After assuring me that impending motherhood was not the reason for this hasty decision, she proceeded to cry, sob and insufficiently explain why she was getting married so suddenly.
"I just want to be married now!" she said.
"Why don't you just wait until after college like you've been planning?" I suggested.
"I just want to do this now,” she replied. “I want Brian to be my husband. I don't want to wait anymore."
She's a grown woman. She can make her own decisions. Yet, it was still baffling that Hillary — my smart, sensible, level-headed daughter — was going to try and pull off a wedding in 17 days.
"I don't want anything big," she said. "Just a few of my closest family members to share the moment. Nothing fancy, no frills."
"OK,” I said. Down deep, I fully expected her to come to her senses and change her mind.
Not only did she not come to her senses or change her mind, but her expectations and demands grew in the following days. She invited more people, bought a wedding dress, rented an outdoor facility for the ceremony, and added a small reception with pizza and cheesecake.
That's when I started wondering about this boy she was going to marry. They've only been dating for about five years. How much can you really know about someone in five years?
He owns his own motorcycle repair shop, but he still lives with his parents. Is this guy going to be able to provide for my daughter? Is my daughter going to live in her in-laws’ basement until she's in her 40s?
Hillary called me up and asked, "Dad, what are you wearing to the wedding?"
"I dunno," I said. "I haven't thought about it."
"How about a suit?" she suggested.
There was a long silence, and then I let Hillary have it with both barrels. I told her I thought she should wait until she got out of school and until Brian could afford to buy her a house, and I also got in a few other choice, personal jabs.
I felt justified and vindicated that I had given my sincere, concerned opinion. That is, until Hillary started to cry. Then I realized I had only managed to toss water on her fire.
A few days later, Brian called and calmly explained that his business was doing well, and he lived with his parents by choice and not out of necessity.
"I'm saving money to buy a house for Hillary and I," he said. "I have a year to prepare before she finishes school."
I softened a little and started warming up to the idea of having Brian as a son-in-law. He fixes motorcycles for a living, but he doesn't have any tattoos — so how bad can he be, right? But I still didn't understand the urgency of getting married now when they couldn't even live together or enjoy their first year as husband and wife.
On the day of the wedding, I picked Hillary up at her mom's house. There was a lot of commotion, people getting dressed and milling around. Once everyone cleared out, I had a moment alone with Hillary, and I asked her one last time if this was what she really wanted.
"Yes," she said confidently, and I knew she meant business.
"OK,” I said.
Then Hillary and I prayed together, and we headed to the wedding.
Driving together, just her and I, reminded me of when Hillary was a teenager. We spent many hours together driving to sporting events. She played basketball, ran track and played volleyball. I took her to practices at the high school and games all over the district. She was such an intense competitor that I'd often be greeted after a game with, "Don't hug me — I'm sweaty."
Once, after a game, I said, "Great game, Hill."
She snapped back: "No it wasn't. We lost."
Hillary was getting married under the pavilion at Hoffmaster State Park. Our drive together was calm and casual, and filled with lighthearted conversation — much like our trips to sporting events. However, when she and I pulled into that parking lot and she saw her family and friends just standing around casually, her intensity level reached new highs.
"Why is everyone just wandering around?" she asked.
My wife, Amy, walked up to the car and Hillary barked, "What are you doing? Why aren't you under the pavilion? I want everyone to sit down."
I parked the car and helped Hillary out of the passenger side.
"Where is that photographer? I want him right here, right now!" she demanded.
"Stay here. I'll take care of it," I assured her.
I marched to the pavilion and scanned the stunned faces in the small crowd.
"Everyone, please sit down and don't move," I said. "And where is that cameraman?" He waved his hand. "Come with me."
I caught sight of Brian, slapped him on the shoulder and said, "In a few minutes, she's all yours."
The crowd chuckled.
The photographer followed me down the hill and took some pictures of Hillary and I. I bunched the back of Hillary's dress in my hand so it wouldn't drag on the ground.
"When we get to that bench, drop the dress," she said.
"Why don't we wait until we get on the pavement?" I asked.
"Drop it by the bench!"
I dropped the train of her dress in the dirt by the bench. When we walked across the pavement toward her waiting groom, the dress dragged leaves across the pavement — scritchy-scratchy, scritchy-scratchy. I smiled.
When the minister asked, "Who gives this bride away?" Hillary's intensity made it much easier for me to say, "I do."
Brian shook my hand and looked me in the eye as I turned Hillary over to him. I watched and listened intently as Brian recited his own hand-written vows to my grown-up little girl. His voice never wavered and his hands didn't tremble.
"He's completely in love with my daughter,” I thought, "intensity and all."
And Hillary is in love with him, too. Of that, I am certain. Maybe that's why she had to marry him now — I don't know. I may never fully understand their urgency. But that's inconsequential now because, even though I am critical of their timing, I have no question about their commitment.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist