Daddy, HAGT, and the Joke Machine

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I cringe when people lambaste deadbeat fathers in the media, but fail to balance it with examples of positive fathers. It is unfair to the ones who do a great job. Caribbean fathers, in particular, get a bad rap, but there are many unrecognized fathers who have more than answered the call of duty. My dad is one of them.

Daddy took his duties quite seriously from the start. While Mummy was pregnant with me, he made sure that she ate copious amounts of cornmeal porridge, which is supposedly very good for expectant mothers. And he was heavily involved, from helping to choose my name, to helping with diaper duty.

…Daddy soon became our living jungle gym…

My sister came along two years later, and Daddy soon became our living jungle gym. We would climb all over him, and take turns getting “airplane rides”. Every evening, we looked forward to him coming home, so we could play a game he came up with, “run-run catch-catch”. Basically, it involved us running around the backyard, screaming at the top of our lungs, and him trying to catch us.

When we didn’t want to eat our food, Daddy had a special way of getting us to eat. He invented “Daddy the Joke Machine”. Every time we took a mouthful, we got a joke from Joke Machine. I distinctly remember this one:

Joke Machine: “Where does a sheep go to cut his hair?”
(Young Nicole hurriedly shovels a forkful of dinner in anticipation of the punch line.)
Joke Machine: “At the Ba Ba shop.”

I wonder how these jokes could have gotten me to eat the detestable string beans, but in my childlike wonder, I thought my dad was the best comedian.

He was also a live version of “Iron Chef Caribbean”. And the secret ingredient could be anything.

…we sometimes felt like guinea pigs in his kitchen experiments…

Though we sometimes felt like guinea pigs in his kitchen experiments, we knew that his paying attention to what we ate showed that he really cared. And when he discovered that we liked a particular food, he put a healthy spin on it. For example, he blended sweet potatoes with box cake mix for added fibre. When we told him we liked his pizza sandwiches, he switched the bread from white to wheat, and loaded them up with sweet peppers.

At this time in my life, we had moved to New Jersey. Being used to the warmth of Jamaica, which we previously called home, it was hard for us to get up on those cold, winter days. For our morning wake-up calls, Daddy sang his HAGT and DYB song. HAGT and DYB was code for “Have a Good Time and Do Your Best.”

HAGT and DYB was code for “Have a Good Time and Do Your Best.”

Other memories – like him walking me to school in the mornings, and, if we were short on time, putting me on his back, and running, so that I would not be late – are also some of my favourites.

He was fully engrossed in his role as Daddy to three, growing children. Yes, three. When my brother came on the scene, he didn’t even skip a beat. He doted on his “Sonny Boy”, and made up special songs for him too. Yes, he was also strict, but I never got ‘licks’. Daddy had the “you better stop that” look, and the “don’t let me speak twice” voice. That was enough to set us straight.

Now that I live on my own, with the Caribbean Sea separating me, in Trinidad and Tobago, from my family, in Jamaica, I really appreciate the dedication my father put into raising his children.

Daddy set such a high standard for how I expect to be treated, and valued by other people. He taught me not to accept what people told me at face value, without thinking it through and asking questions. By observing the difference in how my father and mother handled the problems I came home from school with, I learned that though men and women are equal, they are not the same. Both approaches are needed to bring balance.

It was only when I turned the age my father was, when he became a dad, that I really understood that dads are people too. At that age, he must have battled some of the same issues that we twenty-somethings face, while having to be there for his young brood. Now that I’ve gone through some of the struggles of early adulthood – all without having a family to look after – I can fully appreciate that he did his best.

Daddy’s role in my life has evolved with time, but he’s no less important now. He’s a great person to talk to when I’m feeling down, and a good source of advice when dealing with difficult issues at work. Sometimes, I’ll get an HAGT DYB text from Daddy, and smile, as I think back to the times when those simple, but meaningful, letters were part of my morning wake-up routine.

He constantly tells me, “Never mind the rest, just do your best.” I’ve lived in four, different countries, and this lesson has kept me going, wherever I’ve been. It’s not about running the race for other people, but about making sure that I do what I have to do and do it well.

Philosophical lessons aside, dad also taught me some very practical skills, like how to unclog a toilet with laundry detergent. And yes, I’ve had to use it.

My dad is just one of many good fathers out there, and I thank God every day for blessing me with him.

I just want to say kudos to all the men who have been hands-on dads, and don’t think parenting is just woman’s business. To the men who raised their children singlehandedly, without a mother in the home, I salute you. To the unsung fathers who work hard at the office, but still make the time to help their children with their homework, keep up the good work. And to the media houses out there, I implore you to do right by the good fathers, and feature them a bit more. They deserve to be noticed.

Nicole M. A. Brown

Nicole Brown was born and raised in Jamaica, but has lived in Trinidad and Tobago since 2003. She enjoys learning new languages and meeting people from different cultures. She’s also interested in the creative arts, and serves as the dance ministry director for her church. To contact her, you can email


  1. Gayletrini

    June 11, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Very good article!

  2. Raymesamuels

    June 15, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Love it!!

  3. Claudettebrown

    June 17, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    As the woman who married the Daddy referred to in the article, I just wanted to say that the article brought back so many precious and unforgettable memories.  it the simple acts of love that are important.  Happy Fathers Day to you my dear husband and may God bless you.

  4. NMAB

    June 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Thanks for the feedback on the article! Hope all the fathers out there had a good Father’s Day :-)

  5. Paula Hassell Gopaul

    June 17, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Nicole your article made me laugh and I thought of times that my sister and I shared with our Daddy though the years. Thanks for sharing  part of your life with the world and inspiring others.. God’s blessings ALWAYS 

  6. NMAB

    June 18, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Thanks Paula!!!

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