“Any man can be a father, but not every man can be a dad”
Male penguins, apart from having one life partner, sit on the egg till it hatches.
Lions laze in the sun whilst their companions go hunting. They also kill off their male offspring if they can get past the ever-watchful mothers. I guess to reduce the competition, the odds of being run out of the pride when they grow old.
Other animal species are known to mate with their sisters, aunties, nieces, mothers in a disgustingly incestuous cycle that scientists choose to call in- breeding.
And then there are HUMANS.. and infanticide, incest and monogamy come into play!
but that’s not my story!
FATHERHOOD is a full time job! Through the ante and post natals, the terrible twos and threes, till the toddler gets through school, teenage with its pre-pubescent and adolescent needs, to college and the world there after. Funny thing is he remains The Father! To the groom or to the bride, in-law until the birth of grand children.. A grandfather he becomes, thanks to his small donation in the throes of passion, hopefully… Or in sinister circumstances (i won’t even go there! ) that go beyond duty, continuation of a lineage!
The man you fondly call dad, Papa, Pa, Daddy, Taata or Baba. FATHER! Is he the man that pummels his wife on a daily, pregnant or not? The sperm-donor that flees the village for safety or fear? Is he that coward that won’t pay the cultural price nor admit that the child is his? Tis not the absentee labourer in the big city, sending peanuts home or not at all? The village drunk? Chief? Village terror? That mothers, children and neighbours alike have a wide berth in case he lost his cool? That relegated you to the other rooms by his presence in one? The “uncle” that comes at holidays like clockwork with gifts and clothes and meat? The man to whom you take your academic report so he may be obliged to “suponsa” you for another term? That silhouette in your dreams, a knightly figment of your imagination? That black and white photo you hold so dear? Or is he the very opposite? The provider, anchor, refuge… Dictionary, encyclopedia, towering figure… The one you report your mother and siblings to, the guy you boast about to your friends till you’re his height and he no longer seems indomitable!
Every one has different views of their father. Some good, some too good… Some ugly, horrible or just plain not like others… Unique!
Here’s to the men that have raised us… To whom we owe our existence; a little grooming, a contribution, food or fees… Advice or a swing of the stick.. Headmasters, teachers, strangers at the bus stop… Some not all… The adult men that treated us as equals whilst we were young, sat us on their laps and listened to us dream.. Those that didn’t take advantage of our trust, our youth, our naivety or blindness Here’s to those we owe character or physical features, that we love to hate, idolise or villify.. To they that made us who we are… Present or long gone.to those that stepped in, and loved and cared for their new families as their own. (some never).
And in silence to those that didn’t see this journey through.. That got caught up to glory whilst we were saplings, green and young… Before we could ask them questions on how to stand alone, on parenting on life! We miss you! To those that had to become mothers too. [Moment of silence, pour out libations, let not their memory be in vain.]
To the fathers whose sons and daughters we admire, cherish and adore day by day.. Fine ladies, wives, children, mothers,friends, companions, husbands…even those to-be… Thank you.
But especially to you Daddy! She’s daddy’s girl, your girl and she sure turned out fine.. Would have loved to meet you, and drink from your fountain of knowledge . To sit at your feet and partake of your wisdom.. I know you probably know, that she’s taken after you.. she loves you still and misses you more. She speaks of you fondly and holds your memory well. You would be proud, I am.
Your daughter is because you are… And the world and I, are all the better because you gave!
To the fathers, uncles, grandfathers.. To men of honour in my life, whose chiding and advice guided and still guides. I hope it makes me a better man.
To you Taata, tis all love! In tears, I could say it all…for the things we can not say, we feel! .Our dealings are a story on their own, bitter-sweet but worth it. . Here the outpouring of a grateful heart, I couldn’t possibly put it in more meaningful words- from every ounce of me, from the bottom of my heart… I love you!
Sun Jun 17, 2012
I sit inside an old church, eyes to the rafters, above them the iron sheet roof.
Around me the sounds of untreated coughs and children running loose on the cracked cement floor.
The drone of the lay reader slowly lulling me to sleep. I sit upright and shake myself from my stupor, rubbing my eyes and staring into my neighbour’s bible, but reading not the words. I fold my arms across my chest and read the words on the pew infront of me; dedicated to a prominent ancestor of a reknowned family, the furniture a donation by his relatives.
The service drags on, my attention drawn to my thoughts… I can smell the ‘nativeness’ around me, a mixture of smoke from the kitchens, firewood and the local drink.
I actually wore a sweater, but I shiver with cold.. The weather and the emptiness of the sanctuary.
As a visitor from the Capital, they won’t let me sit at the back; ushering me to the dais beside the choir, in full view of the wanainchi.
I think tis a con, this show of respect, making us the visitors from the City a prime target of the auctioneer. Yes, there’s a church auction.. Cabbages, potatoes, beans, chicken, avocado… Food items brought for thanksgiving, sold to raise money. More often than not, these elite donate their buys to the clergy or one of the revered seniors in attendance.
I clap in unison with the drum, the same beat as always- I wave on queue with the rest of us visitors, to the tune of “Tukutendereza!”. But my thoughts are elsewhere.
Somewhere in the middle my old man is called forward to speak, a son of the soil, the local primary school, a choiristor, now a doctor and an elder in his own right. I break out of my daydream in time to hear the priest thank him for a window he donated, wondering how come his name is not on the wall. I prepare for the introduction, to stand, smile and wave, hoping this time he won’t ask us go upfront or speak. I think in vernacular, an emergency speech forming in my mind- surprisingly fluent. Yet I know from experience that that’s lost when my turn comes. The words I know, yet they come out accented, from lack of use of the language. I think. On queue-stand-smile-wave
I sit back down, barely hearing my father’s words. I imagine myself upfront, introducing my family, my wife or my girlfriend. Declaring intention to wed and hearing them break into song and ululation. Asking her to greet the church and hearing her choose her words carefully. A simple name and an expression of her gladness to be in my home village. I picture myself squeezing her arm, and drawing her to me. A kiss would be inappropriate so I edit it quickly out of my reverie, noticing familiar faces in the crowd instead.
My father’s voice resonates in the background, I know what he is saying. That he is glad to be there, and the progress they have made. The joy of fellowship, blah! Blah! Blah! He’ll probably donate another window or bags of cement.
Then he says something about generations, legacy; about handing over and keeping roots and culture. About setting precedents, showing the children them the way to go. About his children, us, coming back and making that speech.
Somehow I listen to all this, attentively, like I had a thought bubble above my head and he’d read things off my mind…
He donates an entire church floor.. I estimate 10 bags of cement, not too many! He’s thinking more of this our country home lately, a sure sign of age knockin..
He sits down and they break into song, the choirs melodies unique, as any village choir.
I walk out to clear my mind, to tweet, text or write… Anything to bring me back.. And my daydream continues unbroken as I sit back in the car. A sign..is she there? Will she be mine? Is this it? The maiden at the well, as of biblical times?