The stories about fathers and sons that capture our imaginations, warm our hearts and appeal to our softer sides are those about absent fathers and the sons coming good, devoid of the much heralded father-figure. This is not such a story. Not that I’d want to deliberately deny you the pleasure of such a narrative, no, far from it. This is a celebration of dads that are actually there almost perpetually, dads who stick, stay, sire and mould their sons (and children, by extension). They are the folks from among us whose work is an integral part of the making of the society, but then again whose toils go unrewarded or unmentioned, in part due to the fact that after all, it is duty which is expected of them regardless.
Now I’m made to understand that June the fifteenth will be Fathers’ Day. Yes, I know, the nonchalance of the statement betrays the spirit behind the introduction of this piece. But really, that’s the strange twist of it all, at least in my personal experience. It’s a day that has probably never been celebrated or marked at our home. It comes and goes and the few times I’ve known about it is if I happened to log into the social media sites and seen the Fathers’ Day dedications. Otherwise, it is just another day like any other, both for me and my father.
Probably on the said day I’ll be seated with dad on the couch in the living room in silence (mostly) watching Switzerland against Ecuador, then France taking on Honduras in the soon-to-commence 2014 FIFA World Cup. You notice I’ve said this will all happen in silence. And really, that’s the way it has always been between us. Formal short of frosty, silent short of inactive and respectful short of fear-filled. That’s how my relationship with the foremost male in my life has always been. To anyone, or really everyone, this would be irredeemably weird, unconventional, and pitiful even. And it is – even I admit it is.
As the first born, I think dad has always felt a sense of added duty in his input towards the person I grow to become. The earliest lesson I remember receiving from him goes a long way to underline that opinion. So at the age of five, dad put on his sura ya kazi and went all HAM on me (well, not quite to that extent, but you get the drift, aye) and prohibited me from ever eating anything from any other place apart from home. As I’ve come to learn, that is basically the cornerstone of Parenthood 101 locally.
I’ve always been one quick to take heed of instructions, so, I duly internalized the warning. Sometime after that since I was an only child and both mum and dad had to go to work, dad decided to take me to a friend’s house for the day until in the evening when he’d pick me up. All was well till lunch hour came and I adamantly refused to eat the food I was offered simply because ‘niliambiwa nisile kwingine’. Basically I starved myself the whole day. When later dad was told of the incident by my host, he was as surprised as he was impressed. Even I, as young as I were then could see his pride in me. That gave me a picture of what was required of me by my old man and from then on, that has been the script. Dad decrees, I abide religiously without wavering. Some call it fear, I call it…I’m still trying to come up with the term, but it’s definitely better than fear. Yes, shut up.
Recently, a lady friend of mine pointed out something about me which I found rather odd. She said that I quite resemble my father. Odd, because growing up, everyone has always been of the opinion that I take after my mum…in terms of looks, physical features, mannerisms and the like. In as much as I’d grown fed up with that comparison, I was quite taken aback by this new development. Like I always do, I pondered about this for long after that. Indeed, she was right. Dad is stubborn in his convictions and when he’s hell bent on something, there’s no U-turning him. I am like that and the people I interact with on Twitter will attest to that.
My penchant for impatience has surely hit legendary status and many are the people (females mostly) that I’ve rubbed shoulderswith as a result of me being kept waiting or time not being observed on their part. On his part dad has this thing where he calls me and orders me to take to him something he forgot to some given place where he’s due to meet me in FIVE minutes. By God I swear it has to be precisely five minutes. Bearing in mind the dressing down in store should I fail to meet such a demand, I always drop everything else and do as required. He’s the most impatient man in the history of impatience, and I think I come a close second.
As I said, my father has always been there and as a result it has always been incumbent on me to be around, or at least somewhere that he’s aware of. Even up to now, say it is 2000h and for some reason (mostly football-related) I’m not in the house, he’ll call and demand to know where I am. It’s is mightily annoying.
How dare he harangue an ex-university grown ass man like this! Do I complain? Not in my wildest dreams. It’s a good thing that I spend a lot of time immersed in endless random thoughts, because it makes me imagine what it would be like to have a father that was never there, that wasn’t concerned whether I slept at home or not, who didn’t keep me on toes…and I realize it is not something I want for myself, or my brother or my sisters.
You could say I’m lucky and indeed I am. I don’t get everything from my father that I would have wished for. I don’t get to go out for a drink with dad and hang out like some of my friends and that turns me green with envy. Though thank God it never happens, because aside from Champions League football, I wonder what we’d talk about. I’m not ‘free’ with dad, but that only means that he will never ambush me with that talk about women, sex and any of those topics that I’d find embarrassing coming from him. The greatest lesson he’s taught me is that you can’t have it all, but struggle to have some of it, and when you do, be thankful. I may fall short at times, but he knows that I try to be the son he wants me to be. And I’m fine with that.
So to all fathers who try to be there for their kids, who try to leave a mark on them, who know that theirs is a thankless duty that has to be executed, here’s to them. Their stories are probably boring, backward and too conservative for most readers or listeners’ liking, this is to them.
This Fathers’ Day, ensure your dad knows that you appreciate them, what they do and what they mean to you. I’ll try to do the same, but most likely I’ll end up just telling him about France’s tactics for their game, to which he’ll reply exclaiming just how good Zinedine Zidane or Fabien Barthez would be to that team. Typical dad. Typical me.