Father’s Day — Who should Jamaicans celebrate?

By Rita Ann Wallace

Father’s Day for many Jamaicans, certainly those of my generation, is more bitter than sweet. Because the men who impregnated their mothers tended to do little more than that. They didn’t stick around, for the most part. Didn’t provide, support, guide, as fathers are supposed to do.

The absentee father was a well-known figure in our culture and more the rule than the exception. In my First Form (7th Grade) class of 32 students only a handful listed a father as their guardian.

Some fathers still don’t know all the kids they have, and who they knew they disowned. “Ah nuh fe me pickney” was the standard line. And many kids never knew their fathers at all, much less had him in the house. One of my friends said to me once: “It’s so unusual to hear you tell stories about growing up with your father; most of us can only talk about mothers.”

So what should Jamaicans who have had this kind of experience celebrate on Father’s Day? Not these men, surely.

For many, many Jamaicans, the closest thing to a father was a maternal grandfather or uncle. Always the mother’s side, because the brothers never abandoned their sisters, and after the first anger at their daughters having a bastard pickney (or rather a pickney for a bastard) the grandfather (having finished with his own roaming) sympathized and supported his daughter.

Generally, they are the ones that earn the title father. They helped with the school fees; they took the kids to the doctor; they were an open door when refuge was needed. They loved.

On Father’s Day, whether you had a father or not, let’s also celebrate and thank all the men and women who actually fathered our generation.

And forget the bastards who didn’t.

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