The Rehearsal DinnerAs most of you know, I have been retired for about a year now. And it has been a very common experience to be asked, “So, what do you do now?” Since it is largely assumed that what you do is what you are…I spent a little time pondering my answer…so I lied. “Oh, I ponder a little, and of course, I blog, and that takes a great deal of time.”
After a few weeks of telling falsehoods, I had to break down and ponder for real, and blog for real, so… I have not always been steady, but I have acquired a little over a hundred “followers”.
So naturally the current ponder is about the event that takes place tomorrow. There is a wedding. Not just any wedding, but the wedding of my daughter, Laura.
I am required by Jewish tradition to give my daughter’s hand in marriage and to escort her to her new home. I’m thinking that her hand is still attached to her body, so the deal is the complete package. It’s an odd phrase, my daughter as family “property” that is “given away” is a little strange, giving a daughter to another who is “outside” the family is worse. Exactly who is this person, and why should I give him anything, particularly my treasured daughter?
I’m also supposed to give a speech at the rehearsal dinner, which is tonight. When I told my wife that I would just adlib a few thoughts, I could see a look on her face that was just a tad fearful. I’m currently taking hormones and ending a treatment of radiation, so the possibility of going “off book” and “off track” was looming large. The possibilities of what I could say are endless. I brilliantly decided to read a potential blog post that would then be posted to the entire world. It would be concerning my feelings about the wedding, my daughter, and this person she is marrying.
So first, let me saying that our entire family is a big fan of “Fiddler on the Roof,” not only the movie, but also the play. In fact, all of my daughters have performed on stage in some performance or another. In addition, they have gifted my wife and I with several custom videos, singing and performing scenes, particularly the “future husband” segment by Teviah’s daughters.
It is not lost to me that Teviah has daughters, I have three daughters, Teviah has frequent discussions with God, I have also been known to ponder with God. Teviah frequently makes rash and confusing statements. I don’t see this relates to me so much. And finally, Teviah has a hat and a beard.
So the movie partly revolves on Teviah’s reaction to the surprising marriages of his three eldest daughters. I can relate… I’ve already had one daughter “given” away, and now another is planned tomorrow.
What is a father’s dream for his daughter’s husband. A good man? Well, yes. A wealthy man? Umm, maybe. A man of character? Absolutely! I think of Teviah at these times.
My daughter Laura’s choice for a husband started out as a friend, which is how it should be. He had a specific charge as a friend, he was to support and protect her from what might be called a “stalker”.
My daughter had gone to college, and as a freshman she was interested in connecting with people, as she was almost three thousand miles from home.
Laura has many qualities, but one of them is a two edged sword. She is very compassionate, and she is very open to meeting people. She also “likes” people who “like” her. That can be a problem.
One young man had attached himself to her quite quickly, and over the next few months had determined her future as his wife and the mother of his children. She became a little concerned, and I was on the West coast and of little help.
I called the young man and was gentle enough, and told him to chill, and not be the “crazy guy”.
It worked for awhile, but it was not “boots on the ground”, I was not there. My daughter’s peace of mind was at risk. Just then, another young man stepped forward, an acquaintance, not well known to my daughter.
Travis stepped forward and provided her with the protection and safety that I could not. A father’s greatest fear was averted by Travis’ willingness to step forward, and I was, and continue to be, forever grateful.
But like Teviah, this doesn’t mean a husband has been chosen!
Nature takes it’s course and Laura tells me that Travis has become a “special friend.” Good for her, nice to have friends, particularly ones that have “stood in the gap.”
Then there came a day when I got a call from Travis. He wanted permission from me to “date” Laura.
Now Laura has dated a number of young men, during high school and even college. She has never suggested that they seek my approval, and more to the point, I trust her judgement completely on the issue of her dating, she doesn’t need my approval!
So this was completely on Travis. It could be that this was a measure of how much Travis cares, or how serious he is about Laura. It could also be a ploy to convince a father that he was old school, and “honorable.” I didn’t know at the time, so I used a completely different rationale.
I told Travis that Laura knows that she doesn’t need my permission to date any one, but on principle, if a stranger asks a father to date his daughter, the father should say “No!”
Teviah would have been proud.
After all, I barely knew this guy. Yes, he had stepped in to protect when I couldn’t, but he was still mostly a stranger. He made the mistake of asking me, and I sort of popped the bubble. I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect me to say no!
So if Travis thought that I would be impressed that he asked permission, well, I wasn’t. What did impress me was what he said next. He didn’t run and hide with an awkward hang up. He calmly asked “What would it take for you to say yes”
Wow, unexpected. This was a young man to be reckoned with. I responded that if he, sometime in the distant future, has the opportunity to say “No” to a stranger dating your daughter, well… he most definitely should, until you get to know the young man asking.
So, Travis asked how we could know each other if we were three thousand miles apart? I was most definitely impressed! I suggested emails and phone calls.
I have no idea how he presented this to his friends, family, or roommates. The comment must have been something like, “I want to date Laura, but first I have to date her father. “. Well, okay, this wasn’t my fault. After all, Travis was the one who did the asking.
Anyway, for the next couple of weeks/months Travis called me, and we struck up a relationship. He was a wonderful person, not surprising because it was something I already knew from Laura. But on his own, he had the discipline to build a relationship with me, and to establish that all important trust. A rare, and epic quality!
There came a time when Travis called about a very delicate situation. A three day holiday was coming up, not enough time for Laura to fly home, but enough “down time” that Travis didn’t like her to be on the campus all alone, with everyone going home to local families.
Travis was going home to Annapolis, and he was wondering if Laura could go with him. He stated it clearly, and saw the problem that he still wasn’t allowed to date her, but he didn’t like the idea of her being alone on campus. What did I think?
Well, I replied, “Of course, if Laura wanted to go she certainly could. It was up to her, and oh by the way, you can certainly date her. I know you well now. You are a fine young man.”
I don’t know, maybe they dated that very afternoon.
Since that time, I have added to my knowledge. Travis is a great roadtrip companion. We have traveled the country together and he has been very patient when I’ve recalled roadside sleeping spots from years ago, or where I buried a brass bed and engine parts on a bizarre road adventure.
And I have been delighted to see Travis disappear, boulder hopping up Sierra creeks, to nearby water falls. He is a completely ethical, and courageous young man, and I am honored to have him in my life.
All in all, it comes down to an answer to prayer. All of my children have found wonderful partners, each of them unique, and the perfect match to make them complete.
For my daughters, I don’t know who is the tailor, who is the revolutionary, or who is the young Cossack… all I know is that Teviah would have been very pleased with their choices, and I feel particularly blessed.
(PS I asked permission from Travis to post this blog. He could have said no, but he said yes!!!)
Laura Park on Which way should I go? Laura Park on Egocentric Laura Park on Cellphone Photojournalism Anonymous on Soapdish Effect johndiestler on Soapdish Effect