Father’s Day is coming up, and mine is always Daddy to me

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2017

This Sunday is Father’s Day but I don’t believe I have ever called my Daddy, Father. I may have introduced him as “My Father,” but he has always been Daddy to me.

I looked up the word Daddy and the website that I read said that the first recorded use of the word Daddy was back in the 16th century and comes from Old English. That sounds about right to me. My Daddy is old and he speaks English.

Not the Queen’s English, mind you, but a southern dialect thereof. Let me simply say that I never had any trouble understanding what he said, particularly when he said something like, “Don’t make me have to come in there.” My brother and I always seemed to straighten up and do right after those words.

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As I wrote a few weeks ago, we celebrated Daddy’s 90th birthday recently. I’m proud to say that, of all the Roberts’ family boys and girls, my Daddy is the only one who has lived into his 90th decade.

It falls to me, as a pastor, to say most of the blessings and other sorts of words before family events. My mother wanted me to “officially” begin the birthday celebration with a few words and a prayer. I knew it was coming, yet I had not written any “official” words or prayer. I would do as I most often do, play it by the seat of my pants. My pants are worn pretty thin on the backside.

I wasn’t worried about this task. After almost 25 years of being a preacher, if I couldn’t say a prayer and something good about the man who had meant so much to us, I might as well hang it up.

Plenty of people had come to celebrate Daddy’s life in his community. He has touched many-a person throughout his faithful years. There were the words of thanks for every one coming and, then I looked over at Daddy. A small lump began to form in my throat.

At 90 years of age, he wasn’t so erect and steady as I had known 50 and 60 years ago. I had never known him to be slim and trim, but he has about 50 pounds too many on his frame. He uses a cane, now, to steady his walk, but it’s still Daddy’s walk.

On the table there were old photographs. Also a set of old-fashioned, rusted ice tongs. They were a reminder of the way my Daddy had made his living when I was born. He had an ice route and toted heavy blocks of ice to people’s homes for their ice boxes. This was before refrigerators.

Carrying those blocks of ice had sculptured some strong forearms. I used to think that those arms of Daddy’s would protect us from any trouble that came our way. The arms have lost some of that shape and strength, but they are still Daddy’s arms.

As I was speaking extemporaneously, I headed in a direction that I was going to have to “fish or cut bait.” There was going to have to be a final sentence and what would I say. Would I say what was really in my heart?

Of course I would say “I love him.” But what I really wanted to say was how great I thought he was. It’s only my opinion and everyone might say the same about their Daddy, but I simply could not say it any other way.

I called him the “greatest man I have ever known.” I meant it, too. He’s my Daddy.