When an angry father thought his daughter was about to marry someone undeserving, he didn’t hold back in insulting the young man. Over the next several months, he learned secret after secret about his daughter’s fiancé, putting his earlier assumptions to shame.
This is the story of a young man that I wronged and how he taught me, a 54-year-old man, that the world wasn’t what I had made it up to be.
One fine Sunday evening, I was waiting for my daughter to come home to the delightful hot chicken pot pie I cooked for her, and perhaps we would watch a movie later. There she arrived, my beautiful daughter Alice, but who’s that on her trail? It was a young man, possibly in his early 30s, letting her hold his hand and do all the talking.
“Dad! This is Jake. You remember I told you about the guy who helped me when my car broke down? That’s him.”
I looked over at Alice, and she was not amused. She clearly expected me to give her date a warmer welcome. But to be honest, I didn’t remember a thing about the guy.
Over dinner, Jake tried to make conversation, and all I could think about was: What did my sweet child see in this ordinary-looking man? I could see the car he had arrived in and the clothes he was wearing. Confidence and politeness seemed to be the only things this man had in abundance.
I tuned out pretty quickly from the conversation, only to ask the occasional templated questions about where he’s from and what he did for a living. “There’s no way my daughter dates him for more than a week,” I thought.
But then came the shock of my life and the moment when I did something I’m not proud of. But if you or your folks grew up like me, in a middle-class household in the 70s, where the parents struggled to make ends meet, and the kids only ever got new clothes once a year, you could guess what I was going to do next.
At the dinner table, my Alice gives me her hand, asking me to look at it carefully. And I wasn’t prepared to see a sparkling diamond ring on her finger, much less for the joy with which her hand was gripping my arm.
“You dated for three years, darling. You threw out guys with stable jobs and million-dollar businesses for the weirdest reasons. And now, when some guy who doesn’t have enough to buy himself a decent car or a nice suit comes along, you fall for what, his charm?”
“She’s done her Masters in Political Science. And you – a random dropout? Why would I let you marry my daughter?”
“With all due respect, sir, I may not be educated, but I’m perfectly capable of taking care of your daughter. Maybe we can calm down and–” Jake was beginning to explain, but his calm tone only annoyed me more.
I don’t know what had gotten over me. In that rush of anger, I swung open the door and gestured for him to leave.
“Ha! Like giving them a bowl of hot soup and bread once a week will help them beat their poverty,” I shrugged.
I was looking for a reaction, but I didn’t anticipate Jake to stop walking and break into a passionate monologue.
“It’s easy to belittle whatever good someone’s trying to do. But I do what I can because I’ve been there, in their tattered shoes, in their grimy clothes, wishing for a kind stranger to come by with some food so that the pain in my stomach can finally end.”