Where I’m From, We Call Our Fathers Daddy

This is a re-run of a post I wrote about my Daddy. Happy Father’s Day to every Daddy out there. You are irreplaceable.

Where I’m from, we call our fathers “Daddy.”

It’s not unusual to see 60-year-old cowboys, complete with the hat, the cattle and the big belt buckle, addressing their 80-year-old fathers as “Daddy.” It’s just the way we talk.

My Daddy was what pundits condescendingly refer to as “blue collar” or “working class.” What that means is that he was a highly skilled person who could pull an engine out of a car, take it apart, rebuild it like new, put it back in the car, test drive the car to see if all was right and still be home in time for eight hours sleep before he had to get up for work the next day.

The men I grew up around never worried about being man enough. The very notion of worrying about a thing like that was as foreign to them as worrying about being American or Oklahoman enough. They worked hard as mechanics, truck drivers, machinists, butchers and carpenters. Then they came home and put in gardens and maintained their houses. No one in my neighborhood would have considered calling a plumber, roofer or any other handyman to repair their homes. If the plumbing was broke (things were never “broken”; they were “broke”) they fixed it. If the roof leaked, they would get together with the rest of the boys from thereabouts and put on a new one.

My Daddy thought nothing of  getting together with my uncle and putting up a wall, complete with texture and paint, in one day. They could turn around and take it down the same way. They built their own garages, added rooms to their houses and dug their own tornado shelters.

Not one of the men I knew as a child would consider raising a hand to a woman. A man who would hit a woman was a coward, not a man, a nothing, in their eyes. Any man stupid enough to do a thing like that was very likely to have the other men thereabouts take them out some night and “knock some sense into him.”

It never entered my mind to be afraid of anything when I was little. Whatever bad was out there, I believed my daddy would make sure it never touched me. I can not remember a time when he didn’t seem as big and safe as a fort.

I also can’t remember the first time he lifted me astride a horse. I do remember sitting behind him on his horse as we rode for hours. I was maybe four or so when he got me my first horse, a gentle fellow named Shorty.

Owning a horse meant I had to learn to brush him down before saddling him, then brush him down again after the ride. I had to make sure he had water, hay and grain and that his hooves were free of rocks and other things that might harm him. I was responsible for soft-soaping my saddle and bridle, for cleaning the bits.

I didn’t know how to do all this at four, but I learned how from my daddy who taught me by doing it with me. He also taught me to never let the horse get the best of me by getting angry with the animal, jerking him around or failing to get back up and get on when I was tossed off.

He had a contempt that he imparted to me for the kind of man who would get panicky on a horse and then take it out on the horse by yanking the bits, yelling at the animal or digging his heels into the horse’s sides.

Shorty was a kindly horse with a lot of patience for little girls but not a lot of gas in his tank. As I grew from a tiny girl into a little girl, I became increasingly impatient with his lack of go. One day when I was about seven I decided I wanted to see if I could get a rise out of him.

I saddled up and climbed on Shorty, armed with a water pistol. I rode him for a while, then stood in the stirrups, leaned forward, and squirted. Sweet, gentle Shorty broke in half. I managed to ride it out, but I certainly did get a rise out of him. It was more than I bargained for, but it was fun. I finally got Shorty quieted and looked around to see my daddy standing across the lot, staring at me.

The word we use today is “busted.” I had been caught red-handed, abusing my horse. I had no idea what Daddy was going to do, but I expected something massive. What he did instead was much more effective.

“Becky Ann, you know better than that.” he said. That was all. He didn’t yell or threaten. He didn’t even ground me from riding; just, “you know better than that.” But it was enough. I have never abused an animal again.

Years before that, when I was a pre-schooler, I stole a pack of chewing gum from a store and got caught. Daddy didn’t yell at me. He took me back to the store and made me hand the gum to the clerk and say “I stole this.” That was a long time ago, but I can still feel the humiliation of that moment. Then, to add insult to injury, he bought the gum and gave it to me.

Another lesson learned. The temptation to steal left me that day and has never returned.

Daddy was teaching more than how to ride and care for a horse, more even than not to steal. He was teaching me a whole set of values. He was also, though neither of us was aware of it, teaching me about men. There wasn’t a plan in this. I feel confident that my daddy never read a single book on how to raise kids. He didn’t make dates to “have a talk” with me or attempt to manipulate me. He just talked to me as part of our daily interactions. Like I was a person. He spent time with me. That’s how he caught me with the stolen gum, how he saw me shoot water into Shorty’s ear; he was there.

Woody Allen has said that 90% of life is showing up. I think that more than 90% of being a father is being there. You don’t have to ride horses with your kids or break down engines to be a good dad, but you do need to be there. Share the one thing that is completely yours with your children: Share yourself. Teach them about men by being a safe and reliable man in their lives. Give them the gift of security by always being the dad on the beat, ready to protect and rescue them when they need it.

My father had a lot of faults. But he was there and he loved me without question. He used to embarrass me, bragging on me to people, but I realize now that having your very own Daddy think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread is loft to your wings for your whole life. Children, boys or girls, it doesn’t matter, need their Daddys. They need them home, with their Mamas, taking care of things.

