Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there!
You know, we place so much emphasis on Mother’s Day (and rightfully so) that sometimes our fathers seem to be an afterthought. Not so. Fathers are very special people. And today, I want you to know how much I appreciate you all.
My own father died in 1996 at age 86. He and my mom separated when I was 5 and my brother Adam was 2. As I was growing up I often wondered how he was, and if he ever thought about us. There was never any support money from him, partly because my mother didn’t want him to know where we were. But she never tried to turn us against him.
When I was a senior in high school I wrote to him to let him know I was about to graduate and that I would like to have a class ring. I told him the ring would cost $38. A few days later, to my surprise, there was a special delivery (remember them?) letter waiting in the mailbox for me when I got home from school. “A.J. Johnson” was written in the return address area, and it was from Williston, Fla. I was so excited, I could hardly open the letter.
Inside the envelope was $38 wrapped in a note written in pencil. He wanted to know how we were doing, and said he was happy to send the money for my class ring. I still have the ring.
It was the beginning of the renewing of our relationship. It wasn’t easy. At first, my brother was so bitter toward him that he didn’t want anything to do with our Dad. But after talking to our Mom and seeing that she held no malice towards him, my brother came around.
As we grew older and both of us married and became parents, my brother and I would take the children to see Dad. My very first airplane trip with Ricky, who was 8, and Shawn, who was 5, was when we flew into Orlando to see Dad.
Then, on one particular Father’s Day, we went to Eatonville, Fla., where he had moved, to take him and his wife, Susie Belle, to lunch. My brother brought along his wife, Val, and their children Kevin and Tracie. Dad was so touched at our gesture that he hardly ate and kept his head down most of the time. I learned later that he didn’t want us to see his tears.
Driving home, I thought of how sad he must have felt not to have been in our lives all the years that had passed. At least now he knew that we loved him and wanted to be in his life.
The years passed too quickly, and one day Susie Belle called to let us know Dad was very sick. He had cancer. We drove to Eatonville several times to see him. The last time was just before he died. I told him I’d be back to see him as soon as I could. He asked how Mom was doing, and then said not to worry because “I’ll be checking out of here in a few days.”
Dad “checked out” 10 days later.
Today, as I thank God for my biological dad and the time we had together, I also thank Him for all the surrogate dads He placed in my life. I remember especially my homeroom teacher at Booker T. Washington High School — the late Mr. James Wanza, who was like a dad to all of us.
And I remember fondly the late Fred Shaw, who befriended me as a young adult. He was the book editor at the Miami Herald at the time and was also the vice president of development at Miami Dade Community College. Fred is the reason I became a reporter. I used to ask him to read my papers for my creative writing class before I turned them in. One day he asked me what my major was.
“Education,” I said.
“You are a good writer, and I want you to change your major to journalism,” he said.
I laughed. “I’m black,” I told him. “Nobody here will hire me as a reporter.”
He looked at me and said, “Bea, things are changing, and there is a place at this paper for you.”
Like an obedient child, I did as he said. And you know the rest.
Then, there is the man who has been like a father to me for more than 50 years. He is my spiritual father and pastor, Bishop Walter H. Richardson. Not only does he look out for my soul, he also looks out for my well-being. And I am not alone. There are many others who would agree when I say Bishop is one of the wisest and most caring and compassionate men I know. I have learned so much from him.
So, dear Dads — have a wonderful day and know that someone out here is wishing all the best for you.
‘Dining in the Dark’
You are invited to “Lights in the Night — A Very Special Dining in the Dark Experience” from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at the Deauville Beach Resort. The event is to raise funds and awareness for South Florida Blindness/Vision Care organizations.
The evening will feature a four-course dinner served in “sensuous” darkness where guests will experience life without light, if only for one night.
Presented by Vision World Foundation, producers of the Cooking Without Looking TV show, proceeds will go to producing more shows that are used to teach people who are newly blind; medical missions to Belize and Ghana; and scholarships to the Cooking Without Looking Professional Culinary course at Florida International University. Proceeds will also benefit upcoming entrepreneurial courses tailored to blind business owners that will also be taught at FIU. The event will also benefit various other South Florida Blindness Care organizations.
In addition, the event will honor four South Florida visionaries in the field of blindness care. They are: Elly DuPre, executive director, Lighthouse of Broward; Carolyn and Bill Lapp, founders and executive directors of Florida Outreach Center for the Blind; and George Bisbikos, director of the Learning Centr for Vision Impaired Seniors
Mark Lucas, executive director of the U.S. Blind Athletes Association will be the keynote speaker. Annette Watkins, host of Cooking Withouth Looking will be the mistress of ceremonies.
Individual tickets are $125 each, and corporations and organizations may purchase a table of 10 for $1,250. Eight seats at the table will be for the company, and two seats will be provided for guests who are blind. All tickets are available by going online by going to the “Lights in the Night . . . A Very Special Dining in the Dark Experience” Facebook page, and clicking on the Paypal link. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, checks and money orders are all accepted.
For more information call Renée Rentmeester at 305-200-9104.
The 13th Annual Emerald Gala, presented by Wells Fargo and the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at the Hilton Miami Downtown Hotel, 1601 Biscayne Blvd.
“Our annual gala is the networking event of the year,”said Steve Adkins, president of the organization.
The 2014 honorees, who were selected for their long-term commitment to fostering diversity, as well as for their efforts in contributing to the overall quality of life in South Florida, will be presented at the gala.
The 2014 honorees are:
• Regions Bank “Business of the Year,” Office Depot Foundation, Mary Wong president, accepting.
• Morgan Stanley “Business Person of the Year,” Craig Smith, Source Events; Craig Smith, president and founder, accepting.
• AT&T “Nonprofit Organization of the Year,” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Russell Roybal, deputy executive director, accepting.
The evening will include a reception and silent auction, followed by a buffet dinner, the award presentation and an after-party dance.