first time wasn’t actually the hardest; the last home wedding was.

On three June afternoons, this father of the brides did the hardest work of his life: he handed over his daughters to three good and loving men knowing that, of course, nothing would ever be the same.

It was as it should be. It was joyful and meaningful and the nature gods gave us three June days without rain. The guests seemed happy and the caterers did their jobs well. So probably nobody really noticed a man and woman standing on the sidelines each time, watching a daughter dancing with her groom as if the rest of the world had tipped away.

And for them it had.

During the last of the weddings, we stood near the beech tree in our yard knowing that this one was somehow different. This one ushered in the era of “It’s just you and me kid.” Of course, I was crying. It’s my default position at family milestones. And of course, my husband had the perfect words to comfort me.

I don’t remember precisely what they were. But I do know that as always, there was my husband, the father of the brides, doing what he does best. Making things right.

June 2015
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