Father’s Day – A long time coming

Published 6:05 pm Friday, June 16, 2023

Americans began celebrating the official observance of Father’s Day in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed legislation designating the third Sunday of June as a national holiday honoring fathers.

Families have honored and recognized fathers for thousands of years, but the official American holiday came just one year after I was born. My father was 55 years old at the time.

For our nation, the holiday was a long time in coming. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington is credited with originating the observance to honor her father, a Civil War veteran, who raised her and her five siblings after the death of their mother. It is said she was inspired by a Mother’s Day sermon and the first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19,1910, her father’s birthday.

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President Calvin Coolidge gave his support to the observance in 1924 and President Lydon Johnson issued a proclamation recognizing the day in 1966.

And, while Americans waited a long time for an official “Dad’s Day,” my own dad waited a long time to celebrate as a father himself.

Mom and Dad began planning to expand their little family right after they married in 1952. Unfortunately, Mom miscarried two nearly-full-term pregnancies in the first few years and gave birth to a little boy who lived only three days. It was May of 1968, the year of my sister’s birth, before Dad received his first opportunity to celebrate being a father in his own right, at an age when most men are enjoying the benefits of being a grandfather.

Dad and Mom are no longer with us. He died in 1990, and she died in 2021. Many Father’s Days and Mother’s Days have come and gone, and I always wish they were still here.

The day is a reminder to honor and recognize the father’s in our lives. Now I help my daughter and granddaughter celebrate my son-in-law. We talk about my Dad, my grandfather, my daughters’ other grandfathers, and the countless other father figures who helped to shape our lives.

Years after Daddy died, I learned he had buried another child who died during childbirth with his mother, dad’s wife June. Family members tell me how incredibly sad my father was and how glad he was to finally become a dad to my sister. 

When I recall how long my dad waited to be a father, how long he has been gone, and how he will never know my daughters, I feel incredibly sad. But I feel encouraged too, to know he lives on, in our memories and within our hearts.

Be sure to let the dads in your life know how much they mean to you now and to also keep alive the memories of the fathers already gone to their heavenly home.