My Daddy was there. And he loved me unconditionally. I’ve never read a child-rearing advice book that just plainly said that this is what children need, but it IS what children need. Nothing else will substitute.

Book Review: Resurrection Year

ResurrectionYear 1 To join the discussion about Resurrection Year, or to order a copy, go here

Infertility treatment grinds you down, both physically and emotionally. It involves taking large doses of hormones that make you feel lousy. Your blood must be monitored on a daily basis to make sure the hormone levels in your body are not getting dangerous, and you have to go through daily ultrasounds to check your ovaries.

There’s a lot more to it than what I just said; the pain of all those procedures and needle sticks, the emotional roller coaster and the repeated monthly disappointments. It not only costs a great deal of money, it makes it harder for the woman to work, tethered as she is to the fertility clinic and her over-charged body chemistry.

Infertility treatment is more than just medical treatment. It is an all-consuming way of life that can destroy a woman emotionally and spiritually, as well as damage her physically. It is stressful for the marriage and for relationships with extended family and friends.

I know about this because I’ve been through it myself.

Resurrection Year is the story of how popular Australian radio show host Sheridan Voysey and his wife Merryn dealt with the aftereffects of years of failed infertility treatment. This devout Christian couple was left devastated by the combined trauma of years of aggressive medical treatments and the loss of their dream to have a child.

It is striking that Merryn appears to never have reproached her husband, even though the infertility problem came from his low sperm count. The person she reproached was God. In her own words, the experience left her wondering if “God is a meanie.”

When Merryn told her husband that she wanted to move away from Australia and “have an adventure” by moving to a new country, he agreed to do it, even though it meant leaving behind his thriving career and literally starting over. Merryn had lost her first dream of motherhood, and he wanted to give her this new dream. They moved to England where Merryn found meaningful work at Oxford University, but Sheridan floundered professionally, unable to get started again in this new country that didn’t know him.

The first year they spent in England was their Resurrection Year. It was a year in which Merryn healed from her traumas and losses to be able to go forward in acceptance. It was the time she needed to get to know God on a deeper level and not only regain, but advance in her love of Him and spiritual growth.

Sheridan, too, ended up growing and advancing in his life in Christ. But his growth came from the pain of loss that he felt for having given up a career he loved to start over in the same field as a nobody once again.

What the book is really about is the give and take of marriage.

Merryn and Sheridan exhibited the kind of love that makes a marriage work. She, as I said, never rebuked him for the pain she suffered because she couldn’t have children. For his part, he not only gave up his career to help her dream a new dream, he did it without begrudging her the happiness she found in moving to England and without becoming bitter or angry toward her over the pain he experienced while re-starting his career.

I think the reason they were able to do this lies in their Christ-centered lives and their deep love for one another. Even when Merryn “lost” God in the depths of her pain, she didn’t turn her back on Him. She just honestly asked the question that everyone asks when life beats them up unjustly: Why?

She asked this question within the framework of the Gospels, the love of other Christians and her own best friend in this life — her husband. The answers she found in the Resurrection Year were the same ones that Christians have always arrived at when the pain is too much, and that is simply that we may not understand why in this life, but we do know that He is there with us in that pain.

Sheridan had to walk his way with less support from other people. Most of us don’t realize that loss of career is a loss every bit as real and painful as any other. It drives to the heart of our self identity and feelings of worth. It changes the way other people treat us and what we think of ourselves.

Sheridan suffered through this in the same way Merryn faced her grief; by walking with Christ and reaching out to other people.

Resurrection Year is a gentle book that doesn’t slam you over the head with conclusions and bullet-pointed lists of things you should do. Even though it talks specifically about recovery from infertility treatment and childlessness, its lessons could apply to any of life’s trials.

Perhaps its most important message is what it says about Christian marriage. The role of helpmate shifts from one spouse to the next, depending on the circumstance, throughout every good marriage. We have to love the people we marry, and we have to accept the limitations they bring with them to the marriage without reproaching and blaming them.

Resurrection Year is a good book to read on a Sunday afternoon. It is short and easy to get through. Its life lessons on how to love your husband or your wife are something we all need to learn and re-learn each day of our married life.

Why Does Marriage Matter?

Getting married was one of the four best things I’ve ever done. The other three are my two children and turning my life over to Jesus.

Despite all the huge mistakes I’ve made (and some of my mistakes have been both public and grievous) these four things outweigh them all in my eyes. I look at my life so far, and I can honestly say that I feel it’s been good. It’s been very good.

The reasons I point to are my husband and children and that the Lord God of the universe has accepted me.

In this day and age of cheap cynicism from privileged people, it’s easy to disparage the best of life and thumb our noses to it. As the old Randy Newman lyrics say, money won’t buy me love, but it will buy a pound of cocaine, a 16-year-old girl and the back of limousine, which, the song implies is probably better.

That song, which was titled, fittingly enough, “It’s Money That I Love” was meant as satire. Unfortunately, a lot of people live their lives as if they take it literally.

Jesus asked us, “Which of you, if your children asked for bread, would give them a stone?”

