As I reflect on father’s day, I am reminded of how important men are in the lives of their children. I recall my father spending time playing baseball with me, taking my sister and I to Cock Robins for ice cream and serving as a deacon at Second Baptist Church in Maywood.
I am grateful that my father showed me how to balance a checkbook at a young age, how to give a proper handshake, how to convert binary codes into letters and how to protect my little sister Ramona when at school or in the neighborhood.
I remember my father driving Ramona, our nephew Shamar and me to different vacation spots every summer. One year, he drove us to Daytona Beach, Florida. The next summer, we travelled to New Orleans. Another year, we took a trip to his and my mom’s alma mater at Tuskegee Institute, now called Tuskegee University. The greatest trip, though, was when we traveled to Disney World for seven days of fun.
My father led by example.
Raising seven children wasn’t easy and my father did whatever it took to ensure we all had a roof above our heads, food on our table and clothes on our back. I can say that the first five siblings were a handful and I witnessed my father serve as a disciplinarian on many occasions, because those first five were bad as hell (Cassandra, Chris, Dirk, Philander, and Orlando, aka “Onion”)!
When my family moved to Maywood in 1971, my father evolved into a different man. I was told that my father was “nicer” when I arrived. He wasn’t as tough on my little sister and I as he was on the first set of kids. With the whooping I witnessed him give them, I knew better. Like I said, he led by example!
As I grew older, my father wasted no time warning me to avoid people who were always in trouble at school, because they would soon get into trouble with the law. My father also made it known that after God, my next priority was staying focused on my academics. He didn’t care how gifted I was as an athlete, I would be sitting on the sidelines if my grades were anything less than a ‘B’ average. And girls? Forget about it!!! I was on strict restrictions from having a girlfriend until after I graduated from Proviso East High School.
I was amazed when my father approached me after hearing that I was hanging out with a young lady after school or after wrestling practice. I didn’t bother to ask him how he knew. After he found out on two separate occasions, he warned that my last offense would be my last and I would not be allowed to wrestle my senior season.
My father’s unwavering stance and support also carried me through my college years. After dropping me off at Ferris State University in Michigan to start my junior year, he knew he did everything he could to prepare me for the rest of my life.
As an adult, I can say that my father, Emerson Ratliff, was a great contributor to my accomplishments in life. To this day, my father and I still maintain a great relationship.
My father is also responsible for the great relationship I have with my children. Just like my father, I am an active part of my children’s lives. Like my father, I instilled a balance of love and high academic expectations. Jasmine, 23, Jeremiah, 20, Shawn II, 14, and Isaiah, 8, are all doing well. Jasmine is a responsible single adult with no children and doing well in Seattle. As most of you know, Jeremiah is a collegiate track star at Hood University in Maryland; but more importantly, he’s scheduled to graduate on time with a degree in criminal justice. Shawn, also known as “Little Regi,” just graduated from 8th grade with honors and is a candidate for the Joliet West Varsity basketball team as a point guard next season. Isaiah is also very strong academically and a wiz in Minecraft and Lego games.
As my editorial comes to an end, I want to wish all fathers out there a Happy Father’s Day! I am not talking to women who claim both Mother’s and Father’s day because they are raising their child without the father’s help. May God bless you for all that you do. However, your day is on Mother’s Day, because you are a woman and not a man. Father’s day is for the men only. All in all, men are parent’s too!
For the fathers who are actively engaged in their children’s lives, I commend you for being there for your child. You are a tremendous blessing in their lives; even if they don’t know how to express that gratification, their life experiences are better because of your presence.
For the fathers who are not involved in your child’s life, I encourage you to become involved. Take a moment to call your child and say hello. Write them a letter or spend time with them on a weekend. It is vitally important to a child when they look into the audience during graduation ceremony, an awards ceremony or a wedding, and see their fathers. If you do, you will feel much better and your child will love you forever!
Happy Father’s Day!
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Village Free Press.