I wasn’t thinking about losing my daughter as I prepared to walk her down the aisle. I was thinking about how beautiful she was, and wondering how my little girl had turned into this amazing woman. I’d been through this before with my other daughters, but when she first came out in her dress, her hair beautifully arranged in a mass of curls and waves that took two hours and a pound and a half of bobby pins to hold in place, I was still caught by surprise at the metamorphosis. My heart stopped and I had to turn away for a moment.
Dads don’t cry, at least, not where people can see them.
My little tomboy, the girl who swore she would never have a frilly wedding, looked like she belonged in a bridal magazine. I swallowed the lump in my throat, and hoarsely whispered to her that I loved her and was so very proud of her. Her eyes misted and she cried “Dammit Dad!” as she tried to keep tears from ruining her makeup.
I always know the right thing to say.
I still wasn’t thinking about losing her when I walked up to the altar and handed her off to the groom. I wasn’t ‘giving her away.’ She was still my daughter, right? She was still my little girl. During the ceremony, as she and her husband to be spoke their vows, their love for each other was obvious. My daughter is not one to show when she’s feeling something deeply; she’s like me that way, but I could see the joy and happiness in her eyes and hear her laughter as both she and her husband fumbled their responses.
We took pictures once the ceremony was over, and she and her husband went off on their honeymoon, and it was still fine. She was still my daughter, and I was cool with her getting married. I like her husband, who is a good man, and is deeply in love with her. This is something she’s wanted for a long time, and now she has it and I’m happy for her.
Then she changed her name on Facebook.
No warning, no advance notice, just one moment she was a Hailey, and the next, not. For some reason, maybe it’s because she’s the last of my girls to get married or maybe it’s because she’s had to fight so hard to get to this point in her life, it hit me hard; I felt a surprising sense of loss.
All of my little girls were gone.
Not gone, gone; they all live within a few hours of me, and two within a few minutes, but they aren’t mine anymore. And I don’t mean that in a possessive way like I owned them or anything, but I’ve spent years raising them, caring for them, loving them, and now they take on another man’s name and he gets to care for them, and love them, and together they will raise more children.
Don’t get me wrong; that’s a good thing. I’m happy for them and I do like the men they’ve picked. It’s just that now they’ve joined with another to start families of their own, and I feel somehow diminished.
I know this is all politically incorrect and I’m being patriarchal and possessive and I’m sure that there are feminists somewhere who are outraged that I ever felt like my daughters were mine. All I can say is that they were mine. I changed their diapers. They learned to walk on my feet, and later learned to dance the same way. I put bandaids on skinned knees, and hugs on skinned hearts. I listened to adolescent rages and comforted bone deep sorrows. I outlasted the teenage years and was there to watch them all grow into beautiful women; strong, secure, and confident.
And now I have to smile as I watch them walk away.
Because dads don’t cry.