Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The Man I Called Daddy

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published June 6, 2013

OK, I’ll admit it. When people talk about God the Father’s love, which is limitless and unconditional, I have trouble getting it. My own father was somewhat distant, you see.

He was someone who loved my mother, and he drove the big Oldsmobile, and if the kids spilled a glass of milk, he was likely to lose his temper and start yelling. My sister and I spent most of our time with our mother, and my dad seemed like a stranger.

Did he love us? I think he did, but it was definitely in his own way. It took many years for me to finally make my peace with him, and oddly enough, it was after his death.

College days did little to improve our relationship. He was a traditional man, who went to Sunday Mass and then home for a big Italian feast. When it came to politics, he certainly didn’t believe in rocking any boats. MURRAY June 6, 2013

Meanwhile, I was eagerly jumping on every radical political bandwagon that rolled onto campus. After one particularly explosive debate with him, I learned to keep my mouth shut. It just wasn’t worth it to make him upset.

My mother died when I was in graduate school, and my entire world came crashing down. Suddenly this man who had always seemed aloof and distant became my rock. We began writing letters for the first time ever, and we even went on a cruise together.

We tried to smile our way through the dancing and the dining and tried to ignore the fact that the world had lost its shine. We clung to each other because we finally had something in common. We were both shattered by the same woman’s death.

A few months later, he decided to take another cruise, and wrote me excitedly about all the places he would visit. He didn’t mention that he had met a woman and would be going with her, but that wouldn’t have bothered me. I wanted him to be happy.

But he never did go on that cruise because on the day of his departure with all his bags packed he died of a heart attack.

This was six months, almost to the day, after losing my mother. I was 29 when my life took this unbelievable turn, and it has always seemed a miracle to me that I didn’t die from crying.

As Father’s Day approaches, I think of the man I called Daddy. When we were kids, my sister and I always got him Old Spice shaving lotion or maybe a tie. Later, after my mom died, I baked chocolate chip cookies for him, loaded with pecans, and when he wrote me he would let me know if the cookie jar was empty.

In his letters, written on big, yellow legal sheets, he always inquired after Funky, my cat—and sometimes offered advice about my friends. And when he enclosed a $20, he always said, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

How I wish we’d had more time together. I wish he were here today so he could read my books. I wish I could send him cookies in the mail. I wish I could tell him that I gave up the radical stuff years ago.

And on Father’s Day especially, I wish I could tell him the whole love thing doesn’t matter so much after all. OK, sure, I never had the unconditional variety, and to this day I still have doubts whenever someone professes their love for me.

But in this fallen and broken world, maybe the kind of love he gave me is the real deal—and maybe it was the only kind he ever knew himself.

So despite all the tough growing-up years, all the early misunderstandings and all the tears over spilt milk, the truth is I forgive him everything. And there will never be anyone to take his place in my heart.

Artwork is by Jef Murray ( Readers may email the Murrays at