Author’s note: My 88-year-old father is also a Catholic priest. As a widower, he entered the seminary at age 62 after running his own business for years. At age 65, he graduated with his master’s degree in theology and was ordained a Catholic priest. His experiences of growing up in the Depression, serving in WWII in China, raising six kids, having 18 grandchildren, and running his own business have given him insight, wisdom, and a great sense of humor about life. Here I share short wisdoms from my father the Father.
I stood in the pew of a church watching a longtime friend come around the corner with his daughter in a beautiful wedding dress. I immediately flashed to that moment in the future when I will have to walk my only daughter, Meg, down the aisle. I quickly looked away to fight back tears. I turned to my wife, who came down the aisle with her father 28 years ago, and said, “I won’t be able to do that. I will be a train wreck.”
Thinking about it later, I knew that taking Meg’s arm to walk her down the aisle toward someone she loves ought to be a cause for celebration, not grief. Yet that moment will be the conclusion of the most important chapter in my life: our family will never be the same. Fatherhood will never be the same.
The verdict is in: I have a little work to do between now and that moment WAY down the road. Looking to garner a better perspective, I began to ponder an insight my dad gave me not too long ago.
He had just hung up the phone after talking with Peggy, my sister and one of his three daughters. He began to describe to me what a blessing his daughters are in his life.
“Peggy, Kathy, and Joni…they each help me so much. I am amazed at all they do in their lives. Each one has accomplished so much and done such a great job with their families. They have helped me all my life and I am really proud of them,” he said.
“I know having a daughter in my life has meant a great deal to me,” I replied.
“There is a saying I like,” he said.
“A son is a son till he takes him a wife. A daughter is a daughter all of her life.”
Having three girls and three boys as children, I imagine he might have a lesson or two in his pocket. He said this phrase with a bit of a smile but you sensed he saw some truth in it. I know he couldn’t imagine a day without his three daughters.
My brother Tom seemed to have perspective about the pivotal moment of watching a daughter wed. Just prior to walking his daughter Molly down the aisle he said to me, “I am just so blessed to be able to be present to do this.”
The father-daughter relationship is a special one that requires essential rites of passage, including marriage. When that day comes for me, I will remind myself of a line from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you.” Hopefully, I will take a deep breath and just be grateful that I have the chance to walk down the aisle with someone I love. And remind myself of the saying my Dad shared, “…a daughter is a daughter all of her life.”