(If you’re here for the first time check out excerpts 1-36 in earlier Blogs )
John was up early the next morning, arriving at the Ivy Inn at seven thirty. He placed himself in a strategic position in the lounge, with a view of the staircase and the elevator. He wanted to be sure to catch George Hawkins when he came down.
At a quarter to eight Mr. Hawkins came downstairs, exchanged a few words with the desk and headed for the breakfast room. When he noticed John standing up and putting down the newspaper he checked himself slightly and then proceeded as if seeing John there was the most natural thing in the world.
“Well, hello, John. What brings you out this early in the morning?” he said, with a solid handshake and a direct look of concern.
John decided to match his directness. “Well, sir, I was hoping I could buy you some breakfast and talk about some things.”
“Do you play golf, John?” Mr. Hawkins asked.
“Sure,” John answered. He wasn’t sure his level of skill would qualify him as a golf player, but he’d play anything the man asked him to right now.
“Well, what say you and I grab a quick bite and then head off to the Shorewood Hills golf course? I’d enjoy the company,” Mr. Hawkins said.
“Sounds good” John replied, once again grateful for an invitation from this easy-going man.
Breakfast was quick and consumed with various subjects that both parties knew were not the real subject on the agenda. They drove out to the golf course in Mr. Hawkins car and pulled up to the exclusive country club. John was mildly curious as to how Mr. Hawkins had permission to frequent the membership-only course, but Mr. Hawkins struck him as the kind of man who had connections, so he didn’t dwell on it too much. Walking up the side of the hill, trying to figure out what to say, John began to feel unsure of why he was there.
Mr. Hawkins asked gently, “What’s on your mind, son?”
John looked sideways and said, “Your daughter.”
“Uh-hum.” George Hawkins was non-committal, he was focusing on placing the ball just so for his first drive.
“I’m in love with her, sir. Actually, I’m nuts about the woman. I think I have been ever since I first laid eyes on her nearly two years ago.” This rush of information tumbled out like an exhaled breath.
Mr. Hawkins swung and the ball was whacked into a perfect arch. He watched it sail through the air and land. It couldn’t have been a cleaner shot. “Two years is a long-time, John. Does Maddie know you feel this way?”
John knew it was his turn and he was trying to focus on his shot but the question threw him. He had to stop and think. “Well, no,” he replied, “To tell you the truth I’m not sure exactly how to proceed.”
At Mr. Hawkins’ questioning look, he felt that sounded kind of stupid, so he rushed on. “Well, I know that you folks do things kind of differently…“
Another puzzled look, and then John hastened to take his foot out of his mouth, “In your religion, I mean. Not—not…Yikes, forget that.” He swallowed, “Anyhow, I didn’t know whether it would be putting the horse before the cart to talk to her first or to ask for your permission first…” He dissolved in a confusing tangle of alternatives.
“Fact of the matter is, sir, I’m trying to ask for your blessing,” he smiled sheepishly, “and I’m doing a pretty bad job of it, I know. But it’s real important to me.”
“Yes, son, I can see that it is.” George Hawkins had apparently decided to break his silence and alleviate some of his misery. His use of the word “son” had an odd effect on John. For a guy whose father had skipped out way before the age of remembrance, being called “son” by a kinder, older gentleman was somewhat unsettling.
“Go ahead John, take your shot now, we have plenty of time.” He motioned towards the ball that had lain untouched on the grass.
“Oh!” John took a vicious whack, which was impelled by his anxiety and it turned out to be a long drive that placed his ball neatly in the vicinity of Mr. Hawkins’ ball.
“Good shot! I’m impressed, John.”
The praise also had a strange effect on John. Mr. Hawkins had treated him as someone special right from the beginning. Maybe that’s the way he was with everybody. Yet, his easy manners and openness made John long to confide in him and yearn for his advice. He felt instinctively that if he had had a father he would have wanted him to be after the pattern of this man. Someone he could really respect, depend on. Funny, how little time it had taken for him to feel this way. It was because of Maddie, of course. This man had raised a magnificent daughter, given her all the best that a parent can offer. And so she had turned out to be such a straight arrow, clean and decent, not corrupted and missing parts, like he sometimes felt.
“The trouble here, John, is that I think you have the wrong idea about what my role is in all this. You see, the law of consent, as we practice it in our Faith, is not some sort of arranged marriage ritual or even a matter of my giving away my daughter’s hand in marriage. The way things should happen is that the two people who find themselves mutually attracted do their homework. They investigate each other’s character, find out if they have similar goals in life and once they have decided that they want to get married, then they ask for parental consent of all living parents. At this point the parents would evaluate the situation and if they felt the decision was sound, the parties mature and well suited, they would give their blessing or consent. Mrs. Hawkins and I would each have this responsibility, as well as the parents of whatever man Maddie chose. But before she presents us with a choice, we have no right to interfere.”
John was listening acutely. “I see…” He didn’t, not completely. What if the parents made a bad decision? Or, what if they withheld their consent for stupid reasons, like racial prejudice, for instance? What if you didn’t know where all living parents were? How long did all this take? He asked these questions in turn and between holes Mr. Hawkins answered them. The rolling hills of the golf course became the place where he experienced another paradigm shift, the second one having to do with Maddie.
Mr. Hawkins explained that the law was a protection against imprudence and most of the time, the wisdom of decisions became clear. In some cases, when consent was withheld, the parties would come to see they were, in fact, unsuited and would later contract happy marriages. In a few cases, where consent was withheld for unjust reasons like prejudice, the very obedience of the couple to that decision had ultimately effected a change in the hearts of the parents, and they would end up giving their consent. In some cases, the requirement for consent of all living parents had caused previously estranged families to reunite, or long lost parents to re-establish contact with their children. In any case, the underlying intent of the law was to establish unity within families and to cause a strong family bond.
John was beginning to develop a clearer picture of how it all worked. He could see the advantages of having the family behind you when you embarked on the marriage journey. Instead of having bad mother-in-law relationships and in-laws that you couldn’t stand, you started out with people that were in your corner and that wanted your marriage to succeed. At the same time he saw that this law could potentially be very complicated. He had never seen his father since he’d been abandoned. How was he ever going to find him? But now he was definitely putting the cart before the horse. First, he had to see if Maddie would have him. That was the real challenge.
He decided to try to solicit George Hawkins’ input on this. He wasn’t extremely happy with what he heard.
“I would advise you to take it slow, John. From what her mother tells me, Maddie doesn’t have a clue as to how you feel about her. The idea might be totally new to her. And if I know my daughter, if you shock her, she might bolt in the opposite direction,” Mr. Hawkins said.
John scratched his head and grimaced.
“Well, look, just be patient. Let her get to know you. Be there. I think you already have some credit, you know. After all, you helped her with that terrible situation.” He ended by saying, “Listen son, the bottom line is, if you love her bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes, right?”
John left Mr. Hawkins to finish his game at the course and walked back to campus. It was a couple of miles, but he needed the time to sort out his thoughts, and digest all he had learned. George Hawkins had given him a hearty handshake when they parted, and wished him luck. He had invited John to drop by and see them in Chicago, if he was ever in the neighborhood.
John was deeply moved by his interview with this extraordinary man. For the second time that day he was assailed by a desire to become a part of Maddie’s family. It was as if a magnet was drawing him in. The attraction was the unity he sensed in that family.
GLOBAL BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION!
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DISCUSSION QUESTION 37: What input do parents have in our choice of marriage partner?
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