Father of the BridePosted: July 22, 2014
On my wedding day, my father won’t walk me down the steps to my husband. He won’t lift my blusher and give me a kiss on the forehead. He won’t have a twinkle of tears in his eyes. He won’t take my hand and place it in my fiancé’s, and then take a step back as I begin a new journey with another man by my side.
He won’t do any of this, because he won’t be there.
It’s not because my father has a terminal illness, or because he passed away. It’s more painful than that. My father has chosen to leave during one of the most pivotal times of my life. As my wedding day draws near, his selfishness weighs down on me more and more.
When my fiancé’s family began their obligatory pre-engagement visits months ago, my family was falling apart. I remember cleaning the house, buying flowers and cooking desserts wondering if all of these distractions could mask the evident rift between my parents, and the discomfort I felt at having my father speak on my behalf when he had never taken any interest in me before.
I tried to embody the ideal future daughter-in-law during these visits. I smiled. I sat sideways in my pretty pleated dress. I served tea in our best china, and told stories with the wit and humor I’d developed over the years. I hoped this would be enough.
Inside, I felt like a model on Project Runway, stomping along the runway in a poorly-made dress with frayed edges, hoping no one would notice.
Luckily, my and in-laws didn’t care that my family situation wasn’t ideal. My fiancé and his family knew my family troubles weren’t my fault; they were the product of a marriage that soured decades before. So, there would be no joint family BBQ’s or Ramadan dinners, no Eid prayers to bond over. And that was OK by me.
As I started planning the wedding, though, things at home got worse. My father moved out shortly after the end of Ramadan. My mother wanted to keep things under wraps until their divorce became final, so I was stuck in the middle of their marital woes. When my in-laws would invite us for tea or dinner, I had to deliver the excuses. I felt guilty for saying “Everyone is doing fine, alhamdulilah!”
Eventually, it became painfully obvious that there was something wrong.
I tried to build my relationship with my fiancé without a healthy parental model. I tried to do the complete opposite of what I had seen growing up. I tried things I never saw my parents attempt: I communicated; I loved without holding myself back; and I allowed myself to be happy.
Our relationship blossomed, and I wondered how I could be so lucky to have such a great man. What did I do right, and what did my parents do wrong?
It became increasingly harder to carry on a double life, trying to keep things together when they were falling apart.
That’s why, two months shy of my wedding, when my father said he was leaving for a trip overseas, I knew he wouldn’t be back. When he talked to my fiancé and wished us well, I knew he was only repeating the obligatory script a guilty man wrote.
It has been two months since he’s left. He has yet to e-mail me to ask how my wedding preparations are going, or see if I am nervous about the big day, or ask where we will go on our honeymoon.
The part that really kills me is that I used to worship him as a child. I thought every word he spoke was the truth. I would ask him questions about history, classic movies, religion, wars, and I would eat it all up. I thought he was a walking encyclopedia.
In retrospect, I now see it was always me seeking his company.
I would sit on our porch as he smoked cigarette after cigarette, hungry for any kind of interaction with him. He never thought to tell me to go inside, away from the smoke; never thought to say that he would meet me there later to talk. He never thought about anyone but himself.
I used to envy the girls who had their fathers wrapped around their fingers, the girls who posted on Facebook that their first true loves were their fathers. I will never have that. I feel jilted.
But I find comfort in the fact that my future children will have a father who loves them with such intensity that it will keep them up at night wondering how they won the parental lottery.
That is what I will carry with me on my wedding day.
It won’t be my father’s hand that I hold onto for support, it will be the knowledge that I am so much better off without him that will accompany me down the aisle to my husband. And that’s ok. That is the way this story is meant to end. Alhamdulilah.
Sarah Noor is the pen name of a 25-year-old DC-based writer and newlywed.