A Thankful Father Of The Bride

Mr. and Mrs. Luat. Danielle Bishaw photo

I considered writing about my daughter Dawn’s July 28 marriage to Kalei Luat. I’d written about other moments as she and her brother grew up, including her first day of kindergarten at Kamehameha. But this was such a big occasion, and so emotional, I didn’t know where to start. Then I was talking with MidWeek columnist Susan Page. She’s known Dawn for years, got her a modeling gig or two when she was younger, and I’d emailed a photo of the bride to her in Texas, where she’s helping her son and daughter-in-law with their first child. The conversation was work-related, but she did ask about Dawn and her Big Day. Among other details, I mentioned a short talk I gave during the reception, thanking folks on her mom’s side of the family.

“You have to write that in a column, Don!” Susan said. “There are so many split families, and so often there’s bitterness that spills over, even at weddings. You need to share your talk.”

So, with permission from the bride and groom, here goes:

“Of all the things I’ve ever been called — and I’ve been called a few names over the years — my favorites are Daddy, Dad, Pops, Daddy-o. And of all the things I’ve ever been or done, or the roles I’ve had, my favorite is being a father. Not the easiest thing, but my favorite thing.

“Unfortunately, because of life’s circumstances, I didn’t get to see my children every day when they were growing up. That wasn’t easy. But on every one of those days, I was very aware and very thankful they were surrounded by love and by people who care as much about family as I do. So I’d like to say a few thank-yous.

“First, to the mother of the bride: Joslyn (McLaughlin), we did good. We did real good. Thank you for my children.

“To Grandpa and Grandma Oshiro, thank you for welcoming me into your family. Noni, on those occasions we ran into each other at Longs, thank you for the smiles and hugs. To Kiyoshi, thank you for getting me back into golf. We had a little golf outing yesterday, and your grandson played. The game is being carried on in your family. But more than that, I respect you so much, I gave both my keiki o ka aina middle names after you.

“To the three older siblings, Jolie (Jessie), James (Andrade) and Daniel (Andrade) … you know, it’s a funny thing, a parent can say the smartest, wisest, most common-sense thing to a child, and — zing! — in one ear and out the other. But when the same exact words come from an older sibling the child looks up to, it’s, ‘Wow, I never thought of that before, but it makes sense.’ Jolie, I know that was often the case with you and Dawny, and I’m nominating you for Best Big Sister in the History of the World, Ever.

“To James Jessie, thank you for opening your home and your heart to my baby girl when she was in Arizona.

“Then there are the three brothers, James, Dan and Kai (Chapman), fire-fighters all. (Here they joined me at the lectern, and none is shorter than 6-foot-1.) The brothers, individually and sometimes together, tried to intimidate more than one young man who showed an interest in their sister. That’s a tough gauntlet to run through, and only one young man ever accomplished it. Tonight he’s the groom, and my new Son Number Two. Anyway, thank you, guys, for looking out for your sister.

“To the aunties and uncles, especially Odetta (Wong), and Eric and Lynette (Wong), thank you for being wonderful examples of how to live a life with honor and dignity.

The dance. Rick Ornellas photo

“To all the cousins — especially Lani, Anu, Nela, Ev and Spence — I’d never before heard the term ‘best-friend cousins’ until I came into this family, but it’s the norm. And I see it happening again now with this new generation coming up — which I hope one day not too far away will include my grandbabies.

“And to Dawn’s step-dad, Richard (McLaughlin), I can’t imagine a better man to be an influence on my children when I couldn’t be there, and to keep them safe. For that, you have my eternal gratitude.

“So today on her wedding day, Dawny has a lot of me in her. But she also has a lot of each of you. And that’s what makes her the beautiful, strong, confident, compassionate young woman she is, and able to open her heart — and her family — to a young man for whom family also comes first. So to each and all, thank you, God bless you, and cheers!”

Wouldn’t you know it — with everything happening, I’d left my glass of wine at my table. But it was cheers nevertheless.

One other little glitch: The deejays somehow lost the CD for our father-daughter dance, which we’d decided years before she even met Kalei would be to Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely. So there we were, on the dance floor, in silence.

“Well,” I said, “we can still dance.”

So as I softly hummed our song, we danced. It was wonderful, like everything else about that day.

And for that, thank you, Dawn and Kalei. I love you lots, and know you’ll have a wonderful life together.