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Reflecting on the father I had, and the one I became
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I don’t know exactly at what age my baby girl blurted out something that sounded like “Daddy,” but I’ve always loved the sound of it.

Most of the time, it is now shortened to just “Dad,” but I like it just the same.

Looking back on my nearly 22 years in that role, I know there are many things I would have done differently, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

I work with a guy who is the father of a 6-year-old. Occasionally, I hear one side of his phone conversations with her. “Really?” he’ll exclaim as she tells him about something that took place during her day at school. He usually follows with “That’s great!”

He loves that little girl and our Monday morning conversations often center around their weekend activities.

Another friend took his son last year on a trip to New York City to see the Braves play the Mets. It was a great father-and-son moment.

A friend of mine from Macon is now preparing to bring his son home. A car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down. The young man, who is in his 20s, really needs his father and he is there.

But these kinds of fathers don’t get much attention in the media. The attention-getters seem to be the fathers who decide to marry the mother of their children after the fact. I have seen two stories recently about a couple of Hollywood stars who are now tying the knot long after they’ve done the deal. There used to be an order to things, I guess that is now passé.

I have watched my youngest nephew live through some of the most challenging years of his life without his father. My brother, Dixon, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was a sophomore in high school and died just four months before he would graduate. Four years later, we told him how proud his dad would be at his college graduation.

I don’t pretend to be a surrogate for my brother, but I stop in and check on his boys whenever I’m nearby. That usually includes sharing a meal and tucking a little cash in their pockets. They are fine young men and I love them both.

I know that Dixon would have done the same thing for me.

By the time my baby girl was born, my dad had been gone for six years. He left an indelible impact on my life that was my foundation for fatherhood.

He was my opposite in so many ways. He was quiet and was always in the background. He demonstrated love by doing for others. There were many sacrifices he made that I might have the extra things in life.

By the time he was my present age, he had spent a great deal of time in hospitals. He suffered from a rare form of anemia that made his immune system vulnerable. I can recall him taking us for a walk with me riding on his shoulders. I didn’t understand that his brow was wet from fever.

It is something I think about often, especially on Father’s Day.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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