The family is like the forest: if you are outside, it is dense; if you are inside, you see that each tree has its own position” -Akan Proverb.
By SUSAN MAINA AND ROBERT GATERU
Dad, I used to wonder why eulogies were so sad, yet so beautiful. Even the worst of men at least by how the world judged them, the words on their eulogies always found a way of making sad and beautiful their departure. I later realised it was the words with an extra pinch of family. For even the worst kinds of men marry and most importantly father children and this is the love that sustains them at the end of their time.
In these changing times, I have come to realise that the man who fathered you is not always Dad. He could be the man who married your mother, the drunk, the mistake, the runaway, or even the dead-beat who you have never met and was supposedly hit by a lorry. If you’re lucky, he could be your best friend, your mentor and your guardian angel on earth; either way there is always a man who was at the beginning of your story, and Dad you were the man at the beginning of my story.
I have come to realise and appreciate that in a patriarchal society, and as stipulated in most of the Holy Books, the men are the providers of a home and the leaders therein, the women, the makers of the home. These roles have however changed with time, but the standard has always been for the man to provide for and lead their families. Some men have failed terribly, and others have succeeded extremely well, yet some have succeeded with a heavy cost. There are ‘supermarket dads’ – who provide all that their families want, and not what their families truly need. There has also been a rise of single mothers playing mum and dad for their children and I am not saying it is wrong (sometimes life happens, what to do?). It makes all the difference to have two parents who are present in all the right ways.
I need a Dad
It’s not enough to be my father, for anyone could be; I need a Dad, Father I need a Dad! You are always on your way out; every time I see you, the sunrise is your cue to leave; and hours after sunset, I am still hoping you will be back early. I learnt something new at school today, we are going for a field trip to Hell’s Gate – you hand me the money. I am back from my trip; can I tell you all about it? “Not now Susan”, you call me by my first name, who does that?
I passed my exams; thanks for the gift, but I was hoping you could congratulate me personally; I won a competition at school, how I wish you were there to witness it. The only time you look up to me is when you are giving a command. Could you at least explain why I have to do Medicine and yet I am passionate about Arts? I am a good storyteller, but I bet you haven’t had the time to read through the links to my blog that I sent you. I have attempted to express myself, but your hand is always lifted towards me, asking me to be silent and to give you space. My blog is my way of expressing myself, yet you missed that too.
I need to learn how to be a man from the man at the beginning of my story, not a random stranger. As your daughter I was hoping you would be my first love so that when they try to devalue me I will know what true love is. I was hoping our connection would be able to create meaning in my life but I guess I was wrong father.
If you care to listen
If you care to listen to me your seed, all is not lost, I still cherish the privilege of calling you Dad. I wish to reconnect with you. If we could give it one more chance, I have a few requests before you lose me for life, and I in turn lose you for even longer; I know you are working flat out to give me a better life, but even if you had nothing, I would still call you Dad. I need the good life yes, but more importantly; I need a friend, a beacon for me to look up to.
I need to understand what makes you proud of me. I need to hear your voice cheering me on; telling me it is okay, even when I have messed up big time. I need to know the mistakes you have made, for yet I am young, I am old enough to know that you have made many and conquered more but you never imbued in me the “how” of conquering mistakes, as though you could. For I need to chart my own path just like you did yours, but I need to count on your wise counsel and genuine love.
Susan Maina is a student at Riara University and a blogger, and Robert Gateru is the Vice Chancellor, Riara University
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