It’s not that far to walk. Maybe 30 feet I am guessing? It is a small church. And at the end of that walk, a part of my life will be over and a new one will begin. It will take 3 minutes or less. And yet, it is the one thing about planning this wedding that has caused me the most worry, the most heartache. It has been the one argument my fiancé and I have had over anything to do with the wedding.
Will my father walk me down the aisle?
I actually have already talked to my mother about where my father should get fitted for his tux. I have already had a disjointed conversation with her about him walking me down the aisle. I never called her to formally ask. He and I have not really spoken in over a year. The last time we spoke was by necessity at a family gathering for Christmas last year. My mother called me a few months ago once I started to plan the wedding, simply asking what my father should wear to walk me down the aisle.
It seems easy enough to those outside the situation. Knowing my history with my father, knowing my feelings about him, knowing the pain he has caused in my life—NO—he should not have the honor of walking me down the aisle. It seems easy enough.
Do I want him to? No. Mainly because I have had to take care of myself for a long time. I may have done a poor job of it at times, but I have had to find a way to navigate through this world, to honestly survive my relationship with him. It was his voice I heard in my head for the better part of my life. The voice that made me doubt myself, that made me make choices I would not have made otherwise. The voice that told me I wasn’t worth a healthy relationship or belief in myself. The voice that constantly made me doubt myself and at times hate myself. That voice I heard—his voice-- became my voice. I was 36 years old before I even began unraveling that mystery; before I began to try and hear my own self in there. Before I realized it was his voice and not mine I had been hearing.
This isn’t about breaking with tradition. For me, tradition went out the window years ago. I could care less about wedding etiquette or rules, or what people see as right or wrong. A lot of people don’t know the truth about what went on in my house growing up, or who my father was behind closed doors, or who he is now. So yes, there might be questions at the wedding, but that isn’t it either.
It begins and ends with my mother. Although I have wanted to pummel her at times over the years for concentrating on nothing but the fact that I wasn’t married, that I was getting older and was going to end up ALONE, that I was going to get too old to have children—I am happy that she is getting to see this happen. It has worried her to death—almost literally. I know she only wanted my happiness as she completely missed the irony that she was begging for me to enter into an institution that had brought her nothing but pain, disappointment, and loneliness. I know that it will be one of the happiest days in her life to be at my wedding. And I think she has had too few of them. I know if I tell her (because I will have to tell her since my father and I don’t speak) that I do not want him walking me down the aisle, that it will be she who suffers. She will hear him venting, he may refuse to come, and my mother is at times dependent on him when traveling. Not because of any illness or anything like that, she just relies on his opinion, almost his permission, to do anything.
My mother is living in the biggest state of denial I have ever witnessed. Part of this is that in her world, we are the perfect family, have had no issues or dysfunctions to speak of, and every holiday has been a Normal Rockwell painting. My wedding is just another painting in progress, and everything should be in place: the bride in white, the handsome groom, the three tiers of cake, and the father walking the daughter down the aisle.
As much as I want to just let it go, and do the easy thing…I woke up yesterday asking myself who this was easy for. I have, too many times in my life tried my very best to make things good for everyone else. And to be honest, because I grew up living my mother’s denial, I too kept up appearances that everything was normal, if not wonderful in my family for many years. You can learn denial and keeping secrets just like you learn everything else. Everyone at college went home for Christmas and excitedly talked about relatives not seen all year, presents, family meals, and just happiness. At times I even made up stories, or at least very heavily embellished what I had to look forward to. The truth was, Christmas was one of the most painful times of year for me. There were several Christmases that my father either made me leave the house (on Christmas Eve) or things became so explosive that I had to leave. I wasn’t a problem teenager. I didn’t come home with a tattooed boyfriend or a pregnancy announcement or any of the other afterschool-special problems that might send a parent over the edge, even at Christmas. It was as if just my existence, my very being, and all the disappointments I had become were too much for him to handle without loads of alcohol and profanity spewed in my direction. It took me awhile to stop trying to be the last missing piece in my mother’s Rockwell painting, coming home to make it complete for her. Finally, I started taking vacations at Christmastime, saving my vacation time at work, and not always being honest with those who I knew about where I was going. No one wants to hear that you are spending Christmas alone, even if it is in Maui or Paris. It is best to just let people assume you are heading home with the rest of the world.
I took baby steps in trying to preserve my sanity. Not going home for holidays, and then not visiting when my father was home. I felt guilty making things hard on my mother, but had to, at some point, save myself.
And in about two months, I am getting married. It will be one of the most important and happiest days of my life. And though it may seem like an easy decision one way or the other…to spare my mother’s feelings or to say no to someone who doesn’t deserve the honor…it isn’t easy. But, I have waited so long for this. For this love. I honestly had completely given up on it happening for me. And the joy I have had in my life for the almost ten months I have been with my fiancé has changed my life and made me stronger. I honestly believe I had to learn to love again, and my fiancé has taught me. They say you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. I think for the most part, that is true. But sometimes, you can’t see yourself until someone else sees you. Believes in you. Helps you hear their voice and your own above everyone and everything else. And that has happened for me.
The thought of even the gesture of letting my father walk me down the aisle makes my stomach hurt, makes me angry, makes me sad.
The thought of walking myself down the aisle, toward the man I love, toward my new life makes me nothing but happy.
Maybe it is an easy decision after all.