Staring at myself in the mirror, I couldn’t help but let a tear roll down my cheek. It was happening–my wedding day. The day I had spent not just the last year and half planning for but my entire life dreaming of, was finally here. I was going to walk down the aisle and say “I do” to the man of my dreams.
Taking a deep breath, I turned slowly, observing my reflection. The white lace of my gown flowed around me, draping here, catching there, and hugging my frame perfectly. My hair was tied back, and my make-up was done perfectly, for the moment. Leaning back in, I dabbed the edge of my eye, trying to keep the tear from causing my mascara to run.
“You look beautiful,” I heard my dad say as he walked into the room. I saw his reflection in the mirror. His face was beaming with pride, joy, and a hint of sadness.
I didn’t want to turn to face him, because I knew as soon as I did, I wouldn’t be able to keep the tears from flowing. Looking from his reflection to my own in the mirror, I suddenly didn’t see the woman who was standing there just seconds before. I saw myself as a child.
I thought back on family vacations to Kentucky, remembering the times he taught me to drive the four-wheeler, letting me venture off on my own across the grassy fields, always under his watchful, concerned eye.
My mind rushed with memories of waving up to him as he watched me proudly from the stands in the ice rink. Even at 9:00 on a Saturday morning, he was always happy to watch me slide back and forth, tripping over my own feet and trying to make it look graceful.
One minute I was the little girl sitting next to him in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to his favorite Beatles songs. The next, my mind flooded with memories of Sunday afternoons, watching the football game together. Every time a touchdown was scored, I would run to his chair as fast as I could yelling, “catch me daddy! I’m the football!” And I always knew that no matter how high I jumped, or how fast I ran, he would always catch me.
I couldn’t help but let a tear run down my cheek as I remembered saying goodbye to him before my first semester away at college. Watching my parents drive away, I was filled with a sense of loneliness and fear. But walking back up to my dorm, and burying my face into my pillow to cry, I found a letter he had hidden there for me. He was proud of me. He knew I would do great, and he would always be there to support me if I ever needed him.
And now, I was going to be leaving him and the safe haven of a home he had worked so hard to give me. I was going to be starting a new life, one all my own, with my husband. But I knew I had chosen the best man I could, because I had my dad’s example to guide me. As a husband he had always loved my mother, he had worked hard to provide for our family, and he had given his all to ensure we would be safe and happy.
Inhaling deeply, I turned to face him. “Do you really think I look pretty?” I asked, tugging nervously at the sides of my dress.
“You look amazing,” he said, walking across the room and taking my hands in his. Placing a quick kiss on my forehead, he took a deep breath, trying to keep his own tears from falling. “I’m so proud of you,” he said to me quietly.
Stepping back and looking up at him, I couldn’t keep my emotions in check any longer. Letting the tears stream down my face, I reached out and hugged the man who had always been there for me. The man who had loved me through the achievements and the failures in my life–completely and utterly unconditionally.
“Let’s go get you married,” he said to me, smiling between the tears that were also flowing from his eyes.
As he took my hand and led me down the hall to the ceremony site, I felt my heart beating faster in my chest, and a lump formed in my throat. We stood, side by side, waiting for the doors to open. “I love you, daddy,” I said between quiet sobs.
“I love you too,” he replied. He squeezed my hand tightly, filling me once again with the reassurance that no matter what happened, I would always be his little girl, and he would always be there to love and support me.
Just a little “short” to celebrate Father’s Day. To all the dads out there, thank you for all you do! And to my dad, for whom this story was written, I LOVE YOU!