This I Believe

Steven - New Paltz, New York
Entered on June 26, 2008

I had known Michael since he was in fourth grade. And he had been dating my daughter Nancy since they were seniors at New Paltz High. Nevertheless, I assumed that he did not relish the idea of being trapped with me in a VW Rabbit for the half-hour drive to the airport.

So I started yammering as soon as I dropped my dad-bulk into the hard, springy seat. I talked Porsches. I talked Clemson football. I talked Black Crowes. I talked computers. I talked so much that the Michael didn’t have to say one word, his head nodding like one of those dashboard bobble head dolls.

Nearing the airport exit, my mouth dry from the non-stop palaver, I paused to lick my cracked lips. Which was when Michael finally uttered a groan, “Y’know …,” he lowed, a breathy pause for the name he still couldn’t speak, “I’ve been meaning to ask you … for some time now …”

Yeah, like thirty minutes. “Shoot,” I smiled, pleased that I might not have to use all my conversation ammo. I was ready for anything. Well, almost anything.

“Um … I-want-to-ask-Nancy-to-marry-me-and-I-was-hoping-you’d-give-me-your-blessing,” he barely croaked, cranking his head to the side like he was mid-exorcism, the green pallor making me fearful that the poor guy had stopped breathing.

As a man who seconds before had more words to spew than time to spew them, I was speechless, a goofy smile pasted across my mug. “You don’t need my blessings,” I finally coughed through fluttering lips, the Rabbit squealing around the cloverleaf . I lifted my arm in slow-mo and laid a palm on his shoulder, “but you certainly have them .…” His green cheeks instantly pinked up and he applied that leaden foot to the brake.

Five silent minutes later, after I slipped out of my sweat-soaked seat, Michael and I hugged like men, bumping chests and delivering the three requisite slaps on the back with the right hand. And that was it. But that was not all.

Ten years after our near death experience—and similarly breathless blessings conferred on two other future sons-in-law, I want Michael to know how appreciative I remain for that wholly unexpected gesture of asking for my blessing. Not my permission mind you, he didn’t need that. Just my blessing.

The joy a dad feels at his daughter getting married is matched only by the utter shock that she would ever grow up … or love anyone else but him. A little pathetic, yes, and more than a little antiquated, but true nevertheless. And so I have come to believe that the outmoded act of asking for a father’s “blessing” is neither gratuitous nor demeaning, as some seem to think. It is a blessed gesture of kindness, an ancient acknowledgment by a younger man that what lies ahead is going to be one mother of a loss for the older one.