Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Kathy was gorgeous. She was petite, had jet black hair, and eyes the shade of a blue like I had never seen before or since. Born in Chicago, I met her in college (undergraduate) when she worked at the front desk in my dorm. She would flash those beautiful eyes and say, “would you like to donate blood on our drive for meeeeeee?” I would respond, “Heh, heh, yeah, heh, cool.” And yes, I fell hard and fast for her, and spent FAR too much time standing at the front desk just to talk with her. There’s nothing like a captive audience for creepy guys like me.
But we did, honestly, become friends. She was never interested in me romantically (she liked rugby players, and, no, I never played). But we would get together for supper on occasion and would periodically go do something fun. I even ended up with a mild form of frostbite at a basketball game where the temperature was below zero after the game, but the university didn’t have enough buses for us. I made sure she and her friend got onto the bus, giving up a seat for myself in the name of chivalry.
Some years later, Kathy was living with her then fiancée Ron, and, yes, I had been invited to the wedding, and I even attended if you can believe that. But prior to the wedding, she called me with what was a very serious problem. Her parents were rather old-fashioned, and thought it absolutely scandalous and unacceptable that she was living with him before they were married despite being engaged. They made an ultimatum, that she move out and stop living with Ron until after the marriage, or they would not be attending the wedding.
Kathy was crushed. She loves her parents and didn’t know how to handle this demand as she didn’t want to move out from what had become her new home, and as this was after college, she was in her mid-twenties and old enough to make her own decisions. The advice I gave her was to be true to herself and do what she wants to do. If she doesn’t have a problem living with Ron (as obviously she did not) then stay there. In the end, if her parents elect not to attend their wedding, it will be their loss, not hers. Not to say that they won’t be missed at the wedding, and that it won’t cause emotional pain, but down the road the one who will lose out will be her parents. The memories of the wedding will fade in detail as to who was there and what they did, but the happy feelings will remain. Those feelings will be like a hole in the memories of her parents, and they can only blame themselves for their refusal to attend based on their own sense of morals, not Kathy’s.
Maybe I shouldn’t talk about this. I have no wife, no kids, so perhaps I lack the experience to say such things, but I have a habit of observing those around me. It’s not uncommon for me to think, “if I were the dad how would I handle it?” It’s easy to play backseat father, and I always understand the other point of view. I understand Kathy’s parents’ position. Their little girl, that they love and have protected from the evil of men for her entire life, is suddenly no longer the innocent little girl they protected. I can’t imagine it’s easy to give up that role of protector, that for children includes protecting their morals and making decisions, even unpopular ones, for them. I get that. I feel for her parents, or the parents of any child who takes a lover, moves in with them, gets involved with drugs, becomes pregnant, stays out all night or a myriad of other issues. These are behaviors that parents hope will never happen, and make decisions to prevent them, and yet, eventually, children grow up and become old enough to make their own decisions, and frankly, make (and hopefully learn from) their own mistakes.
There must be a transition (speaking from the male perspective) that a father must become a dad. I cannot imagine how hard this must be, but I also have no doubt of the critical importance of successfully doing so. When the child begins making their own choices, a father can only do so much to try to prevent them from making mistakes. The role must change from being decision maker to being supporter. When a mistake happens, the dad should be the one to stand ready to step in if comfort is needed, and if help is needed to guide their child through the perceived mistake and its consequences. Trying to be a father after the fact can do nothing save perhaps to push the child away when she or he needs her parents the most. Kathy is still happily married (which I’m glad to see because I don’t think I could have made her nearly as happy as Ron does), and I know her relationship with her parents did get back on track, and yet, her parents will never have the memories of the wedding.