"It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him." - Mark Twain
"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished in how much the old man had learned in seven years." - maybe Mark Twain, maybe not.
So, a dear friend posted to Facebook a very thoughtful comment about how "any male with functional gonads can be a father, only a full grown man can be a 'Daddy.'" He'd lost his father at a young age, and I'd also lost my father at a young age, and so a discussion ensued. Much of it centered on the distinction between "Daddy" and the other forms of fatherly address.
To him, "Daddy" is what fathers are, and I get that. In my case, I lost my father after I was at that middle age where I'd asked him--to a mirthful reply, as I recall--whether I was old enough to switch from "Daddy" to "Dad." See, to me, it was a big deal to make the change. A boy, I thought, calls his father "Daddy." A young man calls his father "Dad," at least in the literature and the environment I was in at the time. To me, it was my change, not his, that sparked the switch from the childhood "Daddy" to the youthful "Dad."
It was a milestone.
Similarly, as I read the many Facebook tributes to Fathers, Dads, and Daddies old, young, and no longer with us, I'm struck by the differences. Some, like my afore-mentioned friend, lost fathers at a far-too-young age--four, in his case. At that age, my Daddy was one very important thing to me.
As I got older, though, Daddy, and then Dad, became more. I got ten years more with my Dad than my friend did with his, and I can't imagine not having had the time to discuss, to learn, to grow. Yes, with his illness it was some rocky times, but Dad was the one who taught me, with a simple banana, what it means to love. He's the one who taught me not to jump at emotional arguments, but rather to examine all sides. He taught me to canoe, and to swim, and to read the lay of terrain without ever needing a map. He was a great Dad.
And then I remember my twenties with my Mom, how the relationship blossomed into one between two adults, and I wonder what that would have been like with Dad. I read posts and see pictures of friends taking walks with fathers who made it to the autumn season of their lives, and I can't help but wonder what that would be like.
I'm not envious, not really. I do hope they recognize how special the time they have with their parents is, though.