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F is for Fathers (Being Lucky Enough To Have Them) by Vivienne
In the split second moment that you say ‘yes’ to the quivering, wobbly voiced person who has plucked up the courage to ask you to marry them, your relationship changes. For many of us, the ‘engagement period’ is a time where soaring happiness is dampened by planning worries, money issues and guest list dilemmas, some seemingly without answers. By the time you make it up the aisle, your heart will have swelled beyond what you thought possible for that same quivering, wobbly voiced man who has meticulously cut bunting from your Gran’s tablecloths, and held your hand while you held your breath during tense family discussions.
But there is another person with a vested interest in your relationship, and that’s your dad. He’s been there right from the start, and as much as he likes to joke about ‘getting you off the payroll’, he’s also pretty darned keen to make sure that you are happy and will continue to be happy with your choice of husband.
And if your dad is a bit of an old traditionalist like mine, then he may very well be in on your husband’s proposal plans long before you are. Having to request permission to propose may well be an antiquated concept, but had my husband not done so, he would have been getting a black mark before he’d even started. I have to admit feeling sorry for him – the prospect of asking my 6’2 strapping farmer father for his only daughters hand in marriage would have a lesser man running for the hills. Luckily for him, my even more intimidating 5’2 mother had been in on it for months prior so he had an ally in the face of this hostile enemy – who *bigsighofrelief* was more than forthcoming with a yes. The very fact that they had this conversation makes me love them both all that little bit more…I just don’t think about what would have happened had my Dad said no….
My relationship with my dad has always been quiet and stoic – we joke that it took me 20 years to get a comprehensible sentence out of him. With three brothers who could talk tractors and cows, sometimes there was little else he wanted to say. But he was always there to scoop me off the ground when I’d be unceremoniously dumped in the mud by a naughty pony, or murmur approval at good school grades.
Getting engaged opened up a new door in our relationship – our senses of humour are wickedly alike, and I found myself not only able to pull one comprehensible sentence out of him, but whole paragraphs about something as fluffy as weddings. Having a mutually pleasing topic of conversation drew us closer, and I was constantly amused by his interest in the details, such as canapés. Haggis balls = good. Chocolate dipped strawberries = not very manly apparently.
Our traditional family set up meant he contributed towards half of our wedding. This also meant my parents had to be given a say in certain aspects of the day, and the guestlist. Which on occasion did lead to ‘interesting’ conversations, and coming to compromises, but we couldn’t have done it without them. They were small sacrifices to make to be able to have a beautiful wedding, and we know how lucky we were to have them support us the whole way through.
Because not every engaged couple has the luxury of a secure family unit behind them to help them plan, organise and conduct their special day. More often than not, parents are themselves divorced and remarried, and while in some cases it can be amicable and not cause any more problems than where to sit each side of the family, often it can cause rifts and friction of Cold War proportions. Sadly, sometimes relationships between yourself and one of your parents can be beyond repair, and you have to go ahead without their blessing or presence. Which I always kept in the back of mind when I was being driven to distraction by certain aspects of planning a wedding that was outwith my full control, because for every niggle it posed, I would rather that than the alternative. It did make me reassess my relationship with both my parents, not just my dad, and I hope I am a better daughter now for it.
On the day itself, he was everything I needed him to be. He had been well instructed not to say anything too nice to me as I would undoubtedly cry. Although with his idea of a compliment being giving my bottom a poke when I’ve lost weight and saying he wouldn’t get much for me at auction, the warning was perhaps unnecessary. That said, his ‘aye, you’ll do’ with a smile, when asked if I looked ok was enough to set me off, so the poor man had no hope. He even remembered to give me a kiss before handing me over to my very nearly husband, despite the suggestion causing us both to ‘blergh, do we have to?’ like a pair of 5 year olds told to hold hands at the wedding rehearsal.
At the wedding breakfast, my mum did the ‘father of the bride’ speech. While Dad had progressed well beyond being monosyllabic, delivering a full speech in front of over 100 people would have been a painful experience for all involved, with bare kilted knocking knees potentially drowning out his attempt. So I spared him from that torture and asked my mum to step in to his rather large shoes, which she did with style and grace. Then he could relax and enjoy the day, knowing his job was done.
I was now married – Dad’s fears that I’d end up a crazy cat lady spinster were diminished, his first born well and truly having flown the nest. More than that, in every photo of us, the pride just beams from his face. Which makes me happier than he will ever know.
Vivienne and her father, captured beautifully by Scott Hogg