The answer, in our serial-marrying, marriage-skipping, baby-daddy, baby-mama world is, sadly, us. We would give them a stone. We do give them things and stuff when what they need is love and home. 

Children need a home with their own parents. They need the stability of marriage, the love of marriage and the future that marriage gives.

Divorce hurts everyone. But it scars children to the core.

Living in the hell of an abusive marriage does the same.

No marriage. Bad marriage. Which is worse?

Why should any child have to settle for either? What is wrong with us that we can’t manage to bond, have children and make a home for them? What sort of suicidal society is that?

I’m going to throw this open for your discussion. Do you think marriage matters? If you do, why do you think it matters? To whom does it matter? Why is it important?

I will limit the discussion to marriage between a man and woman for now. We’ll talk about the whole question of same-sex marriage in another post. For this discussion, let’s confine ourselves to the mess that heterosexuals have made of marriage and why we think this matters.

Please comment. I would like to have a discussion that enlightens all of us.

Marriage is a Mess and Homosexuals Didn’t Do It

I support traditional marriage. I have a public track record and the scars to prove it.

I voted to put an amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution on the ballot that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. I also authored and passed a resolution memorializing Congress to begin hearings on an amendment to the United States Constitution doing the same thing. That is as much as I can do to support traditional marriage from my elected position.

It’s not a complicated issue to me, and it has almost nothing to do with what marriage is not. It’s about what marriage is. What marriage is begins with the law. Marriage under the law is and should continue to be a union freely entered into by one man and one woman. But legal definitions are just the scaffolding we use to support the social structures of how we order our lives. The actual edifice, the reality of marriage as it is lived, is something much more complex and important than that legal definition can impart.

We focus our national attention on the definition of marriage under the law. We wear out our keyboards writing about it and revile one another over our positions on it. But despite the accusations and counter-accusations that season our debate, we ignore the home truths of marriage in this country today. The truth is, marriage has been a mess for quite some time. And homosexuals weren’t the ones who messed it up.

Homosexuals didn’t set off the epidemic of divorce in this country. Homosexuals didn’t create the millions of feral children who spend most of their time alone, raising themselves on video games, drugs and interactions with their peers. Homosexuals don’t cheat on our spouses. Homosexuals don’t break into our homes and yell and curse at our families. They aren’t the cause of the rising number of unwed births and the global pandemic of abortion. We did these things. Marriage is a mess and it was heterosexuals who messed it up.

We insist that the legal definition of marriage should be a union between one man and one woman. But we behave as if it says that marriage is a union between one man and one woman at a time.

I know that is tender for many people. I know that divorce cuts people in half and leaves them with broken hearts and shattered lives. I know that some marriages are so bitter, destructive and even violent that they have to end. I know that even if you want to hold the marriage together, sometimes your spouse won’t. I know all this, and it gives me pause writing about these things. I don’t want to pick at half-healed wounds and start them bleeding again.

But the truth is that serial monogamy is NOT monogamy. Serial marriage is not marriage between one man and one woman. And heterosexuals, especially Christian heterosexuals, have a responsibility before God to care for and raise their children, cherish their spouses and build enduring stable homes which can nurture a true family. Heterosexuals who have failed to do this are the root cause of most of the social problems we face today. They, not homosexuals, are the ones who have brought marriage to the sorry state it is in now.

I have a public track record of supporting traditional marriage. I’ve got the scars to prove it. But I think that supporting traditional marriage, especially traditional marriage in the Christian sense, means more than being against same-sex marriage. I think that as Christians we are required to look past what we’re against and find what we are for. It isn’t enough for Christians to be against same-sex marriage. It certainly isn’t enough to do as some have done and whip people up into a rage and then cash in on that rage to advance your political career. That is just cheap demagoguery.

Leadership, especially true Christian leadership, mandates that we don’t just get people worked up against something. We have to lead them forward to something. In the case of marriage, we should be for true Christian marriage and we should live that kind of marriage in our own lives. Christians must be FOR marriage as a loving, giving, living institution that cocoons young children in a world of stability, positive discipline and love so that they can grow up and create loving homes of their own.

The bond between husband and wife, as the Bible says, makes them “one flesh.” This doesn’t refer just, or even primarily, to the physical union of marriage. Sex, apart from this bond of love, is a physical act. But true marriage is a spiritual bond. The deep, life bond of trust and mutual dependence that is marriage nurtures everyone within its reach. Marriage creates not just family, but home. I  do not mean a building where you sleep. Christian marriage creates home that is a refuge from the coldness of modern life.

This isn’t a hypothetical for me. My home and my husband are the living sanctuaries of my life. I could not endure the pressures of being a Public Catholic and all the controversy and criticism that engenders if I wasn’t able to go to my house, shut the door, and be Home.

Marriage is the progenitor of life, family, emotional safety and abiding peace in this life. It is a sacrament, given by Our Lord, to enable us to walk through life together and not alone.

If we are going to “save marriage” in this country, we certainly do need to resist efforts to alter its legal definition. But we also need to begin living the sacramental love and fidelity of marriage with our spouses and within our homes. We need to do this because it is what God intended for us. Marriage is His blessing on our lives and through it we can become blessings to our whole society.


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