My dad likes to be called Daddy, even though he’s 79 and I’m almost 58. It’s a little thing, but it makes him happy, so I do it.
Calling him Daddy instead of Dad not only makes him happy, it helps me. It helps me remember the man I admired and who was my hero for so many years.
The one who worked two or three jobs, but was always at home to go to a Father-Daughter Dinner, a ceremony where I got a Girl Scout badge, a promotion, or a graduation.
The one who made sure I understood and could be successful working out algebra problems without once getting irritated or frustrated.
The one who took us on Sunday afternoon drives and made an interesting field trip of seeing the California aqueduct and why it was important or taught me what a box canyon was while we drove around in one.
The one who rode his bike with us to Lanark Park on the Fourth of July to let us swim all afternoon and then spread a blanket on the grass so we could watch the fireworks. And then stopped at Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone–a rare treat.
The one who took us to the circus and Knott’s Berry Farm every summer when he worked as a playground supervisor. Then, while all the other kids went off to have fun, my brother and I hung out with my dad.
The one who sat with me when President Kennedy was shot and explained every historical detail of his funeral.
The one who taught swimming and junior life-saving to my entire Girl Scout troop one summer.
The one who taught me how to roll up my sleeping bag and make sure it was aired-out before the next camping trip.
The one who took me to UCLA football and basketball games from the time I was eleven and then made sure I knew what to do to get into the school he helped me love.
The one took me to the Billy Graham crusade in the Los Angeles Coliseum and let me go down and sit on the scratchy green blanket with a lady so I could ask Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. And who sat with me and taught me John 3:16 and the Lord’s Prayer, the Protestant Lord’s Prayer since my mom and I attended a Methodist church. He was Catholic.
I need to remember that Daddy, especially when I’m with him, because as he got older and more successful, becoming a principal and teaching night school so he didn’t have to work so many jobs anymore, he was harder to please, more critical, more demanding, rude, and demeaning.
As I got older, I learned never disagree or challenge anything he said. He could ruin a family dinner or holiday with a nasty comment or unreasonable expectations.
Instead of enjoying time with him, I dreaded it.
But now he needs me.
Three years ago, he suffered from the effects of a blood thinner. A heart attack finally forced him to go to the hospital and then to a convalescent home for rehab. I think he aged ten years in those sixteen days. He used to be independent and constantly busy, but now he does nothing for hours at a time. He can’t remember how to do things that once kept him busy and interested.
Because my mom is out of town for a few days, I went to see him yesterday instead of Sunday, which was Father’s Day. And I never know if he’s going to be my hero or cantankerous. Too often, I go in already on edge and defensive.
Not at all what I wanted to do yesterday.
Several years ago, my pastor gave a sermon about dealing with difficult people. He recommendedgiving them the spiritual gift they needed. So instead of just going to see Daddy, I prayed before I left. Not that Daddy would be pleasant, but that I would be patient, kind, gentle. To put Daddy first.
We had a lovely day. He spent time telling me about growing up in Watervliet, New York. Stories I’ve heard over and over. But I was inspired. I got out my iPad and looked up Watervliet. We took a virtual tour, at first with streets. Then I showed him the satellite image. Amazingly, he could find the house where he lived growing up, the church he attended and where he went to school, where the ice cream parlor was, and even his grandmother’s house. While he found places, he told old stories I knew, but new ones as well. Just like when I was growing up, he taught me things too, on that virtual tour: about Uncle Sam and where the name comes from since Uncle Sam originated near his home town and Shakers.
He loved it. I loved it.
Even though I know God’s way is best, I still struggle to live like I am in His Kingdom NOW. My time with Daddy yesterday was the reality of living His Word:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
I was blessed. With another good memory of my dad. With a wonderful day. With love.