SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
My daughter got married this month.
I know what you’re thinking: “But Mark, you’re not old enough!” Darn tootin’. The scandalous truth is, I’m only five years older than my daughter. Yep. Scientists are mystified.
The other scandalous truth is that my main concern wasn’t the event, or pining away for my little girl grown, the way fathers are supposed to. No. I was stressed about what would go wrong.
There seems to be some kind of big Karmic thing going on for me this year: “Okay, Mark: You finally got your first book published, so we’re going to make the rest of 2011 living hell.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Illness, injury, death, fire, accidents – you name it, it happened to my friends and family this year. I lost so much blood in 2011, I thought I was in an IRS audit. (As I write this there’s a tornado watch and heavy thunderstorm going through. In mid-November. See?)
So I knew – just knew – something would go horribly wrong. Not some little something, either. Big fight; plane crash in the parking lot; male guest wearing a dress that matches the bride’s. Something big.
After all, two three year old boys were in the wedding, and if that’s not a recipe for disaster you’ve never tasted my steak tartare. How was I supposed to know it doesn’t include tartar sauce? I mean, it’s in the friggin’ name.
So the day before the wedding I walked down to the basement to change the laundry around (I do the laundry, my fiancée does the cooking – see above about steak tartare, which by the way my insurance will totally pay for those hospital bills). There I saw water standing around the sewer drains.
My fourteen regular readers are well aware of my ongoing fight with roots and backed up sewer lines, a problem I solved permanently a few years ago with a torn up back yard and a four figure plumber bill. Or at least, I thought permanently.
I cried, a little. I cried more when we had to use the Jaws of Life to get me into my fire department dress uniform, which I wore as father of the bride in lieu of paying for a tux – I mean, because dress uniforms are really cool. Except for the no longer fitting part it really is cool, too: Shiny new badge, 30 year pin, nametag, “AFD” pins on my lapels …
All of which had disappeared.
Luckily I had a spare badge (read: Old) and nobody really looks at the father of the bride anyway, so I got by. Really, the worst clothing malfunction I had the whole weekend was the wet spot after a huge deer walked in front of our car on the way to the rehearsal. We figure about a ten point buck, which led to me thank Vince, the new groom, for working on my brakes a few months ago and saving us from a face full of deer antlers. I would think by now Vince is getting tired of fixing things for me, which is why I elected not to mention the sewer, for fear he’d call the whole thing off.
Apparently my luck didn’t rub off on the happy couple, because the wedding did indeed go off without a major hitch. Later I dumped a 55 gallon drum of drain cleaner into my basement (you should have seen the look I got from the guy at the store), which has never worked in previous “events” but, somehow, did this time. Maybe it was all about building up stress to see if I’d break: I didn’t.
However, I came close on the way home from the wedding, when I took a different route to avoid the buck, then missed a female deer by two feet.
And now, because I believe in recycling, here’s the speech I gave during the reception, which was followed immediately by a sigh of relief that it wasn’t longer:
As many of you know, I’m Charis’ father and so now the father-in-law of Vince or, as I like to call him, “skilled family labor”. I’ve encouraged my children all their lives to someday marry someone with home maintenance skills. Whether Charis’ choice was a coincidence, or if she learned from growing up with a man who has no such skills, I don’t know.
I’m a volunteer firefighter, as you can see by the outfit, and I know something about fear. Not from firefighting: from parenting.
There’s nothing quite so terrifying as being a parent. In fact, three of the most stressful events of a person’s life are having children, getting married, and winters in Indiana. Charis and Vinny, you’ve chosen to enter all three. My advice: a duplex in Florida.
Barring that, you need love, patience, and Tylenol.
You tied a knot that is never meant to be untied; your individual lives are no longer as important as the two of you together, and although you’ll always remain members of two other families, you’re now a family of your own, with all the good things and scary stuff that entails. Families are made in different ways, of different things, but in the end they’re all about banding together in love. Embrace the love. And don’t forget the patience.
One more thing. As parents of twins – God help you – you might be wondering what I learned about that terrifying thing call parenting. Well, I learned it doesn’t get less scary, it doesn’t get less challenging, and you never know if you’re doing it right. The best you can hope for is that, someday, you’ll stand in a place like this, see an adult where your child once was … and be just as proud as I am now.