Today, the male of the specie is constantly being marginalized, adult males are finding it difficult to define the meaning of being a father to their children. More so their sons, the future fathers. Yet there are many men who have done so, not so much by word, but by their action over their lifetime. Probably your father is such a person. Mine was, I learned a lot from my dad.
I’ll share a small bit with you.
My father died six years ago – hmmmm I just typed in those words and my eyes are brimming with tears. Didn’t expect that. Anyhow, for the years that he was my father, he was a father. He came to Trinidad at age 19 from the tiny island of Montserrat. His education was elementary according to today’s standards, yet he was intelligent, motivational, musical, lyrical, hard-working, strong, decisive, intentional, kind, had the most infectious laugh I’ve ever heard and was all man. We – his wife and children – loved and respected him.
Remembering my father
Recollecting my early memories of this tall, strong, lean man – few men in our village reached up to his height – I recall that he disappeared early in the morning. He left as soon as our morning devotion was over. I seldom saw him again until night fall. He was gone all day, working hard to earn a living for his wife and seven children. We sometimes cried when he was leaving as we were young and did not understand the responsibilities of life. We wanted to go with him on his bicycle to wherever he was going. I can still see him as he hopped onto his bicycle. One foot on the pedal, the other giving two quick ‘pumps’ and then he swung his leg over the saddle. He began to pedal as he settled down and was soon out of sight around the corner.
He’d return at the end of the day, as the sun was setting – sometimes after it had set. He would be tired and hungry but had some love for our mother and us. He would often inquire how the day passed from those who were in school. He allowed the smaller ones to crawl all over or sit on the floor near him. After he had eaten, he would bring out the day’s newspaper and read and explain to us the events of the previous day. Then he would regale us with stories of life on the island of Montserrat. He ended by promising to take us on vacation there one day when he had a good harvest from the garden. That is where he disappeared to each day. Then it was time to go to bed.
He awoke the next day to repeat the cycle…….except on Wednesdays and Fridays. On those two days he loaded his bike with produce from the garden. He went throughout the neighboring villages selling, until all were sold or it was time to return home.
Weekends were different. On Sabbaths (Saturdays) we dressed in our finest clothes and went off to church – we are Seventh-day Adventists. Even then, he didn’t go with us because he had cows to look after before he went to church. So we’d go ahead and he would come later. He was so tired from the week’s labor that not too long after he sat down in church he’d fall asleep. This was a source of great embarrassment to my mom and us. She often chided him for sleeping in “the house of the Lord” when we got home. As we grew older we – the children – took his sleeping less seriously and at times used it to tease him. He took it good-naturedly.
He often placed about four of us on the bike and push us home after church, chatting with my mom or others on the way. There were seven of us children. Five boys, two girls – in that order.
Having lunch with him on Sabbath was always the best. It was the only day that he had the time to sit for lunch with the whole family. He was gone by four o’clock in the afternoon to look after the cattle again. He returned in the night. Sometimes we would enjoy a walk with him to the village grocery to purchase foodstuff for the week. We would talk about life, the future and politics.
Sundays was probably his best day in terms of income. He made ice cream every Sunday and made the two-mile ride to the beach to sell. He would ride the entire stretch of the beach over and over until ever scoop of ice cream was finished. Then he would come home. Again, most times in the night. Yet I never heard him complain about how hard he worked. In fact, until we were much older and able to join him in his weekly and weekend trades, we had no appreciation of what it meant to our father to work so hard every day. He did it for us – his children and his wife.
Every day did not yield good results and we grew up considering ourselves poor. But we were happy. Yet my father never threw up his hands and give up nor did he ever stop working.
How Dada taught us
He also taught us to work. I did not appreciate this until I became an adult. As we became able, as long as school was out, we had to help him in the garden. We headed off to the garden at break of day sunshine or rain, unless mummy intervened, and returned home late in the evening. Sometimes we left with only some hot tea in our stomachs and had to walk through the still wet grass to get to our acreage. I hated that, but I had to go. My mother would come later with breakfast or would prepare it in our ‘ranch’ when she got there.
Dada – that’s what we called him – kept our spirits up throughout the day, with stories of life in Montserrat and promises to take us there if the harvest was good. At the same time he encouraged us to pursue our education with vigor, and had high hopes for all of us.
I described my father as intentional because he had a serious purpose behind what he did. He acted subtly at times, but still with directed intent. This is seen in how he sought to direct our career aspirations. He let us know what he hoped for each of us by referring to us by that title, especially when in the company of others. So my eldest brother was referred to as Dr Earl, the second as Pastor Earlan and so forth. Looking back now, we did not all fulfill his dreams and I guess he was disappointed by that. He didn’t make us feel bad about it though. When we did not do as well in school as he expected us to, we knew that he would not be harsh with us even though he may scold us.
