I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s Father’s Day or some other reason, but I pulled out the old photo album this afternoon and looked at pictures from my childhood. Because Mama was usually behind the camera, Daddy is in lots more of the pictures than she is. (In the South, many of us call our fathers “Daddy.” Even when we’re adults. Even after our fathers have died. That important man was and is “Daddy.”) Seeing Daddy in so many photos, on Father’s Day, got me to thinking.
My daddy in these photos is a young man – much younger than I am now – a daddy smiling with his two little girls and their various dogs over the years. I see a man who was there with his family at home and at church and at community events. I see him with extended family, both his family and his in-law family. I see him at lots of tables, tables laden with food or used for activities, tables that brought people together. I see him on birthdays and at Christmas and at family reunions and at cousins’ weddings and at my confirmation and at the beach and on trips to see relatives in Florida and Indiana and South Carolina.
There he is in a Salzburger costume modeled on garb from the 1700s as he celebrates the 200th anniversary of our church building. There he is in his worn red, black, and white plaid flannel robe on Christmas mornings. There he is in dark suits with skinny ties through all of the more “proper” activities of the 60s and early 70s.
There he is.
He is there. In lots and lots of photos.
And that’s what makes the difference, even now. He was there.
Children need their daddies to be there. Yes, we all have biological fathers, but we need daddies. These daddies don’t have to be related to us. Daddies are men who commit to being there for children. For the big events. For the small events. For no reason at all. They might not know what to say or how to say it. They might be emotionally distant. They might not know how to show their love but in this one way. Being there. A physical presence, a commitment to being there – even when they’re tired, busy, distracted, grieving, hurt, lonely, aching – a presence that changes children’s lives. For the better.
So for my daddy, who was always there, and for all of the men who commit to being there for a child or children, thank you. You made a profound difference. You make a profound difference. You probably don’t even realize how profound it is, how far-reaching. But I do. Those of us who have had daddies do.
Thank you for taking your time and giving your presence – to be there. I appreciate you, all of you. Your presence is reflected in the children (who later become adults) for whom you were there. That’s your legacy. That’s why we say “thank you” on Father’s Day even when we should say that every time you are there.
Thank you. For being there.
Happy Father’s Day to all you men who were and are daddies to someone.