Father’s Day is a day to honor fathers and fatherhood and the influence of fathers in our society. In European Catholic countries, Father’s Day has been celebrated on March 19th (St. Joseph’s Day…or Zeppole Day) since approximately 1508. In the United States, Father’s Day began its journey to become a national celebration in 1910 in Spokane, WA by Sonora Smart Dodd. Ms. Smart Dodd’s father was a Civil War veteran who was a single father of six children. Ms. Smart Dodd had heard about Ms. Jarvis’ Mother’s Day celebration of 1909 and suggested to her pastor that fathers should have the same recognition. After agreement amongst many local clergymen, the first Father’s Day “sermon” occurred on June 10, 1910. There would be many starts and stops to it becoming officially recognized by presidential proclamation by President Johnson. President Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day and six years later it became a permanent national holiday signed into law by President Nixon.
That’s my dad up there, Walter, and I am the child that made him a father, so in a way his awesome dadness is mostly to my credit! Today we honor those men that have fathered their own or other’s children and I thank my dad for being a beacon of strength and love in an often tough and murky world.
My dad was a giant. When I was growing up he was bigger and stronger and funnier than every other dad I knew. He played rugby in college and then for a few years after on local club teams. His strength was enormous but when he held you in his arms, he was as gentle and loving as a teddy bear. There was a ferocity to his love, it was the sense that for those he loved, he would move mountains, tackle giants and protect us with all that he had. But he was also the man that created “Creepy Mouse”, a little finger mouse that would creep up your neck and give you a tickle. He’s the man that stood up to a creepy man that stumbled out of an alley after my younger sister when we were in Boston as well as the man that immediately and forever bonded with my newborn daughter. The man that will to this day show up just about anywhere to see Emma do whatever Emma is doing.
There is not a day in my life that I have ever doubted my father’s love for me, even on the worst days. It took me a few years during my adolescence to realize that when I was at my worst, he was at his best. Yes, he yelled and punished me for my b.s., I deserved it. But when the emotions died down, he would always come back to let me know, in ways big and small, that he loved me and only wanted to help me be the best I could be. It took me a few years to realize that him loving me when I didn’t love myself helped push me forward. The strength that he (and my mom) consistently and constantly provided were the best gifts I ever could have received.
So thank you to all the men that have stepped into the role of father, whether for their own or other’s children. But an enormous thank you to my father, Walt, for the courage, strength and love you have given to me without a thought of reward. Happy Father’s Day.
*Fathers’ Day was the original spelling going back to 1910, but when the bill was introduced in 1913 to Congress (see it took a long time to become official) the Father’s Day spelling was included and that followed the bill through its journey.