Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

October 6, 2013


Children need a daddy whose love they can remember


          I am a blessed man. I had a daddy who loved me. He loved me for a long time, until he died at age 93.

          Daddy was seldom tender. But despite his lack of gentleness I never doubted that he loved me. His discipline was often harsh but never so harsh that I questioned his love for me. Looking back I believe I deserved every scolding and every lick he ever gave me.

          It grieves me that so many children must grow up without the loving presence of a daddy in the home. God’s plan for the family is still the best one: children should be raised in a home by a mother and a father.

          The absence of a caring father can be devastating to a child. Lewis Grizzard used to speak and write about his daddy with such pathos. His stories were filled with humor but flavored with sadness.

          In his book, My Daddy Was a Pistol and I’m a Son of a Gun, Grizzard shares how he had such little time together with his father. “War took him away,” he says. “Then he came back for a short time before he was gone again.” And because his father never returned on a fulltime basis, Grizzard treasured every memory of his dad.

          Grizzard shares that while he had some pictures of his father, his Bronze Star and his Purple Hearts, “what I don’t have any more is him.” And he writes with heartrending sorrow, “That is why I remember, and cherish, the memories of the man’s hair, his smell, his likes and dislikes, his speech, and his idiosyncrasies.”

          The gifted Grizzard felt deeply the loss of growing up without a loving father in his life. But Lewis did have his daddy with him during some of his childhood; many children never know even once the comfort of being rocked to sleep in the arms of their father.

          The writer Philip Yancey tells a touching story from his own life in his book, Disappointment with God. Yancey’s father died when Philip was barely a year old. On a visit with his widowed mother, Yancy tells how the two of them spent an afternoon looking through old photos. She showed him a picture of Philip when he was only eight months old. The picture was tattered and Yancey wondered why his mother had kept it.

          “My mother explained to me,” Yancey writes, “that she had kept the photo as a memento because during my father’s illness it had been fastened to his iron lung.” Yancey learned that during the last few months of his father’s life he had lain on his back, paralyzed by polio at age 24, and now encased from the neck down in a huge breathing machine. His young sons were not allowed in the hospital so Yancey’s father asked for pictures of the boys.

          The photos were jammed between metal knobs and hung within view above him – the only thing he could see since he could not move his head. He spent the last four months of his miserable life looking at the faces of the sons he loved.

          What a revelation this must have been to Yancey. His insight is profoundly touching. This is his moving response: “I have often thought of that crumpled photo, for it is one of the few links connecting me to the stranger who was my father. Someone I have no memory of, no sensory knowledge of, spent all day, every day thinking of me, devoting himself to me, loving me . . . The emotions I felt when my mother showed me the crumpled photo were the very same emotions I felt that February night in a college dorm room when I first believed in a God of love. Someone is there, I realized. Someone is there who loves me. It was a startling feeling of wild hope, a feeling so new and overwhelming that it seemed fully worth risking my life on.”

          That crumpled photo helped Philip Yancey to realize he did have a father whose love he could remember – and he was incredibly blessed by that awareness.

          Every child needs a daddy whose love they can remember. Wise is the father who does his best to “be there” for his children. What is needed is not perfection but presence wrapped up in love. + + +