I had known Michael since he was in fourth grade. And he had been going out with my daughter Nancy since they were high school seniors. Nevertheless, I assumed that even as a grown man with an engineering degree he did not relish the idea of being trapped with me in a VW Rabbit for the half-hour drive to the Raleigh-Durham Airport.
So I started yammering from the moment I dropped my dad-bulk into the hard, springy seat and slammed shut the padless door. I talked Porsches. I talked Clemson football. Black Crowes. Dell Computers. ACC basketball. I talked so much that Michael didn’t have to say one word, his head nodding like a bobble head doll.
I talked so much that I had to stop talking to lick my lips, which was when Michael uttered breathlessly “Y’know …,” he lowed, a breathy pause for the name he still couldn’t speak, “I’ve been meaning to ask …”
“Shoot,” I smiled, pleased that I might not have to use all my conversation ammo.
“Well, I want to ask Nancy to, um, marry me, uh … and I was hoping you’d give me your blessing ….”
His green complexion made me instantly fearful that the poor boy had stopped breathing in anticipation of the paternal explosion that might follow. But as a man who seconds before had more words to spew than time to spew them, I was incapable of sound, a goofy smile pasted across my mug locked in place by the g-forces of the Rabbit going 140 MPH around the cloverleaf. “You don’t need my blessings,” I finally coughed and sputtered through my fluttering lips, lifting my arm in slow-mo and laying my palm on his shoulder, “but you certainly have them .…” Which was when his green cheeks began to pink up and he applied that leaden foot to the brake.
Four months later, Addie’s Jon ambushed me from behind, asking for my blessing while I did dishes. And a few years after that, Clover’s Jeffrey just “dropped by” one afternoon while I was mowing the lawn.
The joy a father feels at his daughter becoming a woman is matched only by the utter shock that she would ever grow up … or love any other man but him. There’s nothing to be done about it, of course, but it’s true. And so the brave yet humble—and definitely un-pc–act of asking for a father’s “blessing” (not his approval or permission, mind you) is no more–and no less–than an ancient acknowledgement by the younger man that this is going to be one mother of a loss for the older one.
And so it was. And so it is. And now that those three good men are fathers of daughters themselves, I believe that in taking what was not mine to give–and asking what was not theirs to request—the blessing they received will be mine when it comes time for their daughters to leave their sides.
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