Published in the Nashville Eye column of The Tennessean, Father’s Day, 1990.
My reaction to Father’s Day has changed over the years.
When I was little, I ignored it completely. As I grew older, it became a sad time for me. Today, I have come to appreciate this holiday, maybe even more than the others.
You see, my Daddy died when I was a baby. I never knew him, but I had his picture and my own fairy-tale view of what he must have been like. I constantly watched other daddies and dreamed about my own. Sometimes, I still do.
It took me awhile to figure it all out. I guess I was three years old when I asked the inevitable question, “My best friend has a daddy; why don’t I?”
My Mommy explained that Daddy was killed in a car wreck and had gone to be with God in heaven. She said he would always love me and be watching over me, even though he couldn’t be here. It didn’t make much sense to me.
I asked my sister, Jeanna, about it and she said it was true. She was six years old and knew everything. She said she remembered Daddy. Everyone seemed to remember him except for me.
It seemed that the more I learned about my father’s death, the less I understood it. I wanted a lap to sit in and a neck to hug. I wanted to be tickled and chased and to ride piggy-back. I wanted my Daddy to come back. And I believed with all my heart that he would.
It was my seventh birthday- this was the day he was going to come see me. I knew he wouldn’t be able to stay long because he would have to get back to heaven. All I wanted was to spend a few minutes with him so that I could remember him too.
I wore my favorite blue dress to school that day because I knew he would like it. I saved part of my lunch for him because I thought he might be hungry from his trip. I knew he would be able to recognize me because he had been watching over me all those years. I wondered if he would look the same as in the pictures.
I wondered, and waited.
May 7, 1974 – on that day I learned the meaning of the word “forever.” Finally, I had come to terms with my father’s death.
Perhaps this might explain my misconceptions about Father’s Day. My first memory of a Father’s Day was being in church and the preacher loudly saying “Happy Father’s Day!” I quickly decided that since I didn’t have a “happy father,” I didn’t have to listen to that sermon. I slept through church that Sunday.
As my sister and I became teenagers, we recognized the holiday by buying our mother a Father’s Day present. She played both roles in our family and deserved the show of kindness.
Now that I’m grown and have kids of my own, I look forward to father’s Day. It’s a big production at our house. The kids march around with sigsns that say “Daddy is great!” they have buttons that say “I love Dad” on them. I want them to understand how important their daddy is; I what their daddy to understand it as well.
Maybe I still have a fairy-tale view of things, but in my opinion, it is quite simple: It’s the little things that a father can do that are most important. Spend time with your kids, whether it’s playing ball or doing yard work or reading to them. Listen to them. Let them know you are on their side. Make them laugh often, and hold them when they cry.
Regardless of their age, your children need to know you care.
Trust me, it matters. And Happy Father’s Day!