Dada only used the whip when thing were threatening to get out of hand or when he was angry and felt it was needed. I can only remember one ‘licking’ from him. I got the message and didn’t need another. He worked hard to ensure that all of us received, as he used to say “a secondary education”. Those of us who went on to pursue degrees, did so because of the foundation which he laid by his tireless efforts.
He was a friendly person and I can’t recall him having an enemy. We, his children, were known as “Mr Coseman’s” children. That is not his name and I know not how he came to be called by that, but everybody called him by that name. He answered to it too.
We felt secure having him as our father. Even the other children of the village liked him. It was not until after his death that we begun to find out about how deeply he affected the lives of other young people in the community.
A loving father
Dada and my mom, had a good relationship – most of the time. Yes, there were misunderstandings and sometimes he left for the garden having said some harsh things and heard some from her. However, if when he got home she was still angry, he would playfully harass her until he got a smile out of her. By bedtime all was peace in our home. I can’t recall a day passing when any member of our family was not speaking to another one. That was unheard-of among us. Even when we had sharp disagreements, it was resolved and we went on with our lives living amicably with each other. This confused onlookers, but it was our way and I am grateful for that.
His personal touch
While in primary school, I got a beating from one of my teachers one day, for being unable to work a math problem. The strap used was hard and cut my arm. I went home and showed it to my parents. There was no outrage from them but the next day my father visited the school.
All I know is that he spoke to the teacher. It did not stop me from being spanked, but I was never cut again and there was not animosity between my dad and the teacher.
So I’ve shared with you a small glimpse into the father I have known, loved and cherished. I thank God for him and the things he taught us. He didn’t take much time to teach us his sons how to relate to the fairer sex. The few things he said to me as he looked at me delve into that roller coaster world has lingered on.
When he thought I wanted to get married too early he said to me, ” when you get married, it’s then you does begin to see women”. It was true. When I wanted to get married to someone that he did not approve of, he commented “she will not welcome home your friends”. True again.
When I did get married and had children there was an altercation with my wife one evening. She had complained about the behavior of my firstborn. I wanted to scold him based on something she had reported to me. Dada said, after observing the whole scene, “children naturally love their mothers, fathers have to win their love. Don’t let your wife cause your children to hate you”. Words of wisdom.
Appeal to fathers and children
Today, fathers are generally marginalized. Some mothers teach their children to hate their fathers – deliberately. Children carry their mother’s desire for revenge on their fathers. They also develop their own as a result of having been neglected, abandoned or abused by the man who should have been a source of safety and security to them. Many fathers are imprisoned, by drugs, hate, lust and the iron doors of prison facilities. And for everyone thus locked up, a child or children are left without that stabilizing factor in their lives. Despite the best efforts of the mother, the home is left headless.
This in itself, confuses what it means to be a father.
A lot of noise is made by influential people in society about the need for better male role models but little is done to make it a reality. Fathers are being arbitrarily separated from their children. Such action is based just on suspicion of abuse.
A call to men
I call on all males – you have been designed by God to be fathers, even if you choose not to become one. Stand strong in your God-given manhood and maleness. Stand against the prevailing influences of a twisting and twisted world. Take back your God appointed position and under Him, be the shaper and director of society. Be tender and loving to all, especially your family. Do not be so soft that you agree to that which you know is morally wrong and detrimental to your home and others. Resist wickedness no matter where it comes from, even if you find it among those you love. Or those who as a result of education or position in society, you would often deffer to.
Let the meaning of being a father be seen in every aspect of your life. Your children, your community learns from you.
As a father, your first responsibility is to your child/children. Do not allow anyone else to replace you there. Even in cases where you are unable to continue life with their mother, continue to provide for and teach them. Then the children of your neighborhood and then the wider society. Teach them morality. Forget all the crap about what is ethical, for ethics is man-made morality and changes to suit the situation. You have a responsibility to yourself and those that come forth from your loins. Find out what God says is right and teach it by “precept and example”. Anything short of that is failure and the consequences are always detrimental and eternal. The ethics of a moral man will always be correct.
Release the negative
To those who have had negative experiences with their fathers, forgiveness is the best way to respond to him. You may think you need to hate him, that there is no other way to treat him. You must first be hate-filled, in order to hate. If that is your experience, then you would naturally, at times unwittingly and unintentionally pass on that to people you think you love. I say think because I’ve come to learn that love and hate cannot occupy the same space. Its like light and darkness, wherever one is, the other has to disappear. Today the call is to love up our fathers, no matter who they are.
It’s time once more, for men to define the meaning of being a father.
What are your toughs on fathers – your father? Feel free to share and or comment in the space provided below.