A Day Spent With Your Child Is Far From a Day Wasted

This year is a unique year for me because this year I turned 54 years old. Some tell me that makes me a senior citizen. I never thought that 50 was old enough to be a senior citizen. I told them that I believe that 50 is the new 40.

So I have at least six more years to become a senior citizen. Of course, if there are any senior citizen discounts, I will take those now. You know you are a senior citizen when AARP starts sending you mail. How did they know? I know that is a double standard, but I think it is allowed.

The reason this time of my life is special is because I am now the patriarch. With the death of my father, Bishop Claude Cummings Jr., several years ago, and his father, Bishop Claude Cummings Sr., I am now the oldest male in the immediate family. The things they used to call my father and complain about, they now call me. I have three wonderful children that have made being a father very easy, and a wonderful experience.

It is hard for me to believe that as young as I am. I am older than the official Father’s Day holiday. If Geoffrey Chaucer is the father of English poetry, Hippocrates is the father of medicine, and George Washington is the father of our country, then a Civil War veteran who was a single parent to his six children for 21 years after his wife’s death could be called the father of Father’s Day.

Because of his devotion to his children, William Jackson Smart of Spokane, Wash., inspired his daughter, Sonora Louise Dodd, to establish a Father’s Day. Dodd got the idea in 1909 while listening to a sermon that suggested the establishment of a national Mother’s Day the following year.

Newspapers carried stories about the Spokane observance, and Dodd soon acquired many influential supporters such as William Jennings Bryan, who wrote her and said, “Too much emphasis cannot be placed upon the relationship between parent and child.” He offered to help make Father’s Day a national event. Soon, a movement was formed to have Father’s Day proclaimed a national holiday.

President Woodrow Wilson, who signed a congressionally approved resolution in 1914 recognizing Mother’s Day as a national holiday, lent his support to the Father’s Day effort in 1916.

But, despite the fact that Father’s Day already was being celebrated in virtually every state, the holiday did not become official until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a congressional resolution establishing Father’s Day as a national holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June each year.

The importance of celebrating fathers is seen in the story of a noted newscaster from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Some say the story is true and some say it is false, but the illustration of fathers is still powerful.

It is said at the grave site, a reporter interviewed the newscaster’s son, saying, “Thousands of people all over the world knew your father as a public figure, having seen him hundreds of times on their television screens. But what we want to know is something about the real man, the private man. What was your father really like?” I’m sure the reporter was stunned when he heard the young man reply in the following terse sentences: “I don’t know. I didn’t know my father. He was too busy!”

In the Diary of Brook Adams is a note about a special day when he was eight years old. He wrote, “Went fishing with my father; the most glorious day of my life,” and through the next 40 years there were constant references to that day and the influence it had on his life. Brooks’ father was Charles Francis Adams, Abraham Lincoln’s ambassador to Great Britain. He also had a note in his diary about the same day. It simply said, “Went fishing with my son: a day wasted.” What the father counted as a wasted day, the son thought was one of the greatest days of his childhood.

On this Father Day, I want to encourage as many fathers as can to waste more days with their children. A wasted day with a child is not a waste, it’s an investment in his or her future.

After a recent doctor’s visit with our youngest son to get his annual physical, he posed a question to me. The doctors had just told him that he still had a lot more growing to do, and that he would probably end up being 6 feet, 5 inches tall. He turned to me, at 6 feet, and said, since you are getting old, and old people shrink, what do you think you will be when I am 6-foot-5? I said, “I know exactly what I’ll be when you are 6-foot-5.”

“What?” he said eagerly. I said, “I will still be your father! No matter how tall you will ever be, I will always be your father!” It is an honor I refuse to give up! If you’re looking up to me, or looking down, I am still your father.

Happy Father’s Day!

Guest columnist Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.