Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

Dad Knows Best

Dad has never been a hands-on, in-your-face kind of parent. All those Baby Boomer Helicopter Parents, he thinks they’re a little nuts. In fact, as intrusive as I am, he’s not. Sure, he’ll tell you what’s right and what’s wrong, if you ask. He’ll give you an opinion or two, if you really push, but when it comes right down to it, Dad’s parenting philosophy is rather old-school. And when it comes to matters of the heart, he usually runs for cover. He believes the best way to learn a lesson is to completely screw up, pay the consequences, and then you won’t screw up again, or at least you won’t screw up in exactly the same way.

Go back with me to 1991

I’m a freshman in college, bored out of my mind, when out of nowhere a devil in uniform walks into my life. I never even knew I had a thing for guys in uniform, but apparently I did. A whirlwind, cross-country romance ensues, which results in a marriage proposal. Me, the oh-so-young-and-incredibly-stupid one, accepts.

When I announced that I was going to get married, move to California and live on an Air Force base, my dad didn’t say much.

The uniformed devil went to my parents’ house and asked my dad for his blessing. It was right here that Dad provided his first hint that he was not at all impressed with my suitor.

Hint #1: “If Tricia thinks you’re good enough for her, I suppose you’ll have to be good enough for us,” said my dad to the devil just before walking away from the table.

With only a couple weeks worth of wedding planning under my belt, my dad provided his second hint that he was not at all impressed with my decisions. I think we were discussing the flower budget and he was also developing a serious case of indigestion.

Hint #2:Tricia,” he said with deadly seriousness, “I will pay for the first wedding, but you’re on your own for the second.”

You see, I’m one of those incredibly pig-headed people who when told to turn left, turns right. Hint #1 and Hint #2 just made me mad and hardened my resolve. I knew what I was doing. I knew best. I was in lust love for good god’s sake. The hell with my dreams, my plans for the future. Who cared that the devil had been released from rehab just weeks before the wedding, or that we were a complete intellectual miss match.

Months went by and Dad kept quiet. Finally the wedding day arrived. It was a gorgeous July afternoon, the church was full of friends and relatives, we’d successfully negotiated a myriad of in-law dramas, and I was going to get married, damn it.

There we stood, father and daughter, arms linked, knees shaking (mine, not his) and just before the pianist was cued, Dad turned to me and provided his third hint that this was a really, really bad idea.

Hint #3: He looked into my eyes, gently smiled and whispered, “It’s not too late to run.”

My heart paused because by hint number three, I’d gotten to know the devil with his clothes on and my gut was screaming no, no, no. All I really wanted was to take Dad up on his offer, turn on my heel and run as fast as I could. I wanted him to sweep me into his arms, and he would have if I’d given him even the vaguest encouragement. Instead, I looked at all those people, sitting, waiting, and I let my pride speak. I told Dad it was okay, that I was okay, that I knew what I was doing.

He didn’t believe me, but he respected me enough to walk me down that aisle, to kiss my cheek and to shake the devil’s hand.

I saw tears on Dad’s cheeks as we stood in the receiving line.

After the ceremony we danced, we drank, we ate and we danced some more. Cake was cut, a garter was thrown and bottles of champagne flowed…all except one bottle that nobody missed or noticed as it disappeared.

Fast forward four years

I’m sitting wearily at my parents’ kitchen table emotionally battered and physically scarred. As I discussed with my parents the court proceedings in which my divorce was finalized that afternoon, my dad excused himself and disappeared for a few minutes. He returned holding his fourth hint.

Hint #4: A dust-covered bottle of champagne, saved from my wedding for this exact occasion.

I could have been mad. You have no idea how much I wanted to be mad, but we laughed instead. We popped the cork and celebrated a new beginning, and the fact that sometimes Dad really does know best.

And just for the record, I didn’t even ask him to pay for wedding #2.

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