by Sandra Sealy
It’s #FathersDay weekend and I thought it was time to salute my own dad.
Is there a difference between a dad and a father?
For me, a father supplies sperm and his part of the chromosomes necessary for life. But a dad? He gives of his time & wisdom while nurturing forever memories and life lessons with his heart.
It’s certainly true that only father-figures can teach boys to be men. But as a girl, I could never be the woman I am without mine. My mom Myrtalene was my rock; my Dad, Ishmael, is my male touchstone.
Dad doesn’t take himself too seriously and loves a good joke (even the saucy ones). He enjoys whipping up a mean vegetarian lasagna for Jean my stepmom and always has been a personal cheerleader.
It is from Dad and his stories about my paternal grandfather whom I never got to know before he passed, that I learned about being demonstrative – even publically – about love. He never hesitates to say “I love you” or give a warm hug. He would listen to my dreams. He was the one who gave me the birds and the bees’ talk. He taught me to waltz and to listen to my instincts – no matter what anyone else thinks. Digging through his collection of LP records as a child, offered me a smorgasbord of musical genres: rhythmic spouge (Barbados’ indigenous music) by the Draytons Two, classic reggae from Bob Marley, soulful R&B by the Staple Singers, Stevie Wonder and Al Green. Dad also passed on his short stature and slanted eyes – making me curious about the possibility of Amerindian heritage, which I’m yet to ascertain. And what about those funny proverbs he would quote, to make a point?
“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
Life for Ishmael Dacosta “Jimmy” Morris, revolves around helping others. He was born at home to Iona (a shopkeeper) and Arthur Reginald Morris (a watchman for Bannatyne Plantation) in Kendal Hill, Christ Church in Barbados on August 26th, 1941. Couldn’t play the guitar to save his life, but Dad got his nickname “Jimmy” from schoolmates and fellow choir boys, through his attempts to imitate American country & western singer, Jimmy Wakely, on guitar. The moniker stuck.
As a young man, this proud graduate of the Christ Church Foundation School (Class of ’57), sought his fortune with Mom, like many West Indians in the United Kingdom (where they married and my younger brother and I were born). Some friends also doing nursing encouraged him to get trained. Though he didn’t know it at the time, Dad’s valuable experience in psychiatric nursing was the key to realising his life’s work.
Then he and Mom decided to move to Canada. Dad’s experience in England led to his dream of pioneering treatments in non-medical detoxification, after studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada (where I spent my childhood and my baby sis came). While Mom pursued nursing at the Hospital for Sick Children, he found his life-long love for social work and addiction counselling. In Barbados, he counselled 100s of persons as a social worker at the Welfare Department and with The Government Industrial School (for troubled youth). He retired with distinction from the National Council on Substance Abuse in Barbados as their Deputy Director and one of their founding members of staff. Dad is also a founding counsellor for Network Services Inc.
Dad founded the “Children Are People (CAP)” programme in Ontario and Barbados, which offers youth – particularly those with parents challenged with addiction – positive options for keeping away from drugs and alcohol. This community initiative has impacted so many children from around the island. From his work, ballroom dance club, community and church, this lively grandfather of 4, has mentored and inspired so many in Canada and Barbados.
There are so many memories! I treasure the time with us playing board games as children. With the mysterious disappearance of $500 bills, we learned Dad wasn’t the best person to be the Banker in Monopoly. Another I recall is how he revealed that television privileges being withheld and being sent to my room was never really punishment. He told me as an adult that he would laugh to himself as he watched me go to my room and get lost in a book. Yet another was the value of a good resume and obtaining referral letters or testimonials. I must’ve been 15 and he picked my first one on a manual typewriter. I remember him cussing for hours, every time he made a mistake (and there were a lot!) lol
Of course, along the way, we’ve clashed and had our differences and yes, he’s fallible. Dad can be so fretful when he doesn’t get his own way. When he wants something, he wants it NOW. But we love our way through any crises.
So Pops, this blog post is for YOU. I am ever grateful for all that you give to your family and wish you many more years, to bless all of us.
Ishmael “Jim” Morris – addictions counselling pioneer, social worker, traveller, lecturer, mentor, and Dad
© 2018 Sandra Sealy
*Sandra Sealy is Principal Consultant & Writer for Seawoman Creative Media, an award-winning literary artist & creative writing tutor, Founder of Seawoman’s Caribbean Writing Opps and an unapologetic Daddy’s girl.