I never called him ‘baba’. It was unimaginable for me. That word refused to come from my mouth. Not because I thought he was not my father, but because of fear. He was cruel. He was cross.
There’s no one else on earth I ever feared like him. And for that reason, I detested anything that would take me to him. Whenever he was around, I’d always appear engaged; busy reading a book (as he required) or running errand for my mum. I would not talk to him or ask him (for) anything. Even when he appeared to be in good mood, which was sporadic. Once in awhile when he was in the house sleeping, my mum would send me to go call him to eat. I would go and touch him; pushing his leg and saying ‘you’re being called to eat.’
My dad was a school teacher and (believed to be) a clever man. For some reason it made me hate the word ‘clever’ and often used it for negative reasons; a self-confessed know-it-all person. But indeed he was "book-clever" as far as he was concerned, always topping his class in primary school. His mother would confirm this. He would send us to his mother to confirm if he’s not clever. And so he expected us too to be clever. Therefore we had to be reading every time he saw us. I must say I’m not that born-again-reader. I read, but not throughout as would be expected. And being the one who was always around, results were expected of me. I was largely growing up as a firstborn, though I was not and I’ve never been. But that is a story for another day. Never mind that at that time, I was barely 3 years old. But that fear remained with me all through. I still feel it.
Back in the village, I grew up largely with my mum as the parent I related with. She was always there for me and taught me a lot. She was tender and loving. I must confess that she caned me more than my dad did, but I loved her a million times more, and called her mum. I always missed her whenever she was away for whichever reason, which was quite frequent because she had to fend for us. I still do miss her. I loved her way of parenting; talking and teaching me rather than just quarreling and beating. She taught me softness. I don’t like quarrels and confrontation. I feel dizzy in such. For this reason, whenever I met a noisy woman in any place, I would switch off and feel out of place. I developed the love to be talked to and shown the sense in any situation that warranted. If I make a mistake, it should be pointed out for me and how it ought to had been done in order that I correct. The solution is not always in the cane.
Whenever I heard people talk about their daddy’s, whatever their daddy’s gave them or did for them, I could not relate. But that does not mean I hated my dad. I simply feared him. A couple of times he slapped me with a panga. He would do this until I just see stars in my eyes; feeling confused, not knowing whether he slashed me and I’m therefore dead or still alive; trying to listen to myself. My dad loved his panga. His adorable weapon. Occasionally when a fight ensured between him and his peers; fellow drunkards, he would run home for his panga and call me loudly; “Paul, kel beti na!" That is “Paul, bring my panga.” I would dive in the house groping for it under the bed only to take it further in the darkest corners and shouting “pokayudo”, i.e. I’m yet to find it. This was because my mum had warned me never to do such an abomination; bringing him a panga and then he kills someone would mean I am the part and parcel of the murder; carrying the burden of the curse, or as it’s called in luo, “ting’o tora”, which is the least a sober person would want.
To my dad, killing would have been an achievement. Why do I say so? (Continues in part 2)
Alongside is a Responsorial Psalm for Ascension Sunday.
God goes up with Shouts of Joy