Father’s day is several days into yesterday stale. I read a lot of good dads, happy dads, lucky dads, drunkard dads, lazy dads, absent dads…and a whole other list in between. I don’t have a problem with all this mainly because I tend to think that I was born out of a one night stand seeing as thinking about dead fathers and their insensitive families is too much work. See? One night stands are easy. No one knows the dad. You cannot contact them. They just did some nice charity job of donating a sperm that turned out to be bright you. And they are the ones standing on the losing end by missing out on events other find exciting but which bore you to death like graduation ceremonies and your mom’s tea parties. But when they are busy missing out, some other men brave enough to be men are busy being there on their behalf. Celebrating like you are their blood kids and hugging you like there is no one else they should be hugging. They drive you crazy with those overprotective fits they keep throwing every time you show up home with a guy donning earrings and claiming to be in love or a girl barely dressed claiming to be your ‘friends forever’.
This men will attend every school event you- or your friend- happen to participate in; they will take you out for a late night dinner and dance -despite you being twenty five; they will buy you a teddy bear and a Nancy Drew for your 35th birthday; and they will drive suitors away with mean looks and handy car jerks for looking at you the wrong way. This men will help your mum pay your school fees, shelter you from the wrath of an angry woman when your mom feels much more like a devil than a mother and will buy you sanitary towels because you need them and your mother is somewhere in Haiti trying to save the world from the hurricane.
These men are not our dads, fathers or anything close by. They are father figures. People we are blessed enough to have in our lives and to whom no amount of gratitude can ever be enough to express how we feel. I figured we can’t tell them happy father’s day without sounding possessive. So, acknowledging them may be all we can ever do to let them know how grateful we are.
I grew up without a dad. My mother was everything in that house and I was the mischievous daughter who was so headstrong not a day went by without us having to buy a new rolling pin. Mum broke them daily trying to get me to be submissive until she got the memo: changing was not an option. She took me to her parents and my grandfather became my dad. I listened to him. He only punished me if someone hit me and I was unable to hit back. He would then force me and my assailant to fight and whoever lost got a good a** whipping. He loved me. He guided me. He took me to church every Sunday with him and sat me next to him. He bought me ice cream even when mum said no. He came to watch me run during athletic games and he watched me play netball and got heartbroken when I switched to basketball (who did not want to look cool then, even if it broke a few hearts?).
Amidst all this grandpa-granddaughter relationship was always Uncle Charles; always there waiting for grandpa to look the other side so he can steal me away. He never went to church so he took us to bars and places similar. He asked for a crate of beer for himself and Fanta “madiaba” for me and any other cousin who was lucky that day. He was filthy rich by then, driving big cars and talking big money but drinking all of it *smh*. Still I loved him. He stood out for me against other people (and the world). He beat a teacher once for calling me “kibiriti ngoma” (I still don’t know what that means but am sure she never called anybody else that), he got a teacher fired for sending me home for a book I had lost and got another one to prison for beating me till I had my hand broken. He had his own family, yet he was always there when I needed him. And when I did not. He tucked me to bed every day when grandpa was down with diabetes and cooked dinner for me when grandma was out looking after grandpa. I can’t remember him attending any of my school events but I remember him cheering me on as a champion even when I lost. He bought my first drawing when I was just ten and taught me how to craft things with wood. Simple things like combs, cooking sticks, rolling pins and stools. But mum used them to beat me so I stopped making them. Christmas after his death has never been the same. He used to bring his family and a goat home. Then he would spend the day teaching us how to roast meat, what parts made what food and what parts were eaten by who (but I ate all parts anyway. I was liberal like that.).
So, when they said happy father’s day, I carried two candles to church and thanked God for two amazing people who loved me unconditionally then continued on with life like they taught me how to (thanking God for small miracles like father figures and their unconditional love every step of the way).
I love you pops and Uncle Charles. May your souls rest in peace till we meet again.