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Father’s Day is hard to dodge. For weeks in advance we are bombarded with ads for cards and gifts for dad. It’s not as big a day as Mother’s Day–I’ve never understood that–but we will remember our fathers on Father’s Day, whether the memory is good or not. While Father’s Day was not a big occasion in our home–the children went to camp every June–I am always a little sad that I don’t need to buy a tie or a book or cook a favorite meal. This is one of those losses that keeps on coming, another annual reminder. The first year is hardest, and I have too many younger friends who are observing their first Father’s Day without a father. What do you do when there is nothing, no one to celebrate?

Celebrate the memory. Give thanks.

So I pause to remember: Lev H. Prichard III, 1937–2009, the father of our children. He adored his children above all else. We learn how to be parents from our parents. When we don’t have a role model, it’s hard. It doesn’t come naturally. He didn’t have much of a male role model. His dad served in World War II, and Lev was sent off to military school when he was 8. After his father died when he was 13, his mother married a man who had never had children. I think he loved Lev in his own way, but he was incredibly hard on him–critical and demeaning. Fortunately, Lev adored my dad, Samuel R. Wall Jr, 1904–1981, and they enjoyed a father-son relationship for almost 20 years, fishing together, building a playhouse for our daughter, just enjoying each other’s company.

I also adored Daddy. His childhood wasn’t easy. His father was a stern, godly man; his mother, self-centered. He was fourth of eight children. All the older ones left home as soon as they could. Daddy dropped out of school and went to work for the railroad when he was 16. During the Depression he worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for $100 a month pay. Because he was very bright and very hard-working, he advanced into management about the time I was born, but I was in grade school when he finally got two Thursdays off from work a month. Eventually, he had one day off a week; and when he was promoted to the top job in Texarkana, he finally had Sundays off.

He expected the best from himself at all times, as well as from his employees and his children. He advised me to find the place where my best was the best if I wanted to be successful. He taught me to do what I had to do first, so that I could fully enjoy doing what I wanted to do, without nagging thoughts of what I should be doing instead. Mama said, “Over my dead body,” when I announced plans to go to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York. But Daddy said, “Go for it, because if you don’t, you’ll always wonder whether you would have been good enough.” (I suspect that one reason my parents loved Lev was because he interfered with my plans.)

Two precious men. Thank you, God, that I shared life with them.

Photo: With my parents, Lev and our children, about 1972.

Share a favorite memory of your dad.
As a widow, how do you spend Father’s Day?