Four years ago, I was swaying peacefully between two palm trees on a richly woven hammock, in Key West, Florida, celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary at the Casa Marina Hotel. It was a gorgeous day, beautiful blue skies, mid seventies, around noon, and I was sipping on a delicious tropical drink directly across from my daughter. This trip was serving two purposes, not only a celebration of 25 years of marriage, but also as a graduation gift to Kaitlin, since she had just a couple of weeks earlier graduated from Cedarville University. In fact, she had returned home from her roommates’ wedding in upstate New York just in time to pack her bags for our Key West trip. I had hardly had time to have a conversation with her since her graduation so I was looking forward to four days of fun with my son and my two best girls in the world. Only, things weren’t going as planned.
Despite the fabulous tropical surroundings, Kaitlin seemed a thousand miles away, her face and attentions fixated on her iPhone, where something close to a texting war was being waged. It was our first introduction to Jon Manchester. While Kaitlin was in New York standing up for Mrs. Katie Plume, she had met a boy, and apparently the two of them couldn’t go ten minutes without some form of communication, even in beautiful Key West, and despite the fact that she was in the presence of her heretofore most favorite man in the universe. I was in the process of being replaced!
A few weeks later he showed up at our house for a visit. I was not impressed. Who was this tall, skinny, Yankee with the big smile and his arm around my daughter? What on earth could Kaitlin possibly have seen in him, this Ohio State-loving northerner?
In fairness to Jon, there was no one alive on this planet who I would have liked standing next to Kaitlin that day in my living room. There’s this thing between Fathers and their little girls, a connection deep and sublime and woe be unto the poor boy that disturbs it. But now, four years have passed, my cell phone rings and the breathless voice of my daughter is on the other end of the line. She is deliriously happy, her voice radiates joy as she tells me that she’s engaged. But this time, there’s no resentment, no suspicion, only happiness and gratitude, because over these past four years we have had a chance to get to know this boy, we have seen his character on display, we have observed the depths of his love for our daughter in a thousand acts of kindness and consideration, and we now know that he’s the one we have been praying for since May 11, 1987.
So now the wedding planning begins, and my job becomes finding a way to pay for everything. I don’t lose a daughter in the exchange; rather, I gain a son. As long as he makes her happy, I will be his most enthusiastic advocate. If he mistreats her, then he will understand fully why there is still a small corner of his brain that fears me.
During one of the informal interviews I conducted with Jon over the past four years, I asked him why he thought he was good enough for my daughter. His answer was that he wasn’t, but that it was his goal to become good enough for her one day. Well, that day has come. Jon will make for Kaitlin a remarkable husband, and for Pam and me, a wonderful son.