It’s 1:30 AM and I’m too restless to sleep.
Our oldest daughter, Dusty Rose O’Connor, is getting married in a few hours. She is about to become Dusty Rose Tsalkov (Saul-cov). Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Her betrothed is Sergey Tsalkov, a young man born in Russia who emigrated with his mother as a boy from Russia to Texas. I’m pretty sure Donald Trump is responsible for Sergey Tsalkov absconding with our firstborn. But Robert Mueller and I haven’t been able to prove anything yet.
Dusty will take on the name Tsalkova (Saul-coh-vuh), owing to Russian tradition of adding an “a” to the end of a woman’s name after marriage. So when a Natasha Badenov marries James Polk she would become a Polka and, presumably, have a much better chance of appearing on Dancing With the Stars.
At the designated time I will escort the girl I once diapered and Gerbered down the aisle, desperately attempting a synchronized cadence that will certainly elude my every step. Not to worry. Dusty has promised to bail her old man out by following his movements precisely. Sure. Why shouldn’t there be two circus clowns with big floppy shoes wending their way toward tomorrow?
When we reach the altar we will pause and Sergey will turn and come for Dusty’s hand. The hand he can have. I’m just not sure I’m ready to give away the rest of her quite yet. This is our firstborn. This is the four-year-old girl who, when I told her I loved her with all my heart, looked at me crushed and admonished, “Daddy? Love GOD with all your heart.”
Pastor Paul will begin the service by explaining the holy bonds of matrimony and interrogating each as to their intentions to one another. And this is where I’ll know I failed in my due diligence because I never set Sergey Tsolvov down before a blinding lamp, depriving him of food and drink for days until he declared his intentions toward my baby pictures.
“Who gives this woman?” Pastor Paul will ask and this, I figure, is where I turn to Dusty in desperation and reveal I have a bus waiting outside and am prepared to reenact crucial scenes from The Graduate.
But, of course, I won’t. Instead I will look into those big brown eyes one last time and choke out the words, “Her mother and I do.” I will kiss her cheek and place her hand in Sergey’s. There goes my tax deduction I will think. And I will slink back to my seat to become irrelevant until the next wedding.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The bride and groom will eventually be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Sergey Tsalkov because, confusingly and forever after, Dusty’s new last name performs a supernatural metamorphosis when introduced as a couple. (“Oh, have you met the Tsalkovs? This is my friend, Sergey Tsalkov . . . and this is his wife Dusty Tsalkova. Where the “a” came from—I don’t know! It’s a game we play on the Americans, hahaha!”
There will be a reception immediately following in the circus tent—yes, circus tent–on the church property. There will be food, speeches and much rejoicing. I will have the chance to dance one more time with the little girl of my dreams. And then, before we know what hit us, they will be gone and off to Texas where I hear the extraditions laws are hard to circumvent.
Sally and I will come home and we will, no doubt, be overflowing with emotion. Maybe we will drop a needle on the metaphorical record player and trip the light fantastic. Jimmy Buffet’s On a Slow Boat to China might be just the ticket. Ad we will wonder as we spin around the room . . . where did we go right? How did we get so lucky as to win the Mega-Baby-Lottery not so many years ago? How is it we are blessed with a fine young son-in-law like Sergey who loves Dusty with all his heart . . . and treats her like a queen?
And maybe, just maybe, Sally and I will together come to a realization of the day. In the quiet after the song, as the needle continues to hit the end groove over and over and over again, we hear the plaintive question:
“Who gives this woman?”
We both start to answer, but instead of our voices holding court The Lord breaks in and whispers His Eternal Truth into our exhausted, tear-stained hearts:
“I do.” He says simply. And of course He is right.
How could we be so arrogant? All day long members of the wedding party have been uttering the words, “I do.” But when all is said and done, isn’t that really His job?
“Who gives this woman? Who gives this man? Who creates their love, their lives, their abundant delight in each other?”
“I do,” says The Lord.
And He does. And He did. As it was in the beginning He shows us how to let Dusty go in five easy steps: One finger at a time.
Who gives this woman?
She was never really ours to give.