The day began like any other. It was a Wednesday, which meant a typical day in the life. My college classes were complete by lunch, I arranged to swap a shift at work, I made sure to iron my shirt and to have a clean pair of pants. My car rumbled to life and I drove to the office of Dr. Hulet, making sure I was not late, but not too early. My nerves were steeled. My resolution was fixed. As I sat in the parking lot, I contemplated the rest of my life. That was the day I was going to talk to Dr. Hulet about marrying his daughter.
The realization that I had found the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was exciting, to say the least. Together we had adventures like never before. The monumental decision to ask for her hand in marriage brought with it enormous implications. I spent considerable time dealing with one detail, in particular, that of how to approach her father. I am a traditional man—if I’m anything—which meant having that conversation with my future Father-in-Law went without question.
Speaking to friends and family members, I got a feel for how the conversation should be handled. Two groups quickly formed. The first group advised I ask Dr. Hulet’s permission to marry his daughter. The second suggested I ask for his blessing. At first, I saw no difference, but slowly I began to realize how many people fail to see the power behind the words used. Asking permission is very different than asking for one’s blessing.
If I walked into Dr. Hulet’s office prepared to ask for permission, how would I react if he said no? Would I then inform him I did not need his permission? That I would do whatever I wanted whether he liked it or not? Is that the point where I was supposed to ask for his blessing, after I had made an enemy?
Look at it from another perspective. Was I comfortable asking permission to do what I knew in my heart was best for me? Asking permission would have given another person power over my future, my dreams. I cannot speak for anyone else, but that has never been acceptable in my world.
Quickly, my thoughts began turning to the best way to ask for his blessing. I thought about it for days. What was too formal? What would not be formal enough? I thought about his schedule and not wanting to keep him occupied for too long. After all, I did schedule an appointment in the middle of his workday. In the end, I had worked out a plan. I would walk into his office, offer a firm handshake, look him in the eye and say “Dr. Hulet, I’m here because I love your daughter. I want to marry her. And, I believe I owe you the courtesy and the respect to ask for your blessing.”
As the nebulous future finished flashing through my mind, I got out of the car and walked into his office. The receptionist gave me a knowing smile as I presented myself. She told me to wait and Dr. Hulet would be with me shortly. Someone left the office through the waiting area and I was called for by Dr. Hulet himself. We exchanged greetings and he began ushering me into his private office. “Well,” I thought, “he knows why I’m here.”
I stood in the office—I had not been invited to sit—as he closed the door behind me. “What can I do for you, Brig?” he asked.
With hands on my hips, I turned to face him, and without further consideration, I stated my purpose. “Gary,” I said, “I want to marry your daughter.” My words were almost too confident and it was all I could do to stand my ground. Inside, I kicked myself, wondering how on earth my perfect speech had rolled itself into that?
He looked me in the eye and said one of the most wonderful things any man has ever said to me, “I hoped you were going to say that.”
I swelled with pride and fought the urge to fist pump the air. I think something from the Rocky soundtrack started playing somewhere in the lobby. I composed myself and Dr. Hulet invited me to sit. Clearly, I was not out of the woods but, I was prepared and increasingly confident.
We discussed our thoughts on marriage itself and Dr. Hulet shared his views on what was proper. He seemed to gauge my responses with a fatherly perspective. I learned a lot about my future Father-in-Law during our brief meeting. Principally, I gained an insight into how wonderfully prepared he was for the shifting family dynamic.
We departed with a hug and bright smiles. I walked away and began contemplating all that had happened.
The first lesson came as I made the determination to be bold and to communicate my plan rather than my hope. My goal was to declare my love, obtain his blessing if possible, and I was prepared to march on the capital if I had to.
The second lesson had nothing to do with my delivery method. I learned, despite the importance of words, the honesty of my intentions won the day. I was able to convey my feelings for the daughter he adores the way only a loving father can.
Gentlemen, never allow others the ability to make important decisions in your life. That right is yours and yours alone. Guard it, especially by the words you use. Second, when it comes right down to it, be honest and say what you mean. Do so with dignity and maintain your sense of honor, but get it out.