A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


My youngest daughter, Beth, is engaged.

I think.

It’s difficult to know for sure.  Beth has the boy picked out: a fine young man named Hudson, who has pretty much been part of the family for the past four years.  We like him, and he seems to like us.  He especially likes Beth, which is a good thing if you’re thinking about marriage.

And he is.  They both are.  No doubt about that.  They have shopped for and selected the necessary rings.  Together with my wife, Anita, they have picked out a location for the wedding reception, which required them to pick a day for the Big Event (and to put down a deposit – the first few drops in what figures to be a fairly torrential cash storm).  Last night Anita made out the first draft of our guest list.  And there’s a brownish, blackish, goldish tie on the kitchen counter that I understand will be worn by all the groomsmen.

So we have a date, a location and a brownish-blackish-goldish tie, all of which would suggest that Beth and Hudson are engaged to be married.

But they’re not.  At least, not officially.

Which is sort of confusing to the father of the bride . . . er . . . fiancé . . . er . . . . girlfriend . . . er . . . Beth.

“We won’t be officially engaged until he gives me the ring,” Beth explained, choosing her words carefully so as not to topple her father’s delicate emotional equilibrium.

“But you already bought the ring,” I said.

“We ordered it,” she explained patiently, “but we don’t have it yet.”  She showed me a naked ring finger to illustrate her point.  Either that, or she flipped me off.  I didn’t have my glasses on.  I couldn’t tell.

“But you’ve purchased the ring, so it’s technically yours,” I said.  “And you’ve set a date, and put my money down on a reception facility.  To me that sounds like a commitment.  A promise.  An engagement.”

Beth sighed.  Loving her father isn’t always easy.

“Has Hudson talked to you?” she asked.  “Has he asked for permission to marry me?”

“No,” I said.  “But technically, he doesn’t need my permission.  You’re an adult – you can decide for yourself.”  Then it hit me: “Are you unsure?  Do you want me to say ‘no’?”

“No, Dad,” she said.  “I want you to say ‘yes.’  But Hudson and I both want to have your permission and your blessing before we make it official.  It’s a tradition – you know?”

Yes, I’m familiar with the tradition.  I experienced it first-hand for the first time 32 years ago, when I groveled before John Padilla, a tough little Spaniard who adored his only daughter, Anita, and who wasn’t quite sure what to make of this tall, gangly American who wanted to marry his precious hija after dating her for only three months.  I was taller, heavier and younger than my prospective father-in-law, but I know – we BOTH knew – he could break me in half faster than you can say “Vaya con Diós.”

Thankfully he said “yes” – but not before making me sweat on bended knee.  Mucho.

I’ve experienced the other side of the permission tradition a few times since then and I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more fun to be the one granting permission than the one asking for it.  While there isn’t a legal reason why Hudson should have to come ask me for Beth’s hand, I think it’s a lovely tradition.  It is a symbolic way of saying that a branch of my family is going to be grafted into a new family tree. It shows humility, respect and appreciation for the role of Beth’s parents in her life.  And it gives me a chance to make another young man sweat on bended knee.

Which evidently is another marriage tradition – and a significant part of making the engagement “official.”

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— © Joseph Walker

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Christmas on Mill Street” - An All New Holiday Novel!

Look What Love Has Done:  Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit. 

"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen?  Home Remedies for an Ailing World."