One Smart Man: A Father-Daughter Dance

One Smart Man


Eric Van Fossen


I was recently in a room full of men and little girls. There was one smart man and it was not me.

It was a late winter father – daughter dance at the local YMCA gym.  My seven year old future step-daughter blessed me with her enthusiastic presence. She was my date and we were looking good! The gym was done up nicely with round tables covered in white linen. There were decorations hanging from the overhead running track. The lights were low and the DJ was pretty good. I laughed when my date exclaimed how much she loved the current hip hop song that was blaring. I laughed because I have no idea where she could have heard it. Her mother and I are not hip hop fans. But apparently the daughter is.

There were maybe sixty to eighty father daughter couples there dancing the night away. Everybody was dancing and I don’t mind saying that within that crowd at least, my dance moves were pretty strong. Nice thing about holding a dance in a gym; the entire floor is dance floor. I used most of it.

I do not remember having the opportunity to take my own daughter, now an adult, to a father – daughter dance. They just didn’t do it back then, at least not around here.  I verified this fact with my mother. So on the surface it sounds like I have an excuse for what I am about tell you. But in reality, there were so many other missed opportunities for which I have no excuse.

It was the end of the evening and the last song was to be a slow song; “Butterfly Kisses” by Bob Carlisle. Most of the girls were content to hold hands and sway back and forth with their dads. My date and I held hands and twirled and smiled and savored the moment. Some dads held their daughters close as they swayed back and forth. Most of those fathers were certainly happy but I couldn’t help but notice that they were looking around the room, watching the world around them.

There was one dad off to my left that caught my eye. He also caught my admiration. This dad, this one smart man, held his nine year old daughter up in his arms for the entire song. He was basically carrying her. His eyes were closed. This father was clearly savoring every second of this moment that he could collect and try to hold onto. I imagined he was memorizing the feel of holding his little girl, soon to be his big girl. He was absorbing every sound and every scent and ounce of love that was surely passing between them. Some other children ran right by him laughing and making a commotion, but he didn’t budge except to continue to rock his baby. How many times had he done that when she was an infant? Was he transported back to a 2 A.M. feeding years ago?

He was not watching the world around them. This one smart man was watching the world right in front of him and within him. His eyes never opened during the entire song. I looked it up- that’s 5 minutes and 38 seconds of heaven that man was smart enough to absorb into his memory.

When the song was over and he finally opened his eyes I had to look away. I had my own realizations to look at. I know for a fact that I did savor moments similar to this with my daughter and son. I also know for a fact that I did not savor enough of them. If that guy was the smartest father in the room, then I like to think that I was a close second that night. No, I was not as smart as him at that stage in my life. I was probably too busy being worried about getting ahead in my education and my job while figuring out how to buy that nice car I had always wanted.  You know…life.

But I know what I saw that night. I know what I learned.

Maybe this is why grandchildren are such a blessing. As grandparents and just by being older we finally get it.  We innately understand just how important it is to savor the moments with these precious ones. After all, everything else is just crap.

In hindsight, I was not the second smartest man in the room that night. The very fact that I can tell this story indicates that I too was looking around the room during that last song. I was watching some of the world around me instead of the whole world that was right in front of me.  It won’t happen again.