On June 21, 2014, my youngest son, age 29, got married. It was a luxurious wedding. There were so many people present at the New York Public Library extravaganza. But not the mother of the groom. I wasn’t invited. There are so many things I wish I had told the father of the bride (the only member of the family on the bride’s side that I could have met).
What I would have liked to have said, to the Father of the Bride…
I guess as I write this, you’re probably enjoying all the festivities leading up to your daughter’s wedding, when she marries my son. In just two more days, you and I will be related. Amazing. It is not like this?
According to the Midrash, after God created the universe in six days, he began to arrange marriages. According to the Talmud, 40 days before a male child is conceived, a voice from heaven announces whom he will marry (in Yiddish, such a celestial marriage is called “bashert”, a word meaning destiny). It is with all my heart and faith that I believe our families will come together for a greater purpose. People come into our lives as a blessing or as a lesson.
Growing up in Bedford, New York, what were the chances that my 29-year-old son would meet his daughter, a young woman from Millburn, New Jersey (just 15 minutes from my new hometown)? And the mere fact that you and I share so many friends and acquaintances? Amazing. I can’t speak for your wife, as I’ve never met her, but I think our paths will cross one of these days. The world is getting smaller every day.
After you and I met, I expected things to be different. Very often, parents play a key role in organizing and planning their children’s nuptials. It is an occasion of tremendous emotional magnitude. A wedding is one of the most significant moments of the life cycle that a father will experience. But not.
In this deep moment, you may think that you have simply inherited a situation. I think different. I believe that if you are not part of the solution, you effectively become part of the problem. When, as a father, I walk his daughter down the aisle on Saturday night, the groom’s mother will not be present. You have something to exclude me and avoid me. Yes, I know my alienated son instructed you on that subject, but we all have choices to make. If someone robs a bank, the guy who drives the getaway car also gets charged with a crime.
My son is no longer a child. He may think I don’t know. But every scar on my aching heart tells me that he is now an adult. You see, every Mother’s Day, every birthday, every Hanukkah, every Easter, every illness, and every joy has been silently calculated in the cracks of my heart. And it all adds up to years of alienation. Time that will never be recovered. Each one of those moments in which the fall of our stories bled to death in the pain of the present. Today is my son. And on Saturday night, June 21, he will be someone’s husband.
As you walk with your daughter to the Chuppah, on that road that may seem endless, but takes only a minute… you may shed a tear or two. As moisture runs down your cheek, I ask you to think of me. Your daughter’s mother-in-law. And my own tears. You see, I’ve been taking them off for days for this wedding.
My son is committing to a partnership with your daughter. May he be blessed with happiness and good health. In a time that will no doubt fully include feelings of great joy and celebration, will you not remember the sadness and loss that I feel? The moment will never come again. You could have done a lot to change the circumstances. It’s easier for you to ignore me and hope I’ll go away. Sometimes the right decision is not the easiest.
Neither you nor your wife will acknowledge me or approach me regarding this blessed event that will take place. This is my only way of contacting you at this time. Girlfriend: I wish I could meet her, but she hasn’t been interested in returning my phone calls or emails either. I do not go anywhere. And every time you look at my son, I will be a sparkle in his eyes. The good that your daughter sees in my son comes from me. And I have the references to back that up.
Think of the way our children came together. Bashert, then, was always meant to be; which was destiny. Maybe you can be the catalyst to bring peace between us. Or maybe it’s your daughter who melts the ice around my son’s heart. When my son was born, I held him in my arms and imagined his future, a life that always included me. I never would have thought that a boy who adored me so much, until he was 15 years old, would turn against me like he did. Hate has to be taught. So when you say that Parental Alienation is just a word, I disagree with you. Funny how I have all the documentation that shows a separation trail on paper, and you never asked to see any of it. There isn’t a day in the last decade that I haven’t missed my son. Even through the most unacceptable behaviors of him. Because I remember the baby, the little boy, the young teenager, the one with the old soul and the heart of gold. The young man who will be waiting for your daughter at the end of the wedding entrance will be my son forever. And he knows that whatever happens, he has the unconditional love of his mother.
So, as the father of the bride, convey a message from the mother of the groom. I wish our children everything they wish for themselves and much more. That they find everything in each other that brings out the best in them. The goal of a great marriage is to go beyond the idea that you treat the other person as you would like to be treated. I hope my son will always put his daughter first. That is something to emphasize to my son. Unfortunately, he could not have learned such things by example. May our children treat each other better than each one ever wants to be treated. I’m sorry, there are so many things I wish I could write, but my own tears get in the way.
My current life partner teaches me something special every day. Many times I heard him say: “It makes me happy to see you happy.” I pray that our children have reached the point where they derive more joy from making each other happy than from pursuing their individual happiness.
And as he “gives his daughter away” on Saturday night, he will no doubt feel a loss and a little sadness at letting her go. Your eyes may become teary if emotion takes hold of such a sacred time particle. I’ll be crying with you In a different way, of course. Remember, how you have the opportunity to feel that. Experience that with the young couple. And how you have participated in denying me that: my own experience of seeing a cycle of life that will never return.
mother of the groom