Sunday was fathers day and the interwebs were awash with happy fathers day messages, the humdrum din got so loud that it got me thinking about my own dad. Who he is, who I am and how far apart we both are.
I admire my dad there’s not a single day I remember that he didn’t come home holding a paper-bag; not the kind to shield a perm on a rainy day but a paper-bag of edibles. Even in those days when we were struggling (Kanyambus Nightmare sheds some light) he somehow managed to come home with a paper-bag of something. Back then, we were probably the only house in the kijiji that ate sausages and bread with blueband and jam.
I can’t recall a single day we went to bed hungry nor a single day he didn’t sleep at home—whether he was drunk or sober. He’s been this constant in my life that I will probably never match up to. My dad is the kind of guy who believes in family; in growing together as a unit—sticking by each other no matter what—no matter how bad things get he will be there withering the storm. But not me, I’m a runner, I feel connected to people with the strength of a faulty network, things go bad and I run as fast as I can the first chance I get.
As sons we always have this struggle from a very tender age of trying to live up to our fathers and I think fathers also have the same struggle of trying to much up to us as well. It’s a constant contest, a struggle of insecurities.
“I’m I good enough?”
“I’m I doing this right?”
“What if I fail?”
“What if I don’t meet expectations?”
The fatherhood room in many homes is stained with resentment and an acrid stench of fear. I know families where the father’s words are the law and you don’t whine and say, “No dad, I want to do art not accounting.” Or cry because he didn’t show for visiting day, and you looked like an imbecile waiting at the gate drooling at other parents coming in carrying mammoth Nakumatt paper-bags but yours were nowhere to be seen but you don’t get to throw a hissy fit because visiting day is for sissies and you’re a man and you should act like it. Ps: What was the deal with those folk who came for visiting day with tent’s and blasted music from their cars as if it was some kind of concert?
My dad has never been an iron clad—my way or the highway—type of man. He’s never been the type who made us feel like leaving the room when he came around. Ours has been a democracy and not the African politician kind.
He’s added some years to his godpapa now; he loves godpapas and Kaunda suits and he looks good in them because he wears them with confidence, and also because he’s still a damn good looking chap. He doesn’t make a fuss on somethings like he used to because with years comes wisdom. He comes home with his paper-bag of edibles as usual because it’s his ritual; he won’t sit in the living room and hog the remote on some channel you didn’t know existed most are the times he will leave us to the TV because he’d rather spend time with his grand-kid than pull weaves with his insolent kids.
I look at my dad and I feel proud and at the same time I feel bad because he is what I will never be in a hundred moons; I never stay anywhere long enough to build any type of connection. When things start escalating with a girl, friendships or with anything I pull away. I get dozens of phone calls and texts that go un-replied and people are people and they soon get tired and life moves on. I’m a hit and run sort of person and sometimes that sucks.
I will leave this here and read it again if I ever become a father.
Here’s to the old man for showing me that fatherhood is not just about unzipping your trouser, spilling your seed in a woman and making her pregnant. Being a father transcends that, it demands being there for the woman, it’s not enough for you to be the head of the family because you’re male. It is not enough to be the head of a family because you’re a cool Facebook dad who posts photos of his kids with a fancy hashtag: kids you know nothing about.
Being a father is about leading from the front, being there for your kids, making sure they’re well fed, dressed and educated. Sacrificing yourself on their behalf and sometimes that means canceling plans because they have visiting day in their school (future dad let’s leave tents out of this one), postponing wants because school fees is knocking on the door.
We grow up thinking our dads could have done more, then we become adults and realize they did the best they could with the little they had.
Sometimes I seat and wonder how I will raise my kids, will I be half the man my old man is? If my son comes to me and tells me he’s dropping school, or he’s an addict or gay will I embrace him? (Will I take him out and help him pick out a prom dress) will that speak to a part of who I am if I do? Will I go apeshit when my daughter holds a bottle in a suggestive way—too comfortable like men in pubs hold bottles of beer? Will I raise my kids to be all they can be or will I raise them to succeed where I failed? Will I stick around or will I run like hell like I always do?
Side note: This was a pretty emotional article for me to write and sometimes it overwhelmed me and I took breaks to diffuse the emotions that were coming at me like an armored car—almost running me over. Lets pray that one of these fine days God gives me the words and the courage to write about mama without drowning my laptop in my tears in the process.
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