I Now Pronounce You, Father and Daughter

By Sonya Lee

They say you can’t choose your family. I say those people are wrong. The man I consider my dad is of no biological relation. He’s just a man who decided to take a chance on a woman with an eleven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. He chose us, and we chose him. However, sometimes it is hard for those on the outside looking in to ever see a step parent as anything more than just that, and I didn’t want Randy to be forever deemed “the stepdad.”

Therefore, when it came time for me to marry, it was important to me for everyone to see Randy as the father he had been to my brother and me. Not only would he walk me down the aisle, but we would share a dance, a dance that would cement his role in my life. And while I knew that the dance was only a ceremonial formality much like a wedding, it was the public confirmation that I wanted to give Randy in honor of the twelve years he had given unselfishly of his time, his home and his heart.

So that night, as we danced for all our friends and family, I journeyed through the years Randy and I spent together. My first memories were of the Santa-like laugh he gave the night a sleep-induced rage caused me to smash a piece of gum in his hand when he harmlessly asked for it and the lemon heads he would bring every time he came to take my mother out on a date. As the memories continued to flow with our every step, I remembered the compassion he showed the first time I got my heart broken by a boy, and the disappointment and concern on his face the night I broke curfew. As the song came near its close, I reveled in the look of pure joy and pride in his eyes the day I walked across the stage to receive my diploma and become the first college graduate in the family, and the crackle in his voice, just hours before, when he gave me away. I also found myself imagining the years to come – the day I would tell him he was going to be a grandfather, the birth of my children, holidays and the free, unsolicited parenting advice he would undoubtedly give.

We danced.

Today, the memory of that dance finds me often, and I am overcome with contrasting feelings of happiness and sorrow. My dad only lived two short years after our dance. I am left with only my memories, my what ifs, and a picture of our dance that sits in a silver engraved frame on my mother’s dresser next to the urn that contains his physical remains. The engraving states, The Dad –You didn’t Have To Be. I treasure the memories of that dance more than I ever could any piece of paper or last name.

When I’m lucky, I find myself back in my father’s embrace – dancing. On a particularly difficult day, when I feel beaten and ineffective, he leans in close and tells me he’s proud of me. Some nights, he laughs and chuckles at my attempts to be the perfect mother and reminds me if my children were always happy then I wouldn’t be doing it right. On other nights, he reassures me that I don’t have to feel guilty about wishing my mother would make the time to move on and find love again. It is what he wants too. Though these meetings are in my dreams and what realists would call fabrications of my imagination, they are genuine to me.

And so, much as a man or a woman chooses a partner in this journey we call life, I chose a father, and he chose a daughter. We willingly made a commitment and formed a family. We danced in celebration of this union as is a tradition in our society, and while our guests heard the sentimental lyrics that catalogued our time together thus far, the words we heard were very different; for what we heard was “I now pronounce you father and daughter!”

About this writer

  • Sonya Lee Sonya Lee lives in Chesterfield, Virginia, with her husband and two children. She teaches high school English and enjoys writing candidly about her life experiences.

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