Firsts, lasts beckon

Wedding final walk for dad

"I want to talk about me

Want to talk about I

Want to talk about number one

Oh my me my."

--Toby Keith

My oldest daughter is getting married this coming Saturday, and contrary to popular sentiment, the day is going to be all about me. Yes, I know everyone is convinced that the wedding day is really all about the bride and the groom. But I know as my daughter takes my arm for one last walk together this Saturday what will be in my heart and in my mind: Me.

If I follow my memories upstream, I will revisit that late evening when a nurse handed me my little girl for the first time. It was a Cesarean birth, so for the first 60 minutes or so of her life I held that little pink creature in my arms while her mother recovered. I had no idea what to expect from a little baby. I had wanted a little girl, but that was about as far as my planning had gotten me. All I knew was that one of the happiest moments of my life had just happened to me. It was about me from the very beginning.

From the start it seemed a light shone on her literally. Her hair grew into this blaze of platinum gold. As I pushed her stroller, I would be regularly stopped by complete strangers asking to see her. Many would ask if they could touch her hair. But that little smile blazed almost as bright as her hair. It was as if she was determined to win over everyone she met with curiosity, laughter and always that smile. The line formed behind me.

I remember our first walk together. She was not quite 9 months and, as her mom held her upright, she teetered and swayed into my outstretched hands. Soon there would be a blizzard of firsts. First words ("Da Da," of course), first day of school, first bike ride, first time in the snow, first time in the ocean. I greedily devoured them all.

I remember the first sleepover. She was nervous about being away from home that night. I patiently explained that no matter what the time, if she wanted to come home, I would come get her. At around 12:30 that night the phone rang and a little voice quivered, "Dad, I can't sleep here. Can I come home?" I immediately retrieved her, laughingly explaining to her no big deal, but inside I felt vindicated. I felt needed. It would be the last sleepover she would ever come home early from. Independence beckoned.

What followed was a flurry of school events, sports activities, vacations, outings. Soon there would be firsts that I had never planned on: First broken heart, first serious sports injury, losing her mother. I learned that sometimes all you can do is give love. I would keep learning from my failures.

We used to play a game called Superman when she was around 3 years old. I would have her climb some stairs until she was at about my height. I would yell "Superman," and she would dive straight out into the air as if flying -- whereupon I would catch her in mid-flight. She was fearless. She really was flying. Once when we were playing in a furniture store in downtown Bentonville, right after I put my hands out to catch her, a clerk asked if he could help me. As I turned my head to answer him, out of the corner of my eye I saw my daughter literally go flying by. She was fine, but I thought I had let her down. Me again. Little did I realize until later that what a good father does is teach his daughters how to fall as well.

So this Saturday it will probably be my turn, as we start that walk, for me to teeter and sway. I will see the young man standing down the aisle eager for his turn to fly with her, to have his own firsts. My eyes will tear. More firsts still beckon. Yep, it will still be all about me.

NAN Our Town on 05/02/2019

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