Debbie LaChusa

Lucky Dog

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As he handed me off to my future husband, the words escaped quietly from his mouth, “Lucky Dog.”

The crowded church was full of wedding guests but those words meant for just two people: my fiancé and me. The softly spoken phrase fell from his lips through a wide smile, his eyes focused directly on the man in the taupe tux I was about to marry. His way of blessing the union he’d originally forbade.

I met my husband Louie when I was 15 years old.

I was a junior in high school. Louie was 18 years old and had just graduated high school himself. We met at the beach on a day I had tagged along with my more popular and adventuresome twin sister.

The quintessential good girl, I always followed the rules, earned good grades, and stayed out of trouble. Louie was a burly Native American boy with a penchant for fighting and long curly black locks tinged orange at the tips from summer days spent at the beach, body surfing and drinking beer. I’d never dated anyone like him, but his constant attention was flattering. He was popular and outgoing. I was shy and reserved. The epitome of opposites attract.

When we began dating, my father made it clear he didn’t approve.

When we got serious, dad tried his best to curtail the relationship, imposing a two date a week maximum, which only resulted in secret dates and turning this good girl into a sneaky little liar. But if dad ever knew about those stealth encounters he didn’t say a word.

When Louie and I decided to get married I was 19 years old. We were inseparable and I couldn’t imagine life without him. When we shared the news with my parents, my normally unemotional Dad was livid. The four of us standing in the family room, dad proclaimed he would have nothing to do with the wedding. I was too young. It was a mistake. And he wanted no part of it. I was crushed.

We planned our own wedding.

Mom did what she could. My mother-in-law, who was thrilled we were getting married, stepped in to help. I even arranged for my boss to give me away in lieu of dad.

To this day I have no idea what kind of arguments my parents may have had about my impending nuptials. Mom trying to be supportive of her first child getting married, and dad wanting nothing to do with it. Whatever discord their differing opinions caused they hid it well. I wonder if it hurt their relationship? Mom and dad were never ones to show or share emotion, so I’m sure I’ll never know.

Two months before our wedding dad came around. I don’t recall where we were or what he said. It was such a pivotal shift and yet all I remember is him deciding he wanted to be part of the celebration. I guess I was so thrilled, and relieved, that all I remember is his change of heart.

We didn’t talk about what had happened or why he’d changed his mind.

Perhaps he saw it was happening with or without him and decided to stop fighting the inevitable. Maybe he finally came to terms with the fact I was a grown woman and he needed to let me go. I did overhear him say to mom one day when she was upset about me leaving home so young, “You raised her to be independent, what did you expect?” Perhaps he was speaking those words for his own ears, too.

When my own daughter turned 19 years old I gained a new perspective on how dad must have felt when I announced my engagement at such a young age. I remember saying to friends about my daughter, “If she comes home from college and tells me she’s getting married, I’m going to lock her in a closet!” Of course I was joking, but for the first time in nearly 30 years I had a glimpse into dad’s world all those years ago.

My husband and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary just after dad died.

In all those years, dad and I never spoke about his decision not to support our nuptials, or his eventual change of heart.

Those two little words—Lucky Dog—spoken under his breath at the alter, perhaps having already said all he was able to say.

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