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Posted: June 19, 2010 12:30 a.m.

The ones called ‘Daddy’

Gripped in the heat of a typical Georgia summer, Father’s Day nevertheless allows us to honor those most hallowed in our patriarchal society — our fathers. Yes, America’s still a man’s world. Women’s advocates and bleeding heart liberals can protest all they want. But when push comes to shove, America wants John Wayne in the foxhole — and in the White House!

Our annual observance of Father’s Day, therefore, calls for reflection upon the ineffable essence which makes our fathers special.

He’s the guy your mother fell in love with, all those years ago. He’s the apple of his daughter’s eye, and the idol his little boy looks up to. He’s the man who chases troubles away just by walking into a room. The family dog starts yapping at the sound of his truck in the driveway, and with tail wagging wildly greets him at the door. And he’s still the man your mom looks to when it’s thundering and lightning...or just to snuggle with on the couch.

Fathers come in all shapes and sizes. They’re tall and muscular and move with athletic ease, or they’re short and fat and walk like a penguin. Fathers are young, in the prime of their chronological life; and they’re middle-aged and at the zenith of their economic earning power. Some few fathers are even older men who may not possess the energy of younger men, but whose experience helps decide which issues are battles to fight...or water to let flow under the bridge.

Some fathers are rich and powerful men who work a lot, travel a lot, but provide not only a house but also a lake cottage and a ski chalet.

Other fathers provide only the bare necessities of life for their families while working two jobs; they, too, work a lot and stay gone a lot, but the family knows why.

Unfortunately, there’s a shiftless bunch of fathers out there, too: men satisfied to sow their oats and skip out on responsibility. When I sit in my favorite chair and reflect on what’s wrong with America, that’s pretty much my starting point.

When men in our patriarchal society abrogate their fundamental responsibilities, this great nation’s foundation of values crumbles even more.

But Father’s Day is not about those folks. At least, not in my book. Every man who sires a child bears the responsibility to raise that child. If he bails out, what good is he? End of discussion.

America’s rise to greatness featured the nuclear family. Our nation’s salad days came when a man married one woman and worked one job, which paid the bills and allowed the wife to stay home and nurture children. The United States of America became the most wonderful place to live on this earth.

It still is. At least to me. And one big reason is that most of us still have reason to celebrate on Father’s Day.

And there’s a very special group of fathers out there: the ones called "Daddy." They taught you to bait a hook, to skip flat stones across a fish pond. They knew how to pitch a tent and how to cook on a campfire. And they could pack a suitcase, and get everything in the car, way better than Mama.

"Daddy" is the guy who taught you how to throw and catch. He took you to baseball games and taught you what to look for in any situation. And he stood tall and unmoving, with his hand over his heart, whenever the National Anthem was played.

Those really special men known as "Daddy" could turn an ordinary thing into a magical moment that lasts forever. He taught you to pour a pack of salted peanuts into an ice-cold bottle of Coca-Cola. He fixed anything from a broken bicycle chain to a busted knee full of gravel. And he cooked burgers on a grill better’n anybody in the world.

"Daddy’s" the guy whose lap you still want to sit in, whose shoulder you long to rest your head on, and whose deep voice makes everything OK.

Yes, Father’s Day is special, and perhaps more poignant to folks whose fathers have passed away. Lyrics from "Finally Home," a song by a contemporary Christian band called MercyMe, explain my hope of an eventual reunion with Davis Gray Harwell Jr., who died in 1968.

"I’m gonna wrap my arms around my Daddy’s neck, and tell him that I’ve missed him; and tell him all about the man that I became, and hope that it pleased him. There’s so much I want to say, and so much I wanted him to know: when I finally make it home."

Here’s hoping that Father’s Day is special for all responsible fathers, and even more so for those called..."Daddy."

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.

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