He sat in the living room of his late father’s home waiting to give away the most precious gift God ever gave him, his daughter. In a few minutes he would give her away to a man he hopes will protect her as he has all these years. He believes the man that is about to marry his little girl is a good man, but he doesn’t really know. Yes, he has attended barbecues, suppers, and Super Bowl parties, but you really never know a person until you live with them. Some human beings are gifted at facades. They present a representative each time they see you while the real person lurks behind their eyes like a caged dog. A buddy a few years back married a woman that he thought was all that and a bag of chips. She was beautiful, great job, and charismatic. His friend loved her. Heck, he thought he loved her because she was so perfect. However right after they were married, his friend found out she was two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars in debt to the IRS and her home was in foreclosure.  Jail was in her near future and his friend couldn’t take the chance his assets being tied up in that. He annulled that fiasco quickly. He cried for a few days but he was thankful he got out that mess. So yea it’s safe to say you take a chance when you marry someone, but this father was hoping his daughter’s luck was better than his buddies.

He remembers the day thirty five years ago when he married his wife Mary, in this exact same home.  Nervously he stood at the altar waiting for his bride to come down the aisle. Anticipation filled his heart while his cold and limp hands hung at side. His father in law to be was probably hoping, just as he was, that his soon to be son in law was not a creep. When the Wedding march began he almost jumped from the 35 dollar tux he bought from the Good Will just three days before. They were on a baby shoe string budget so he got what he could afford.  The money thing was the reason why they were being married in his father’s backyard in early October when the “skeeters” were not quite as bad. Mary’s parents were relatively broke and the idea of the bride’s father paying for the wedding was long gone. But the cheapness of their wedding quickly melted away at the sight of his gorgeous bride moving down the aisle towards him. The dress she wore was beautiful and was an antique worn by two generations of the Benning family.  It was well preserved and the white fabric shimmered in the sunlight. She seemed to be gliding to his waiting arm. It seemed that her father was walking at a turtle pace. Maybe he was reconsidering giving his daughter to this possible creep in training or thinking about how much he would miss his baby girl. Her dad gave him one more look that said everything it was meant to say, which was hurt her and I will find you.  He remembers looking into his brides lovely almond shaped eyes and thinking wow she is about to be my wife and her dad trusts me with his only daughter. Dang he thought this is a serious issue. He remembers the promise he made to her old man that he would be her protector and he meant it. Every word the Reverend Malone said stuck with him, but especially when the reverend said Todd Williams will you take Mary Benning to be your lawfully wedded wife. Todd knew then it was real and he better do his very best.

He and Mary decided to wait a year before starting a family. They enjoyed each other during that year. Candle lit dinners, picnics in the afternoon, and hikes in the Davidson Forest Preserve were some of their favorite things to do. It was not unusual for them to pack up the car during the summer, take a few days, and bounce to a sight they had never seen. However, just like clockwork, Mary became pregnant. She was so beautiful to Todd. He loved watching her waddle around the house.  Puffy eyed and half asleep he would start the car and begin his search for Mary’s late night cravings. Her favorite was hot potato chips and pickles. He was at Newman High School teaching Civics when he got the call.

“Sir is this Todd Williams?” the voice on the other end of the phone said.

He gripped the phone nervously and said “yes, it is. Is everything okay?”

“Your wife is in labor, please come right away to the hospital. Your baby is almost here.”

He dropped the phone and ran out the door screaming,” my kid is almost here. I will be a daddy in a few minutes.” He leaped into his beat up old Ford and rushed to the hospital.

When he got there Mary was already in the labor and delivery room waiting for him. She was sweating profusely and her face was contorting into shapes he thought were not humanly possible. Todd asked several female teachers at work about the pain of child birth. The few he talked too really didn’t seem to find it that pleasant, but they enjoyed the experience of giving birth. Well it seemed they were right because his wife was visibly in pain. Plus she decided to forgo an epidural to ease her discomfort.  He ran to her and immediately picked up her warm but somewhat clammy hand. Her eyes were blood shot and her hair seemed to stand on end. Her beautiful caramel skin was darker but she was still beautiful even in the midst of pushing out another life. She looked up at him and pushed out the words “I love you.”

“I love you too.” he replied. “I am so happy that we are about to meet the little person we created together.

“I can’t wait to see him or her. I don’t care what sex it is as long as it’s healthy.

“Yea, me too.”

Contractions began to hit her like earthquakes. Her lips curled back from her teeth as another shock hit her.

“Push.” Said the doctor in the room

Mary gave it all she had. She pushed until she seemed tuckered out but she didn’t. Not one time. Finally their baby was in the world. The doctor motioned Todd to the table and told him to cut the cord. He did it with pride as he smiled down at his new baby. They had picked boy and girl names. The new little person in their lives was going to be named either Justice or Nala.  Todd couldn’t wait to take his two favorite girls home. The family adventure had begun and he was anxious to start raising Nala the new addition to their family.

When Todd returned to his classroom he began to show pictures of his baby to everyone. Each one of his 150 students were bombarded with picture of his little girl. Every teacher’s mailbox was stuffed with a little pink cigar with the words “It’s a girl” scrawled across it. Yes, it was safe to say Todd was the happiest father in the city.

Determination filled his spirit as he thought about the type of Dad he would be to Nala. He would be better than his dad was. Rupert Williams was a cold man.  He was not built to be a family man. As long as his family was fed, clothes on their back, and a roof over their head Rupert felt that was enough. Love and compassion were not his strong suits. Todd was going to provide not just the essentials, but fulfill all the areas his father didn’t. For the next ten years he did just that.




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