Father’s Day: How is it to the fatherless?

A personal experience.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas from Pexels

One fine evening, my father, two brothers, and I got into a mall in Westlands, Nairobi. It was one of its kind in the region. This was not the first time we were entering the mall. My dad used to work nearby, and so, whenever he took us with him to work, we would visit it several times a day to use the State-of-the-art washrooms that had warm dryers. He knew that we enjoyed this treat and would oblige every time we asked to visit the washroom.

It sounds funny now when giving this story but in the 90s civilization was still at its infancy in these parts. I kid you not, people still go to the mall for the toilets even in the present times.

So, after visiting the washroom, doing our business, and washing and drying our hands severally while the old man waited patiently outside, we got into the shopping area. The goal, to see all the different wares and appliances in the store, marvel, touch one or two elegant things, and leave without purchasing anything. We almost stuck with this plan. Only that we passed through the cold area, where they stocked the milk products and meats. My younger bro, the youngest in the family, tugged at my arm and pointed at the ice-cream section. His eyes were fixated on some cone-shaped ones that were new additions to the freezer.

He asked me to convince our dad to buy them for us, one each. That’s not how it works with fathers though.

The younger you are, the better the conviction power. So, I made him ask dad to buy the ice-cream for us.

The mental calculation we all had was that each was going for a few cents because we were accustomed to Popsicles and they were affordable. The three of us chose a bright-colored ice-cream each and we headed to the counter. At the counter, our sponsor for happiness — you all know ice-cream is a self-contained room full of happiness — produced 500 shillings note ($5) to settle the bill.

The cashier looked up from the computer screen and told him that the money was not enough. My dad, embarrassed, looked at the cones again as if to confirm that they indeed were ice-creams and not something else. We, the brothers, saw the look and knew that we should not have taken them. We offered to return the two unopened ones and started towards the freezer but the big-man stopped us and produced another 500 shillings note and handed it to the cashier. If his kids wanted happiness, he wouldn’t be the one to come in-between.

That day, we consumed happiness worth more than the stationery we used in a whole 3-months school term. The money was a lot. It probably took my dad a couple of days to earn it but as long as his sons were happy, he did not mind the cost. It was one of the many days that he was my hero. I can still feel the taste of the ice-cream.

My father was a fun and likable man.

People that talk about him state how he was a good man. How he sorted them when they were in a fix, and how remarkably easy-going he was with them.

My brothers talk fondly of him. The eldest one does not talk much about the big man. He knows that he took the mantle when our father passed-on. In the Agikuyu tradition, we say that the first-born son is just like a father to the rest of the family. He does a decent job at the helm, but he knows there are many things that the old man’s presence would ease. The few times he talks about our father, his eyes stare into space. He blinks constantly to stop the already wet eyes from becoming springs of tears.

Our second born seems to have a ton of quotes from the big man. He seems to have an appropriate one for almost every occasion. To him, our dad was the wisest person that ever lived. He also thinks that things would be much easier if our father would be here to give direction and oversee things. That it would be a great joy to watch his daughters sit on their grandpa’s lap as he gives them stories of how their great grandfather fought for the country’s independence.

The last born is not much of a talker. He is the person that will swing his head side to side when in distress and say nothing. At times, he walks into my mother’s house and stands in front of our dad’s portrait for a few minutes. I do not know whether they are having a private conversation, or maybe he is in a tricky situation and is contemplating what the big man would do in such a scenario. He is a complicated one, this brother, but I hope that dad has a way of helping him solve his internal dilemmas even in absentia.

Our mother was the hardest hit by our father’s death. We lost a dad, but she lost a lover, friend, and life-long partner. Recently, she confessed that she cried every day for a year after his demise. She loved the man will all her being. The story of their romance and marriage is an intriguing one but that’s a story for another day. I know she misses him deeply although she pretends to be fine because she wants to be strong for us, the kids who are now grown men.

As for me, I am sad that my father is not here to celebrate Father’s Day with me. I don’t know whether it is because I did not see him on his death bed. I was off in boarding school in my last year of high school. All the other family members saw him, partook in his suffering, and even had some parting words. Before he left, I had a premonition that something bad would happen. I prayed to God about it and asked that His will be done. It was done because he died a few days later.

That was 11 years ago. Still, I feel that I did not spend enough time with him. To drink from his oozing spring of wisdom. To learn the do’s and don’t of being a man, husband, and dad. To Know the recipe to make my wife and daughter proud of me all their days. And how to make something out of the son we are expecting.

I am envious of the guys that have their fathers and find time to celebrate a day with them. Daddies are unsung heroes who need our constant assurance that they mean the world to us. That without them, we wouldn’t have an anchor in the world. They need to know that their presence alone is a sign of safety and that they should hold on despite the numerous odds against them in this life.

I am also gutted by those that have dads but take them from granted. Having that man around for you to call, consult, share jokes, or even have a drink with is not a small thing. It is a luxury for some of us.

If you do have a dad, make sure you capitalize on the relationship because all we do on Father’s Day is listen to melancholic music as we mourn the moments that we do not have with our fathers.