This just may be the toughest part about my wedding day. The “daddy” thing.
My biological father has nothing to do with me, with my life, with my fiancé. He’s been absent since my parents divorced and even though I went to visit him on weekends, he still was never around. The emotional disconnect that lingered was so evident and I would cry myself to sleep at night wishing that my “daddy” would just be there like he was when I was five. But that man left and went away and he’s gone. The man who replaced him – I don’t know this guy. He remarried and things between my biological father and I just got worse from there with a tense relationship between his wife and I getting stronger the older I got. The only benefit of weekend custody? It’s how I met my fiancé … Church Youth Group. At least something good came of those terrible weekends.
My mom also remarried. Bill has been in our life since I was seven and while it wasn’t easy to be in his mid-twenties and have three kids under seven, he stepped up. He loved my mom and he loved us. He became that father figure I had lost. Camping, vacations, fishing, days on the lake, going to games and concerts.
But that wasn't all when it came to my “father figures” … I grew up living very close to my grandparents as well, and my grandpa was a major influence in my life. He was another one of those father-figures in my life and pillars of strength that provided the discipline and authority that only dads can give. And when he passed away in 2007, my entire earth shattered. He had been a huge influence in my life and at only 64, he passed away unexpectedly.
Rewind to the past where I was married before in 2005 and my sister in 2009. When it came to who was going to give us away, there was that looming fear of conflict as to who would give us away. The biological father was not an option for us, but we knew that his family would find it offensive if not inappropriate in their eyes to have our step-dad give us away. While I would have loved for my grandfather to give me away in 2005, he declined feeling that it wasn’t right given the situation. Our brother gave us away on behalf of the family – even to this day, despite my marriage in the past ending in a rather unexpected fashion with a lot of negative juju, I love that my brother had that honor.
Fast forward to now. The now where the slate has been wiped clean. And, it’s eight years later. Eight more years of distance and eight more years of growing.
When I introduced my fiance to my family, I was excited how well he and Bill got along. And the first time I heard him call him my dad in conversation, I kind of gave him this look as if to say, “You know he's not my dad, right?”. John's response was simple and clear – “Well, he IS your dad. He raised you. To me, those are your parents and Bill is your dad.” It was something that I had failed to acknowledge or even see growing up.
I didn’t even falter with the knowing of who I wanted to give me away on my wedding day this fall. Bill, the man who raised me as his daughter, would give me away. Bill, the man who in my eyes, is my dad.
There wasn’t a hesitation whatsoever when I called my mom one night and told her this, followed by the words “I’m not inviting him,” referencing my biological father. She didn’t pause in responding for even a moment, “I completely understand and that’s okay with us.” You see, my mom has been there for every moment when I was let down by that other man, that biological father. Every missed concert or game, every hurtful statement about being a burden. It wasn’t even a difficult decision to make.
I have a father. He raised me, and loved me as if I were his. He provided for us and built a play set when we were kids, taught us to fish and all the essentials to camping in the woods and how to hunt (yes, we are a family of hunters – except me, I haven’t hunted in a reaaaaalllly long time). And as the man who raised me, my dad, he is going to take me by the hand, walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, and give my hand to John’s.
I may have spent most of my life up until now wishing my biological father were more involved, missing him, crying over his absence … but it wasn’t until I realized that I had that the whole time in Bill, that I finally let that go. I was grieving a man who didn’t exist and was so focused on a life I had when I was five that I wasn’t seeing the life in front of me – the dad I did have who was right there picking up the broken pieces, worried about every date and showing his gun collection to the ones who came to take me on a second date …
I am no longer overly-sensitive to the “daddy” thing when it comes to weddings or Father’s Day – I finally realized I’ve had one all along. And it’s going to mean the world to me for him to give me away on my wedding day.
And as for my grandfather, as much as it hurts and breaks my heart that he isn’t alive to be here with me today, he will be remembered on this day in my life. The gazebo we will be married in, he built for me before he died. My bouquet has a charm with a photo of the two of us together when I was just a toddler. And there will be a seat, right up front and on the end, right where he would prefer to sit, with his name, reserved just for him.