So it’s Father’s Day and I know it does not have the same impact that Mother’s Day has on card- and flower-sending, gift-buying and celebrating in general — which is OK. We are just men. We get that. No, really. We do.
I had a great father and I miss him every day — not just one Sunday a year. He taught me how to read and to appreciate a good story, well told. He took me to church and watched ball games with me and read amazing stories to me about the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood and Tom and Huck, riding a raft down the mighty Mississippi.
My daddy wasn’t a perfect man — not by a long shot, and he didn’t raise a perfect son — not by an even longer shot — but he was always there for me. He always had my back. He worked on the second shift in the Osprey Mill as the supervisor of the weave shop for most of my childhood. Second shift was tough once I started school because it meant that when I got home from school he would be at work and when he got home from work, I would be in bed. That didn’t leave much time for playing catch or shooting hoops or doing other things that I saw Ward Cleaver and Jim Anderson doing with their sons on TV.
He only worked half a day on Saturday, though, and got off at noon. Sometimes we would “go for a ride in the country” when he got home, which always ended on a dirt road leading up to an old farm house, where a fellow in overalls would come out to the car and lean into the driver’s side window and roll a fruit jar full of white lightning into Daddy’s lap.
I enjoyed those rides out in the country because it was just the two of us.
Sometimes, in the fall of the year, we would go to Athens and sit on the railroad tracks and watch Georgia play football. Our tailgate would be mayonnaise sandwiches wrapped in wax paper. We would watch the game while sharing a Philco transistor radio. Daddy always insisted that there would never be a better play-by-play man than Ed Thilenius. Those hours we spent together on the railroad tracks are one reason red and black blood runs so deeply through my veins today.
After my father retired he made up for the time he had missed when I was in school. I was teaching and coaching football and basketball by then and he seldom missed a game. Sometimes I would have preferred that he had, because he had a type A personality and a temper to match. Let me give you an example. One night I was leaving a visiting gym and was amused to see two old white haired men rolling around on the ground, tussling with one another. I was amused until I realized that one of the old men was Homer Huckaby, who had taken exception to the fact that the other old man had called the opposing coach an SOB in earshot of the opposing coach’s father.
Luckily neither combatant was hurt.
Seldom does a day go by that I don’t think of my dad. The impact he had on my life will reach far into the future. Unfortunately, there are too many children in our country who are growing up without the positive influence of a father in the house. God intended for us to have fathers, understand, not baby daddies — and when we reach the point in society where a majority of men are fathering children and not raising them, then we are in danger of that society falling apart at the seams. We are getting close to that point, y’all.
According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, we are in a fatherhood crisis in America right now — on Father’s Day as well as the other 364. More than a third of our children live in a home where there is not a biological father present. Those children are exponentially more likely to live in poverty, drop out of school, wind up in prison, be involved in illegal drugs, abuse alcohol, be obese, have emotional problems and become sexually active at an earlier age — thus begetting, usually, other households where a father is not present.
Maybe Father’s Day would be a good time to Google National Fatherhood Initiative and try and figure out how we can help make this problem better. In the meantime, I still miss my father — but I so thankful that I had such a great one. I hope I can honor his name. I would want him to be proud of me.