If I could describe my father in one word… I wouldn’t because I would never choose the correct one. I can think of a cluster of trigger words or hashtags, #hilarious, #goodfood, #music, #hardworking, #tools, #homedepot, #foreign, #reallifemacguyver, #Allineedisducttape etc. He was very funny in his own way, most times he would make me laugh at his own expense or my siblings. Like the time in ’92 when my older brother tried to hide his freshly relaxed hair under a wool hat, in July. I still remember the buzzing sound of the clippers after he shaved his head because of it. By the way, I still don’t know who told him that was a good idea. Then there was the time I thought I was a chef. Over the years it was plenty of jokes and hijinks but most importantly lessons. I analyzed some of my mother’s lessons, so in honor of Father’s Day here are some lessons I learned from my father… decoded.
*Note* My Father had a heavy Jamaican accent and I will do my best to provide the American English translation to these lessons.
1) “Tek care ah yuh tings an’ dem will tek care ah yuh.”
Really means. “Take care of your belongings and they will last for a long time.”
This was preached to us often and it almost always had to deal with taking care of our clothes. When ever we would just roll up our jeans and stuff them in the drawer, he would point to some shirt he had since ’63 but it was in great condition because he took care of it. The lesson was to
iron your clothes and hang them up mindful of the things you value. As an adult I try to apply this term to interpersonal relationships, take care of your people and it will come back to you.
2) “Mek sure yuh spray di leaves dem.”
Really means Make sure you spray the leaves of our plants with the water bottle.
My dad had a green thumb and growing up we had A LOT of plants. It was nothing short of a rainforest and I am convinced the extra oxygen made us smarter in school. The lesson was care for some thing intensively. Yes, we could of just watered the soil of the plants (like sane people do) but by watering each leaf we were nurturing some thing outside of ourselves. The rationale behind watering the leaves was to mimic rainfall, I guess.
3) “Ah wha mi ah feed yuh fah’?”
Really means “Why am I feeding you you?”
Now this may sound harsh but it was usually said when my siblings or myself would do chores and other things haphazardly. To him food = energy, energy = strength and if you have the energy but still choose to be lazy clearly you don’t need the food. Lesson don’t be lazy, ever. If you don’t work you don’t eat, ever. For the record my dad’s food was amazing. My paternal grandmother had a restaurant that he cooked in and also went to culinary school, so us working for food made complete sense. Thankfully he taught us some things, especially my brothers. Hooray for gender equality!
4) Gwaan ah school.
Really means Go to school.
That was the solution to everything. Sick? Go to school. Sad? Go to school. Summer? You better not be in summer school, so go to the library. The emphasis of education has stuck with me over the years. The self accountability pulled me through plenty of rough patches. I remember in high school I was taking honors physics, why? I have no idea well I have a slight idea. Unfortunately the 1st marking period I received a D. I didn’t have to worry about my parents grounding me aka putting me into the ground, because I put myself on punishment.
5) “Nuh Bodah Wid Nuh Wotless Badmind People.”
Really means Don’t hang around regressive, jealous, much ado about nothing people. At best the energy rubs off and you become them. At worst you become exhausted trying to convince them to think better about you and themselves, not worth it.
I have learned countless other lessons from him and many profound ones since his passing. It is like my own Oprah style “Ah Ha” moments, pretty cool.
What are some lessons you learned from your father?