The rental shoes of my tuxedo made a funny noise on the stone floor of the country club. I felt a little self-conscious. People I didn’t know swirled around me laughing and talking. The photographer’s assistant pinned a flower to my lapel and I looked around for a familiar face. The impression was joyful but I still felt awkward. My baby girl was getting married! I knew this was an important moment that I needed to remember but what did I feel?
It was going to be a hot one. What were they thinking? An outdoor wedding in Arizona in summer! But they were passing out fans and water and I knew it would be fine. I reached in my pocket for a handkerchief and realized I forgot it.
There is John Michael and there is Jennifer. But where is Charlotte? Someone pointed me to a door and someone else opened it for … for… “The father of the bride.”
I was quickly pushed through and surrounded by bride’s maids and mothers to shouts of “Door! Door!” It wouldn’t do for the groom to see the bride before she came down the aisle. It didn’t matter to me. I was transfixed by my beautiful daughter sitting on a little stool in the midst of a sea of silk. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. A little veil was pinned to her blonde hair. She held a bouquet of fall colored flowers and she looked up at me and smiled.
Somewhere under all that satin and lace, make-up and under-pinnings was my little girl. She was so happy. I tried to remember her whole childhood at once. The memories flooded past me now: pre-school Charlotte rappelling off the freezer in the garage in her “footie” pajamas, her and her brother scuba diving in the bathtub, learning to ride a “two-wheeler bike” in the park and watching her ride away as I bent over double out of breath. I thought of all the hikes and camping trips: her little teddy bear’s head sticking out of the top of her rucksack, watching her learn to throw a tomahawk and shoot a rifle at scout camp. Sailing together, catching fish, and most of all, reading bedtime stories.
Too soon it was time to go. Too soon we walked down the aisle. Too soon I shook the love of her life’s hand. Too soon I sat and listened to the beautiful words of two young people deeply in love. Warm tears slid down my cheeks. Someone passed me a handkerchief. Then they marched back down the aisle “Mr. and Mrs. Bentz.”
The reception was a giant party. There was food and drink and laughter and dancing and everyone had a wonderful time. I still felt a little lost. I made small talk and ate my cake. I strolled outside and someone tapped me on the shoulder. “It’s time for you to dance with the bride!”
Dancing? I don’t dance! Then I remembered twirling Charlotte in the kitchen. My little girl loved to dance and she judged a skirt by how it would twirl. Of course I will dance with the bride!
Every eye was on us as they cleared the floor. I took my little girl in my arms, kissed her cheek and we began to move. She made me look good and I began to relax. We laughed and her blue eyes sparkled. She twirled once more her skirts flying. I saw my little girl again. She is so much in love!
“Do you want to dip me?” She whispered as the song was coming to an end. “Of course!” I said. Everyone roared their approval and we were blinded by the flashes of every camera in the room. This joyful moment was frozen as I held my little girl in my arms one more time.
Being a father is one of life’s greatest rewards.