I have always known I want to write about my Dad, it is the how that I have struggled with.
My father is a deeply introverted man. His speech pattern is characterised by deep silences punctuated by singular sentences. To stretch out these sentences into paragraphs feels like a dilution of a great man, a man I have the privilege of loving.
As I have grown up though, I have realised from whom my talent of thinking out loud comes from. No, it’s not Ed Sheeran by any chance.
Of my father’s utterances, I do have favourite. I think I was in form two when he uttered it. I had just been suspended from school for the second time and he had had enough of my shenanigans. I came home and handed him the suspension letter, which he read in silence. His reddening ears were the only indicator that things were about to go south.
I was ready for them to. In fact, my jaw had taken the most ‘thug life’ stance it could pull off without seeming arrogant. I was ready for the hottest slap to ever be served in that household.
The slap never came.
Once he was done reading the suspension letter, he folded it and handed it back to me. Like it was a breed of madness he wanted nothing to do with, perhaps it was. Then he just stood there and looked down at me. Literally. Dad is around 6′ ft tall, and he asked, ‘Unajihurumianga?’
When you translate that to English, it sounds like a rather sad rhetorical question. No one wants to be asked if they pity themselves, not even at 15 and at the height of adolescence and know-it-allness. But it wasn’t just a rhetorical question. Dad was actually curious -perhaps worried is the better term- and when it was clear I did not possess an adequate answer, he walked away.
I can count the few times he has walked away (from me) but we always seem to find a way back to each other.
My Dad’s first born, my sister Shi, is turning thirty in November. When she was born, she found Dad smoking. In fact, if the family rumour mill can be cited as a credible news source, Dad started smoking in high school. He was bullied into smoking during his stint at Murang’a High and an addition kicked in.
I don’t smoke ciggies, not because they are bad for your lungs (they really are) but because I have come to identify cigarette smoking as a Dad thing. My Dad’s thing, his territory.
I haven’t always been so accepting.
When was in class 5, I think I was 9 or ten, Dad picked me up from school. He used to drive this shiny grey Toyota Corolla that we were all super proud of. I was riding shot gun. After fiddling with the Kenwood radio for a few minutes, he finally settled on a radio station and was bopping his head away. I was too busy crafting sentences in my head to notice the station. We were going to broach this smoking story and eliminate the habit once and for all.
Someone had mentioned that smoking killed; I didn’t fancy a dead or dying Dad (even though I had little idea what death meant.) So I told him just that. I didn’t want him dying so on the following Sunday I’d take him to Pastor Pius Muiru and he’d be prayed for. If anyone could cure an addiction, I was convinced the man from ‘Kuna Nuru Gizani’ was it. (Who better to shine light onto Dad’s darkening lungs, you know?)
Dad still smokes. If you go looking for him when he’s on a smoke break, expect my niece to tell you, ‘Guka ako huko nje anakula moto.’
Dragons are not confined to the Game of Thrones set.
I’m 23, turning 24 in December. It’s been close to a quarter century of love and sacrifice and experiences that Dad offered in a relationship that is perhaps a little battered at the moment but one I am really proud of. Proud, because that is something my Dad worked hard to cultivate. Even when things hit the fan, we were always fans of ourselves and each other.
We once lost just about everything and had to start from scratch. Just the three of us and Dad, in a neighbourhood none of us cared for.
The loss happened while I was at school, I think we were all at school actually. I recall Dad picking me from Kikuyu on closing day and we ran errands with one of his sisters. I had snack filled fun, the best kind of fun after being locked up for 1.5months. When it was time to separate and head home, my aunt wanted me to go with her. It had happened before, so I didn’t understand why Dad was being so stubborn. I mean, she was his sister, my aunt and not a random stranger plying me with sweets.
And then we got home and things got into perspective. I mean, we were poor. I could see it but it wasn’t enough for him that I could. We had a talk, Dad and I. I’m not sure what he said but it had to do with not running from where we are from, accepting it and ourselves and then working for better. In that moment, I was as proud of us as I’ve ever been.
Life gets shitty sometimes. We want things that we need but don’t have the capacity to acquire at that moment in time. It’s okay to lack, when you plan on making the lacking a temporary situation. That is the biggest lesson my Dad’s few sentences have taught me.