My daughter got married recently, and as father of the bride, I had two responsibilities: to escort her down the aisle, and to give a welcoming speech at the reception. The walking part turned out to be relatively easy – minimal slippage. The rest was more difficult, what with my fear of public speaking; so I figured, if I had to go through that, why waste a good speech?
And so I’m printing it as my column. Reuse and recycle, people:
Welcome to all of you: Two families that have become one, friends, those who have come a long way, and those who have sneaked in for free cake. Welcome to the family, Bo – I believe I did warn you about us. I’m very pleased to see you all here today.
Charis has brought a great deal of light into my life. In fact, I don’t recall her ever turning off a light switch … but this is in no way a complaint. It can be a dark world, and we need all the light we can get. There is, of course, no greater light than love, and there is no greater expression of love than two people who choose to spend their lives together.
On a personal note – and I can do that, because it’s my speech -- I’d like to point out that I’ve had some very difficult jobs:
I worked on a worm farm, for two dollars an hour.
As an unarmed security guard, I once spent twelve dark hours guarding a telephone company tower in the middle of nowhere, during a strike. What I would do if the strikers showed up I don’t know, because there was no telephone at the telephone tower.
Presently I take 911 calls from people who are having the worst moments of their lives, and have absolutely no desire to hear me say “calm down”.
As a firefighter, I once had a ceiling fall on me inside a burning building. Well, twice. No, three times … you know, I’m beginning to see why the other firefighters are avoiding me.
But the most difficult job in the world is raising children. The hours are long, the working conditions can be horrendous, and I, the employee, actually had to pay to do it.
The worst part is, you never know if you’re doing the job right. You could liken it to a lifelong pursuit of education, except there’s no final test, no diploma, and if your kids do become good adults, you never know if it’s because of your efforts, or just a happy coincidence. You agonize over the smallest decisions and you worry about how to pay for the big ones. And on your death bed, you’re still wondering if you did it right.
After all, for most people this is your only real chance at immortality. Naturally, I’d rather be immortal by not dying, but that’s not one of the choices.
If you’re serious about doing it right, parenting is the most difficult job in the world. It’s also the most rewarding.
Charis, I don’t know if your mother and I did it right. I know we tried. I know we raised a daughter who’s bright, responsible, and caring. I know we’re very proud. If you’re my final exam – then I passed.
Of course, I’m still taking Jillian 101.
There are many things I planned tell everyone about the bride, but her sister made me take that
stuff out. Apparently editing my speech was one of Jillian’s duties for this weekend. I had an entire chapter just on teaching Charis to drive.
Instead, I’ll simply give Charis and Bo two bits of advice:
First, get away at least once a year. Take a long, relaxing vacation from your regular life. I suggest one of you go in July, and the other in August.
Second, learn something every day. About yourselves, about each other, about the world around you, about TV trivia, whatever. It may seem strange, but learning is the brain’s exercise. Learning leads to knowledge, and knowledge is power. We care when we learn. We’re inspired, and we gain riches far more important than money. You’re going to go through some rough times ahead – life will do that – but the more you know, the better you’ll be able to handle it. After that, love really is all you need.
So ladies and gentlemen, please join me in toasting the happy couple. I wish them success in all they do, and a long and happy life.
The most important person there, and the bride:
Okay, seriously, the most important people there:
The father-bride dance. The DJ is my brother-in-law, who Fort Wayne residents know as Chris Cage of WMEE, 97.3. He's already been paid, so the free publicity isn't a form of trade. (To your left you can see Charis' step-father manning a tripod mounted video camera. No, that wasn't uncomfortable.)
The grandparents. Left to right, my stepfather, mother, and grandmother; Charis' birth-grandmother, leap_to_faith, Bo, my ex-wife's birth mother, my father, and my ex-wife's father, who also officiated. Yes, you do need a scorecard.
On the right is the bride's sister and right hand wedding girl, jillyh2009, along with her friend Ashley. In the center is jillyh2009's uber-adorable stepsister, Megan.
I knew you'd all want a picture of the cake. Sadly, I didn't get one while it was friggin leaning; but the wedding party fixed that before the ceremony.