My dad is half-Italian. You can see it in his dark hair, olive-skin, and prominent nose. (All of which he gave to me. Hmm.) You also get a sense of it in his fiery temper. (What's that, Mr. Brown Eyes? He gave me that, too?) Although I've never been to Italy, I get the sense that most Italians are warm and friendly, as generous with their conversation as they are with their food.
In that way, my dad is very un-Italian.
I'm not saying he's not warm and generous. He is; but only once you get to know him. Growing up, I remember going to restaurants and stores with my dad and when waitresses or cashiers tried to make small talk, he would do little more than grunt in response. He isn't one to waste smiles and words, especially on strangers. And once his good opinion of someone is lost, it's lost forever. Even as his daughter, I was constantly intimidated by him.
I used to worry about how my future husband would get along with my dad. I mean, if the man I married was expecting a big, pat-on-the-back hug and a "welcome to the family, son" from my dad, he was going to be greatly disappointed.
Thankfully, Mr. Brown Eyes and my dad seemed to hit it off from the beginning. Mr. Brown Eyes met all my dad's criteria of work ethic, faithfulness to the gospel, and, of course, devotion to me. And Mr. Brown Eyes didn't seem intimidated by Dad's aloofness. He insisted on joking with him, even going as far as putting an Oregon Ducks sticker (the rival of my dad's Washington Huskies) on the back of Dad's truck. When Dad just took the sticker off and grumbled without getting mad, I knew he liked Mr. Brown Eyes.
So when Mr. Brown Eyes and I started talking marriage and strolling hand in hand through the mall to all the different jewelers, trying out sparkly diamond rings on my finger, I knew my future husband would have no trouble asking my dad for permission to marry me. Not that he needed permission, but I had always wanted the man I married to ask my dad for my hand. I thought it was romantic and respectful. And Mr. Brown Eyes readily agreed.
A couple weeks later we took a day trip with my family to my sister's house for her son's baptism. While we were there, I locked my keys in my truck. After much emotion, begging, pleading, and cajoling, we managed to convince the local dealership to make another key for me. While I waited for it, I told Mr. Brown Eyes to go have lunch with everyone else and I'd join them when I was done.
When I finally got my key and met everyone at McDonald's, sliding into the hard plastic booth next to Mr. Brown Eyes, I could tell something was wrong. He seemed distant and upset about something. When I asked him what was wrong, he just shook his head. But he hardly spoke a word all through lunch, and as we said goodbye to everyone and got into my truck to drive back to Phoenix, his silence persisted.
"What is wrong?" I finally asked again. "Something is, I can tell. Please tell me."
He sighed, gripping the steering wheel with one hand and my hand with the other. "I didn't want you to know, but, while you were waiting at the dealership, I decided to talk to your dad."
My heart sank. Could Dad have told Mr. Brown Eyes he wasn't good enough to marry me? Would Dad say such a thing?
"I showed him this picture," he continued, handing me his phone, which displayed a tiny picture of a hand holding a diamond ring. "And told him I was thinking about buying this for you, and asked him what he thought."
He paused, staring straight ahead at the winding mountain road. "He laughed at me."
I gaped at him. "He laughed at you?" That didn't sound like Dad at all. "There must be some mistake."
"No. I handed him the phone, showed him the picture, and he just laughed and handed it back to me. Then started talking to someone else."
He sounded so dejected, and looked so adorable, it was all I could do to lean in and kiss his cheek. "He must not have understood what you were telling him. I promise he wasn't rejecting you. You'll just have to try again."
He looked at me like that was the last thing he wanted to do. I felt for him. I remembered as a kid gathering the nerve to ask my dad for money. It was hard enough doing it once. But twice? Not if you didn't have to.
But Mr. Brown Eyes did. The picture of courage, he marched into my dad's computer room a few days later and asked him again, this time a little more straightforward, without the use of pictures. Dad gave him his blessing, told him he had been impressed with him, and probably rejoiced at the thought of another daughter out of his hair. To clear the air, Mr. Brown Eyes mentioned that he had tried to ask the same question at McDonald's that day.
"I thought that might have been what you were asking," Dad replied. "But the picture was so small, I couldn't tell what it was."
So he laughed.
At least he didn't pull out a shotgun.
The Brown-Eyed Girl