My daughter who lives three to five states away – depending on how deeply one is daydreaming when the turnpike exit sneaks up – is bringing her boyfriend home for a visit.
She’s 19, legally an adult and fully qualified to make her own decisions without benefit of my sage advice. But I’m having trouble letting go – especially when she comes home with a boyfriend in tow. At times like those, I’m torn between polishing the house to a welcoming shine or polishing the baseball bat to a menacing sheen.
It’s a natural reaction that dads in danger of losing daughters share and daughters facing embarrassment – AGAIN – dread.
I met TJ the last time I visited Melissa out there. He seemed to be a nice, well-mannered respectful guy. When I finished sizing him up, I pulled Melissa aside and cooed in my most fatherly way: “I’m bigger than he is. Just say the word and I’ll break him in half.”
“Daddy!” she yelped. “Why would you say that? I like him!”
“I’m just offering. If the need should arise, I could turn him into a pretzel. It would be no problem.”
“Behave! And have you forgotten, TJ is a construction worker. You sit behind a desk all day getting softer all the time. You best be not picking a fight with my boyfriend.”
“Yes, but I have special Dad Powers.”
Dad Powers. They allow us to open stubborn sparkly paint jars with a mighty twist, fix broken bicycles with a precision yank on a chain and sometimes even snatch back escaping balloons in a single bound. And they certainly allow us to face down interloping boyfriends with a blood-chilling, don’t-you-dare-even-look-at-my-daughter-with-that-stupid-twinkle-in-your-eye-or-I’ll-blacken-it stare.
Melissa sighed and held up her pinkie finger. It’s the same one she’s had me wrapped around since introducing herself with a healthy bellow nearly 20 years ago. Daughter Powers are dads’ kryptonite.
I was licked and I knew it.
Melissa strolled back to the guy who stole her attention away from me and laced her arm through his.
“Don’t worry,” Melissa told him. “He’s just a big, fuzzy teddy bear.”
“I can be a grizzly bear,” I grumbled as I carefully picked a stray spider off the windowsill and gently placed it outside. “Well, I can!”
TJ had the discourtesy to appear very unconcerned about the Threat of Dad. I thought that was in very poor taste and made a note to bring up this character flaw with Melissa at the next opportunity.
Now she’s bringing him to stay in my house a couple nights. So I’m getting ready.
I dug out the weight set in the garage and scattered it about the living room.
I hid the matching table settings in favor of chipped dishes and plastic cups imprinted with pictures of wrestlers.
I’m practicing intimidating sneers in the bathroom mirror – which I’m leaving spotted.
“I already told TJ you were a clown,” Melissa said when I told her of my tough guy innovations. “He thinks you’re silly.”
“How about if I just squeeze his hand really tight when I shake it to make him cry?”
“Do you remember when you tried to get the lid off the ketchup bottle with that so-called farmer’s grip of yours? You threw out your back and lay around moaning for two weeks. Now be nice.”
So that’s it. TJ’s coming. Melissa will be on the couch. I’ll be sleeping in my easy chair between her and TJ’s room. But she’ll have the string tied to my toe in case I try to sneak off in the middle of the night to the heart thief and yell, “Boo!”
But I fooled her. I didn’t use the spring fresh-scented fabric softener when I washed the sheets for his bed.
Hey, we dads displaced from daughters’ hearts can be real grizzlies when riled.