The word dad is said to originate from baby talk, dada, as does mom from mama. What’s more, these words occur across languages and cultures. They must derive from some ancient root that expresses itself in our babyhood as language emerges.
I am not sure when I began to speak, or call my Dad, dada or daddy. I do, however, remember when my own children began to call their dad “dada”. They were both very little and it was about the time they began to try to walk–as they were about to step into the big wide world.
Dads are funny, magical creatures who can sometimes appear as giants and other times as teddy bears. They smell different than mom. Little girls remember their aftershave and boys remember their sweat.
My dad was gone a lot as a military man. Whenever he was home it was a celebration. He called us four girls and mom his “harem.” I remember how he complained he could never get into the bathroom. Back in the 50s houses had only one. There was always one of us primping in with the door locked. When he did get in he had to wade through our lingerie drying on every hook. His complaints were all in good fun. We all loved him dearly and we preened over him when he would let us. My older sister Bev and I scrambled to be the one to bring him his pipe or a cup of coffee.
All I knew was that dad brought home the bacon. He was the action person. Vacations, graduations, christenings and baptisms, birthdays, and award ceremonies were all made meaningful by his attendance.
Mom perked up when he came home and a feeling of safety pervaded when he was around. With dad there was always enough money and tools or vehicles or machines to do stuff.
He was a very funny person and even in his temperament. It took a lot to knock him off center. When I was in elementary school he would say, “Sure, you can go swimming…but don’t get wet!” When I was twenty he would reflect, “This too shall pass.”
In his latter days on earth, in his 90s, he recited a lot of poetry. One day I recorded him as he sat smoking his pipe by the front windows of his condo. He liked to sit there and watch the “goings on”. Birds, them dern squirrels, and dwellers at Bay Oaks were all under his daily scrutiny.
Here is a short video of Dad reciting a couple of his favorites for me: