Chicken Soup For The Soul
“Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks, Dad”
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“Watching your daughter being collected by her date feels like handing over a million dollar Stradivarius to a gorilla.” – Jim Bishop
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A woman’s future husband meets her family.
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About the time I was beginning to get serious about a boyfriend, a major holiday would come around and I would start sweating. Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter were big in our family and required a large meal with all the relatives. These dinners were the bane of my existence because if I was dating, the boyfriend had to come. No excuses.
I knew why we had this rule. It was so my father and grandfather could run my dates through what I called “the gauntlet.” No matter how closely I tried to stay attached to my date’s arm and protect him from the pair, they always managed to remove him from the crowd and put their questions to him.
With an uncanny sixth sense, I always knew when they had him, and I would try in vain to rescue him before my grandfather asked the big question: “Are you going to marry my granddaughter?” Typically, he inserted this question out of the blue with little warning.
It didn’t matter if we had been dating for a week, a month or a year. If my grandfather got hold of him, the question would be asked.
I tried to prepare my dates, but they never seemed to understand how bad it would be. They never took me seriously. My grandfather knew I would warn them, so he would change his questions. If Grandpa couldn’t get a good read on a fellow from the marriage questions, he went on to other ones: “How soon are you planning to have children?” Anything that was highly embarrassing to me would do. My dad always went for the financial questions: “How do you plan on putting a roof over her head and food on the table?” “What do you think of your boss?” To my grandfather, it didn’t matter about the little things. He’d grown up in the Depression and fought in World War II. Performance under pressure was the best measure of a man.
As a decade went by and no boyfriend made it to a second family function, I decided enough was enough, and for two years I didn’t bring anyone, telling my family I had sworn off men. I thought that would fix things, that they would be so glad when I dated someone that they would stop chasing them all away. Thanksgiving was approaching, and I had been dating a guy all summer. It wasn’t serious. We just had a lot of fun together. I hadn’t said much to my family about him, and didn’t plan to. I wasn’t inviting him to Thanksgiving. I had learned my lesson, and there was no way this one was going through the gauntlet.
As the holiday approached, my date asked about my Thanksgiving plans. I told him about dinner with my family, thinking he would realize I was busy. Instead I found myself telling him what time dinner was and calling my mother to set another place at the table.
This one I didn’t even warn about the gauntlet. I wasn’t in love.
Sure enough, I had dish duty and left my date alone with both my father and grandfather in the other room. I was being pumped by the women in the kitchen for details on the man. I wasn’t providing much. All of a sudden it got quiet. Not a dish clinked, and the football game was muted. I was putting something away in the dining room china cabinet and had a clear view of the living room. There was my date, my grandfather standing on one side and my father on the other.
“So, do you plan on marrying my granddaughter?” I wanted to drop through the floor. I wasn’t going to marry this guy. We were just friends.
“Yes, sir, I do,” he replied, looking right at my grandfather.
Then my father stepped in. “How do you plan on supporting her?”
He told them about his job and then they moved on to other less controversial subjects.
The football game came back on, dessert was served and everything went on as before, with quite a few more smiles from the women and advice on how to cook a turkey when it was my turn to host Thanksgiving. I, on the other hand, was a bit shell-shocked.
Somebody had passed the gauntlet. I had to rethink my whole take on this man. I watched my date for the rest of the afternoon, realizing he was something special as he played with my nieces, helped my grandmother carry dessert dishes and argued about football with my brothers and uncles. Needless to say, he did go on to marry me and has fit into my family ever since.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned my grandfather was more concerned with how my dates answered his questions than with what their answers were. If they broke eye contact, the deal was sealed; this man could not be trusted and was not for me.
My grandfather is looking down from heaven, but my dad will be ready. I am looking forward to watching the gauntlet in action. You see, I have a 15-year-old daughter who will be dating in a couple of years. I want her dates to pass the same test. I can still see the twinkle in my grandfather’s eye when my husband answered his questions and received a nod of approval. Fathers and grandfathers do know best, no matter how embarrassing the process of running the gauntlet may be.
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