In 27 years I’ve never heard my father argue with my mother. I’ve also never seen him wear jeans. He buys pants — khakis or dress slacks — one size up. “Always look like I’m losing weight!” He also has a weakness for chocolate glazed donuts and me, his only daughter.
I inherited from my father his sweet tooth, seasonal shoulder freckles and a childlike sense of humor.
My father is a doctor, teacher, carpenter, clock collector, husband and father of three. As a kid I always told him I wanted to be an actress, then it changed to doctor, then it changed again to wanting to be an actress who played a doctor on TV. But what I really wanted to be was him. Not because of the success in his jobs, but because he’s such a good husband to his wife.
When I was 17 and getting ready to graduate from high school, my father came into my room and told me he had cancer. I cried.
“Want to go get bread?” he asked.
Getting bread was code for the two of us — just us — spending time together. It could mean a trip to the toy store or craft store or donut shop. On this trip, we went to a craft store and walked up and down the aisles together. He bought me yellow pipe cleaners. On the way home, inside his Carolina blue Volvo station wagon, with Buddy Holly and Billy Joel singing in the background, he told me everything was going to be okay.
“Will you be able to walk me down the aisle one day?” I asked.
He smiled and had tears in his eyes. It was the first time I saw my father cry.
My dad got better. When I was a sophomore attending college in Ohio my mother sent me her first text message: Great news, honey! Call us. Love, Mom.
Dad was cancer free. It was wonderful news.
After I graduated from college I moved to Martha’s Vineyard. I lived with friends and read the newspaper. I waitressed at a restaurant. One day I met someone named Jeff. He had eyes the color of milk chocolate and he was sitting at table five. He introduced himself, ate dinner and left, but returned later and gave me a paper cup full of mint oreo ice cream. A year later we fell in love. We ate pizza and watched Cops and teen week Jeopardy together. When I got the flu, he microwaved canned chicken noodle soup. On raw, rainy mornings while we would get ready for work, we would sing country music songs around the house.
A year and a half ago, on Christmas Eve, Jeff asked me to marry him. When I told him we had to call my parents he said they knew, because he had asked my father earlier for his permission. I couldn’t have been happier.
About a month and a half ago, while putting finishing touches on wedding plans, my mom sent me an email that said my father was in the hospital. Over the phone my mother told me he had pneumonia but that they were keeping him in the hospital to monitor his kidneys. No one really knew what was wrong with him and I couldn’t do much of anything except be hopeful, which was hard. I was afraid to talk about it out loud with anyone because I was terrified to think about it. I didn’t want it to be real. I tried to remember the times we went to get bread together when I was a child, but instead of focusing on the past, I could only think about the future. I couldn’t imagine walking down the aisle with anyone but him.
Slowly my father did get better. He continues to take it one day at a time. Saturday he will walk me down the aisle. We will slow dance to Billy Joel, just he and I, and as guests eat chocolate glazed donuts, I will witness the wonder through his eyes — brown like mine.