Mary Ellen Miller, Ph.D., R.N. | Jun 21, 2015
Please note, this opinion originally appeared in The Morning Call, Saturday, 6/20/15:
Sunday marks the 105th, or 107th, celebration of Father's Day in the United States, depending on which historical account is precise.
By some interpretations, the first Father's Day in the nation occurred in 1908 in Fairmont, W.V., where Grace Golden Clayton spearheaded an event to honor 361 men, mostly fathers, who were killed in a mine explosion.
Others cite that 1910 was the first Father's Day in our country, organized by Sonora Smart Dodd in Spokane, Wash., to honor her father, who raised his children as a single parent after the death of her mother.
Either way, these women sought to have fathers recognized for their dedication to their families in the way that mothers were recognized during Mother's Day festivities dating years earlier.
By the 1920s, Father's Day was regularly observed throughout the nation. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson declared a presidential proclamation officially making the third Sunday in June Father's Day; in 1972 President Richard Nixon made Johnson's proclamation enduring when he signed into law a permanent recognition of Father's Day.
Traditionally, Father's Day is an occasion to honor fathers for all they have done for us as individuals and for our families. It is a time to express gratitude, respect and love for our fathers.
However, there are many for whom Father's Day is not a special occasion. There are fathers and children who are hurting on Father's Day. We should pause to reflect upon bereaved fathers, fathers estranged from their children, and men who so greatly long to become a father. There are also children who endure physical and/or psychological abuse, for whom Father's Day is not celebratory. Those whose father is deceased may find Father's Day bittersweet. I fall into the latter category.
This year marks the fifth anniversary without my dad. A member of the Air Force and veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, my dad was a laid back, humble gentleman. His hobbies were golfing and gardening. I tinker with both of these hobbies myself now.
When I'm on the driving range, I can still see how he gripped the golf club and took the driver back slowly, then a swift follow-through swing. Sometimes I get this maneuver perfect. I then say, "Thanks for that one, Daddy"!
I also remember how his ungloved hands worked the soil to add just the right mixture of nutrients prior to planting anything. Twenty-five years ago, he planted a scrawny 2-foot lilac bush in our backyard when we moved into our new home. It has grown to where it has had to be pruned back several times. Each spring it blossoms for a very brief two weeks. Its fragrance reminds me of my dad's labor of love.
I'm reminded of this saying, whose author is unknown: "A man's children, and his garden, both reflect the amount of weeding done during the growing season." I believe I blossomed because of my dad's tender weeding during my lifetime.
My Dad enjoyed time spent with him during visits and phone calls. We always ended our time together with saying, "Love you!"
I was moved by J.K. Simmons' acceptance speech for best supporting actor at the Oscars in February. He was targeting the youth of the nation when he stated: "Call your mom. Call your dad, if you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet. Don't text. Don't email. Call 'em on the phone. Tell them you love them."
I think his message applies to all lucky ones — our age doesn't matter. If you're lucky enough, call or visit your dad. Not just on Father's Day. Make time to celebrate your dad. Your time is the best gift you can give to your father … on Father's Day and on the other 364 days of the year.
Mary Ellen Miller is an associate professor of nursing at DeSales University.
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