As Graham’s crusades took him throughout the world, little was left for Ruth and the children — Gigi, Anne, then Ruth (long called Bunny), Franklin and Ned. Once, when Ruth brought Anne to a crusade and let her surprise her father while he was talking on the telephone, he stared at the toddler with a blank look, not recognizing his own daughter. In a turnabout a few years later, young Franklin greeted his father’s homecoming from a crusade with a puzzled, “Who he?”
To keep him in their hearts and minds, Ruth read Billy’s letters aloud and guided the children as they prayed for him and his work. On Sunday afternoons, she gathered them together to listen to his voice on the “Hour of Decision” broadcast. Afterward, he usually called to talk with each of them.
If the children commented on their father’s absence, they were told he had “gone somewhere to tell the people about Jesus.” Gigi remembered that “Mother never said, ‘Daddy’s going away for a month.’ Instead, she would say, ‘Daddy will be home in a month. We’ll do such and such before he comes back.’ ” She also noted that, particularly when she was younger, “I thought everyone’s daddy was gone. And my granddaddy was such a father figure for us, that it never hit me that it was all that unusual.”
Whether it was perceived as unusual or not, the children did notice their father’s absence.