Happy Birthday Dad!

Joanne at 6February and April are bitter-sweet months for me.

Today, February 11, would have been my father’s eighty-third birthday. He died suddenly after his sixty-second birthday in 1993. Even today, twenty-one years later, on February 11, the loss feels as acute as when the doctor led us into the room to say our goodbyes.

My father died on April 4th,  and one of the reasons April’s so difficult is because my young’un and I celebrate our birthdays in April, too.

This year I decided, for every day in February through April, I’m going to write down a favorite father-daughter memory, smile, and share them. Don’t worry this will be the only one I’ll share publicly.

On my fifth birthday, we were still living in Guyana—we immigrated to Trinidad the following year—my parents threw this huge party for me. In the West Indies, both kids and parents attend a child’s birthday party, and there are a whole host of birthday traditions to observe, including one of ‘sticking the cake.’

My grandma and my mom made me the most beautiful doll birthday cake—that’s it in the picture. I was so in love with that cake.

This is how the whole event unfolded:

My dad and I greet the invited parents and their child/children at the front gate.

I thank everyone for coming, accept my gift, and I take the kid/kids  and run to the table and arrange the present with all the other gaily decorated gifts. Then the child/children goes to play with all the other kids.

This goes on for a good twenty minutes. My dad takes a nature break and I’m left alone at the gate. A new boy who goes to the same Montessori I attend arrives. His parents are foreigners and new to the country.

They drop off their son who—isn’t carrying a present!!!

Horror of horrors.

“Hi,” Peter says.

I fold my arms and snap, “Where’s my present?”

Peter looks bewildered.

“You can’t come to my party. Go home,” I declare.

Peter starts to cry right as my dad returns and realizes what’s happening. Immediately, he whisks me to his study, and we have a father-daughter talk.

“You hurt Peter’s feelings and you were rude. I’m so disappointed in you, daughter. I thought I had raised you better than this. I want you to think of a way to make it up to Peter.”

It’s traditional at all birthday parties (not just kids’) in the Caribbean to ‘stick the cake.’ Sticking the cake is a ritual similar to that of cutting the first slice out of a wedding cake. The male cuts the cake, and the female gives him the first bite, and he feeds her cake. For a birthday sticking, the birthday-ee chooses his partner, usually someone he or she loves.

I asked Peter to stick the cake with me. Peter was so nervous he slipped, and fell face-first into my beautiful cake. I didn’t cry once and even managed to reassure Peter that he’d done no harm. We served smushed cake.

After the party, my dad told me he was proud of me, not only for choosing Peter, but for not shedding a tear.

My father was everything to me, and I was the apple of his eye. That was the first time he’d ever not been proud of me. To this day, I love giving gifts, especially when you find that perfect present, but I am sorely uncomfortable receiving them.

Happy Birthday Dad. Hope you’re still proud of me.



My Dad

mourningToday is the twenty-first anniversary of my father’s death. While time has eased the acute pain of his loss, there is no day that passes without me thinking of him. My dad and I had, in my eyes, the best relationship possible between a parent and sibling. I was the apple of his eye and he was, and still is, my hero.

His tale is incredible. Born in 1933. He was the son of a white, Portuguese gold and diamond mine and plantation owner and his indentured Indian (as from India) servant. Rumor has it that my grandmother had absolutely no say in refusing my grandfather’s advances, and he had several other mistresses in different locations. My grandfather went on to father three sons, all of whom he legitimized, and he did provide for their education.

My father graduated from the University of Guelph in Canada with a Bachelor Degree in Science and a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Science in 1952 at the tender age of 19. An accomplishment even more incredible when you take into account that he was of mixed ethnicity.

Dad went on to found a conglomerate now present in almost every major English-speaking Caribbean island and some South American countries. But, though I relished and learned from his business acumen, what I admired most about my father was his commitment to his principles.

We lived on a 60×40 island, where corruption ran rampant. To receive a regular water supply (as in water in your taps for showering, cooking, etc.), you had to bribe the drivers and crews of water trucks and the workers at the reservoirs. We once went 60 days without a single drop of water in our faucets because my dad refused to pay the bribe. (We drove miles to a working pipe on the roadway, filled barrels, and that was the source of our daily water).

Dad instilled the commitment to your principles in each and every one of my three brothers and me. To this day, I cannot cheat — even in Pictionary (okay being Catholic convent educated may also have impacted).

So, to my father on this day — thanks Dad, for making me who I am today. I turned out all right.

Love you always,

Your daughter


Remembering Dad

mourningYesterday would have been my father’s eighty-first birthday. I spent much of the day looking through old photo albums (remember those?) and mourning his loss. Twenty-one years after his death, the rawness of my grief has abated, but the intensity remains the same.

I am the only female child of my parents and I was the absolute apple of my dad’s eye. I adored  him, hero-worshiped him, and, later, learned to accept that he was not the perfect man I’d idolized. He gave me a gift that every parent should their children, he loved me, and he told me so constantly in both words and actions.

It’s not that my father didn’t have flaws. My goodness, he had those aplenty, but my father was an ethical man in corrupt country whose idealism never faltered. He was a visionary. I can still remember the day I introduced him to the Apple 1 and Visicalc. He was astounded, but turned to me, and said, “This is the future. This will change our world. We have to get in on the ground floor.” And we did. My dh and I were in the first graduating class of the launch of the IBM PC. A launch that gave birth to the technology world as we know it today. IBM legitimized what was then a rouge industry.

But, I digress. I have Dad’s picture on my desk and in my bedroom. I still miss him every single day, and I suspect that will go on until the moment I expel my last breath.

Love you Daddy and wish you were here,

Your daughter,




D is for Dad

a-to-z-letters-dOkay, there’s no way I can blog about romance today, because twenty years ago at 4:44 pm on this day, my father died. So, today my blog is titled D is for Dad.

I am one of the lucky ones. The only girl in the family, I was the absolute apple of my father’s eye. Not once have I ever wondered if I was loved by him – I know with a forged certainty he adored me.

Joseph Anthony Bernard reared me in his own image and I have never regretted that for a second.

He brought me up not as a woman but as a human being and taught me that I was every bit as good as any male. That’s not to say he didn’t challenge me – he did so constantly.

From him I learned competition was only a bad thing if you didn’t win.  That while winning wasn’t the only goal, it was the best one, but you never, ever sacrifice your ethics to win. In a country where paying bribes was the norm, we once went 30 days without a drop of water in our taps because he refused to pay for what should’ve been a right. (He won that fight by the way – the district manager for the utility was fired).

My husband, three sons, and I lived next door to my parents for many years. We were, are still, a close family. My mom and dad helped the dh and I start our own business and he was chairman of our company’s board.  When he died my mom asked if there was anything I wanted to add to the description of dad for the funeral agenda. This was what I said:

He was my hero, my friend, my business colleague, but above all, my dad.

I miss you Dad and I so wish you could’ve seen my sons grow into fine men, whom I not only love, but like. They are all fantastic human beings.

To go onto to other blogs in the A to Z challenge, click on the badge at the top of this post.

In mourning,