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Jun 18, 1999

G.M. Reid remembers dad, asks others to look after kids

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Those who are lucky enough to have their dads with them will celebrate this Father’s Day with enthusiasm. But those whose fathers have passed on will have bittersweet memories this Sunday. Tonight on the Last Word G. Michael Reid gets personal as he fondly remembers his own father, he also reminds those of you out there with children who need you that it’s never too late.

“It was 1909 and Anna Jarvis and her friends were busy writing letters to politicians and preachers. They had mounted a campaign to declare a day in honor of mothers and the movement was quickly gaining momentum. The topic had become integral to every political speech and the preachers were screaming it from their pulpits.

Sonora Louise Smart was in church one Sunday, when the preacher delivered a sermon on the merits of celebrating Mother’s Day. The trouble was that Louise Smart never knew her mother, for the dear lady had died while giving birth to Louise, who would be the last of six children. There were times when she felt guilty, thinking that it was somehow her fault that mom was not there, but then dad, who could very well had held it against her, was always there to remind her that she had had no choice in the matter. William Jackson Smart, who must have felt the loss of Mrs. Smart the hardest, stuck with the family and by himself, guided Louise and her five siblings on the trying journey from crayons to perfume.

To Louise, there was not a parent who could compare to her dear ole dad and in fact, she knew quite a few, including some mothers, who didn’t even come close. She believed that if we would have a day to honor mothers, then certainly, we should have one to honor dad. After all, was it not written that, “Thou shalt honor thy Mother and thy Father?” And did not even the old religion, from whence it all started, honor Zeus as well as Hera and Jupiter as well as Juno? Louise Smart decided then, that she would embark upon her own campaign to establish a day in the honor of all dads, who like her own, were instrumental in the raising of their children.

Such a dad was mine. I was three years old with five siblings ahead of me and two behind me when mommy dearest decided to jump ship. Our father, who was just recovering from an untimely accident which would cost him the use of his right hand, was left with the responsibility of fending for the entire family. Adding new meaning to the term singlehandedly, Frederick Emanuel Reid, better known as Cunchie, raised eight children and as far as I can remember, was always there to provide us with not only what we required but to the best of his ability, what we requested. In memory of you dad, I wear this white rose.

With the support of local church groups and the YMCA, Louise Smart’s efforts paid off and on June 10th, 1910, just a year after the first Mother’s Day was observed, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington. Just as the carnation was selected for mom, the rose became a symbol for dad. As is the custom for mothers, a red flower symbolizes a living dad and a white one, if he had gone to higher service.

An interesting note is that while Mother’s Day was officially proclaimed a holiday way back in 1914, it was not until 1972 that Father’s Day was officially recognized. Even today, while Mother’s Day is gloriously celebrated and florists are swamped with orders for elegant floral arrangements, poor dad might be tossed a belt or a necktie, or maybe just given a collect call. Statistics show that out of the entire year, the day on which the most collect calls are made is on Father’s Day.

Throughout the years, the relationship between fathers and children has evolved into a much more interactive affair. Back in 1909 when the whole shenanigan began, it would have been rare to catch a man changing a diaper, feeding, dressing or tending to little junior and junette. For a long time, men’s roles as fathers, involved a hands-off, stand-back approach to pregnancy, birth and infant care and few fathers would take the time to hug or show any form of affection.

Nowadays, it is a totally different scenario. No longer are dads just the monetary providers or the cold as steel figures who induce discipline, but today’s dad is in the delivery room and some even take paternal leaves in order to assist mom with the travails of childbirth. Just last week, Allan Houston, a starting player for the New York Knicks, who by the way are presently in the thick of a championship battle, forewent a couple of key practice sessions in order to be with his wife who had given birth. Fathers these days immerse themselves into the nurturing and guidance of their children with much confidence, enthusiasm and pride.

Of course, we hear much about dead beat dads and dads who leave mom for a younger woman. And while there is indeed no paucity of those kinds of dad, for every bad dad out there, there are ten who given half the chance, are able nurturers, negotiators, best friends and expressively compassionate caregivers to their children.

To the many men who valiantly fill the momentous role of dad, step-dad or granddad, Happy Father’s Day. To those who have been delinquent, shame on you and we implore you, to make an effort towards amends. We saw the other day on TV, where Jalen Rose of the Indiana Pacers has never met his father though the man lives in the same area of the States. For a man to father a child and then turn his back has to be the most callous act that a human being can perform for he in fact, turns his back upon himself.

There’s a sign now hanging in the Belize Family Court which especially the members of that establishment ought read and it says simply, “children need fathers too”. Happy Father’s Day Belize and may your favorite team win tonight!

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Comments are welcome.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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