By the time she reads this, she’ll be married, and I will have had the honor of walking her down the aisle and dancing the father/daughter dance with her. Her husband, as far as I can tell, is a good man, a kind and decent man, exactly the sort of man any parents would wish for their daughter. Jason and Shonda are perfect for each other. They have the kind of partnership—the easy give and take—that lasts.
For those of you who don’t know the story of my wife Cathy and me, the fact is we fell in love in 1974 when I was eighteen and Cathy was sixteen. Then, as young couples often do, we went our separate ways only to reconnect thirty-four years later and to eventually marry. The last time I talked to Cathy before those years of silence was in 1976. She’d just given birth and was a single mother putting herself through nursing school so she could offer her daughter a stable life. The biological father was no longer in the picture.
“What did you name her?” I asked.
I was in a payphone booth seventeen miles from where Cathy lived. I was trying to convince her to see me, but she wasn’t having it since I was married at the time. I’m not proud to admit that I was calling a former girlfriend and trying to persuade her to see me so we could “just talk,” but there it is, the truth. I admire Cathy for turning down my request. Who knows what might have happened if she’d agreed?
“Shonda,” she said.
Then I said something I immediately felt I had no right to say.
“Give her a kiss for me,” I said, and Cathy said she would, and I hung up the phone, not knowing how long it would be before I once again heard her voice, not knowing I would never have a child of my own.
A long life is made up of new beginnings. Sometimes we don’t where they start until enough of the story has unfolded. Sometimes we have to get to the end of a story before we know how it began, or how it should begin. Yes, I’m talking about revising a piece of writing, but I’m also talking about the events of a life that connect to moments to come. That day in the payphone booth, I had no idea that Shonda’s birth held the story of what’s to come this weekend. Perhaps I had no right to ask Cathy to give her a kiss for me all those years ago. I only know, come Sunday, I’ll give Shonda that kiss, and then, like any proud father, I’ll walk her down the aisle, and when the officiant asks, “Who gives this woman to be wed,” I’ll answer, with all the love in my heart, “Her mother and I.”