On Getting Given Away
My dad and I have this unusual connection. Before I tell you about that…let me tell you a bit about why I decided to write this post.
If you haven’t read Sarah’s blog, take a break from this post to check it out. Her six-year-old daughter answers questions on the blog as the Tiny Wedding Planner. It’s really the cutest thing, at first, and then you get past wanting to squeal from how adorable her daughter is, and the advice is legit and of the pure-and-innocent persuasion.
Anna recently asked TWP a question about the depth of her father’s involvement in their wedding. This was a topic on my mind long before Isaiah proposed, and truthfully, before I even met him.
My dad is an alcoholic. He has been since he was in his teens and only took a short break during the three years he courted my mom…only to quickly resume after they were married and I came along.
There are varying degrees of alcoholism. Some folks are the after-work-grab-a-drink-or-five-everyday type. My dad’s the disappear-for-months-at-a-time type.
When I was younger, I was definitely aware of his alcoholism, but I stayed pretty separate from him during those times. I remember thinking the smell of alcohol was so warm and sweet on his scruff and I slept almost every single night in one of his undershirts and wanted to be closer and closer to him. When I was in middle school, he would pick me up every Monday from school to take me to choir practice an hour away and then we would finish up the night at The Enchanted Castle.*
We used to take an annual trip to Hawaii and one year, my mom didn’t go**. It was my dad and I. He was absent enough to let me get a sunburn so bad, I had deep scabs on my shoulders for more than a month after. There was no defining moment where my dad hurt me, it was just his distance from everyday that led to more and more surface cuts each time.
My parents divorced when I was 12. I knew how much my dad’s alcoholism and repeated stays at rehab affected my mom and I knew he was getting more and more absent from her as he fell deeper in. It wasn’t a last-straw sort of situation. It was an even-my-dad-knew-it-was-time situation. He helped us buy a new house for ourselves.
My dad came by often to pick me up. I have as many fond memories of him being loving and thoughtful. When I was 15, I was dropped off at his house to stay with him and his girlfriend. His girlfriend had left, the door was kicked in, and all of our furniture was gone except the couch, where my dad lay. He had a full beard. There were a dozen empty liters around the room. I thought he was dead.
My dad has been recovering excellently for two months in a program now. Even after all of the roller-coasters I have been on with him, I can’t distance myself. Someday, he’ll die. Because of his lifestyle, that could be sooner rather than later. There are two reasons I don’t waste any time being upset with him:
- For myself. He has disappeared most years, once per year. Every time, I wonder if I’ll see him again. When he dies, I can’t live the rest of my remaining years regretting not enjoying every minute we had together.
- It’s not a choice. I’ll elaborate more than a sentence on that point.
My mom is an incredible person, I’ve told you that before. I would say I get equal halves of my personality from my parents, respectively. But there are qualities that, while he is gone, I can’t identify with anyone in my family on, because they are the ones I share with him. We’re both loud, entertainingly cynical and really talkative. My dad often tells me, “You are my heart.” We are bound to one another because of that connection I mentioned.
Anyways, because I choose to stay close to my dad, I have a dilemma on my hands. I decided a while ago to have my mom walk me down the aisle. If my dad is able to come to the wedding, he’ll be welcome to join us on the other arm.
Choosing who walks you down the aisle can be tough. I believe it’s an honor. I believe it’s representative of who gets the privilege of giving you away and should, therefore, be the person who is responsible for the person you’ve become. But am I gonna let principle stand in the way of me sharing the day with my dad if he’s there? Hell no, I’m not.
P.S. If you have made a different decision in your similar situation, it’s obviously one of the most personal, if not the most personal decision at times, in the planning of a wedding. If you feel comfortable sharing, I like listening.
*My mom and I did the same thing on Wednesdays when I had ice-skating practice…we would go to Marie Callender’s afterward and share broccoli cheese soup and a piece of banana cream pie.
**More on my family’s “status” later.