Lori Williamson: When ‘Daddy’ is your country

An outdated song name plastered on the portrait of a typical mom still creeps up when I’m on the subway. It’s a song my grandmother once sang to her son every time he rode…

An outdated song name plastered on the portrait of a typical mom still creeps up when I’m on the subway. It’s a song my grandmother once sang to her son every time he rode the train home from high school. “Baby,” she would say, “today’s the day, today’s the day.” To my brothers and sisters, I’ll always be the father:

I was the daddy tonight

A little harder than usual

A little tighter than usual

How does it feel to be the dad

Compared to the daddy

Won’t you be glad, to be the dad

To me, to you, to you, to you

Without him, it’s just too much

I was the daddy tonight

When we were playing together at the pool

Now he’s just a distant memory

I was the daddy tonight

Eyes on a sunset that never quite reaches the ocean

I was the daddy tonight

Where do you want to be?

The daddy is awake

He waits beside me for me to get home

–an aged Bob Dylan ballad, about his wife, in an earlier time.

Every time I hear it, the memory of my immigrant parents humming the same song to me every time I left them, now floating above my head, floats away.

We all carry these pictures of the dads we are and to whom we are connected with forever. More than 70 years later, songs like Daddy don’t just resurface in my head; they board us for the journey ahead. Just as memories define us, our memories of our fathers and mothers will define our journey on this earth and through the economy.

My brothers and sisters always knew the men in our homes would be “the daddy.” The dads were born into poverty with their fathers gone fighting the fight of segregation — fathers who didn’t know each other, who didn’t want each other.

My father, who worked for a game-show host and a gossip columnist, brought up six kids and never got the recognition he deserves.

My parents didn’t have much. They were breaking new ground — not just for themselves, but for a whole new generation of colored people. They had to struggle, including poverty, social mobility, job stability, helping their children, buying the toilet paper they needed, and trying to pass the grades on to their children.

My sons — whose names came after the Mississippi water and saw what happened to families there.

We broke new ground, but it was harder. Some of us got better jobs. Some got better educations. Others got in trouble. But they were never forgotten, we always sent money home for them, and we were proud of them. We played sports together, our fathers worked hand in hand with us in school. We danced to their music, waiting for the signs, saying, “Daddy you’re calling.”

This week in Washington we joined the efforts of President Donald Trump to make progress on much-needed gun reform. It was their vision that we needed in the first place. As it came to mind, I looked at the portraits of many of the mothers on that stage. They are every mother. And so is yours.

We didn’t have to wait to forget our dads. Our fathers didn’t have to wait for us to forget them. Now we need to remember them.

Lori Williamson is vice president of advocacy for the Alliance for Retired Americans.

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.

Leave a Comment