I traveled to Las Vegas with my brother and his wife last week for their daughter’s wedding. But during the course of our time together, my heart made a trip of its own.
“I’m supposed to give my daughter away tonight,” my brother said as father of the bride. “But I don’t want to give her away.” My heart leaped to my throat. The bride is my niece, not my daughter, yet for a split second I felt his loss. “You’re gaining a son,” his wife said, and she was right. But it’s more than that. In the instant it would take for my brother to answer the minister, “Who gives this woman in marriage?” I imagined his life with his little girl flashed before his eyes.
He has loved his daughter since the moment he first laid eyes on her – then, just a gooey bundle of joy. Through better and worse, sickness and health, softball, gymnastics, pink hair days and long-talk nights, father and daughter developed a bond that this daughter can only envy.
When his now new son-in-law asked him for his daughter’s hand in marriage, my brother answered with his own version of “not so fast there.”
The lovers have been a couple for several years but dad wanted to make sure this young man would take good care of his only daughter. How hard that must be for a dad. His 29-year-old is no longer his little girl.
In another corner of our family just a few days before the wedding, my niece experienced a similar passage. She was posing for photos with her teenage daughter after a high school play. A 17-year-old beauty, my great niece will be off to college within the year, off to life. Off on her own, taking a piece of mom’s heart with her. With a son in college and another leaving in a few years, a friend in the crowd told my niece she’d be an empty nester in a few years. She didn’t exactly relish the thought.
Love them and let them go, I guess, is all we can do. I don’t have my own, but am surrounded by wonderful nieces, nephews and their children. And dear friends are watching their children grow, become parents. One friend’s daughter just left the country to join her husband in Asia. He called her his “mini me.” His heart was on that plane last week.
Little boys and little girls come into our lives, leave their fingerprints on the fridge and memories in our hearts. How fortunate we are to share each other’s lives … if only for a moment.