This was written by my friend, John. Most of you know him as @singlenigerian . Of course I put maggi for inside but he did all the pepper grinding and hunting for meat (lol- is that sexist or what?)
Parenthood is probably one of the hardest things we will ever do. A ‘Humans of New York’ photo yesterday showed a woman with her baby and she said ‘I am new at this…’
Aren’t we all? Aren’t we all? Happy Father’s Day in advance…
I have not seen my father in 2 years but I remember the last time we saw. I remember it like it was just yesterday.
Most people will not understand why but seeing my father has always been a great occasion for me. He was around a lot when I was younger, but back then I was too young to remember everything.
It is funny how my earliest memory of him was a spanking. I wish it was something else; like a hug, or his Old Spice scent, or his smile, wide and loud like mine.
The last time I saw my father was a fun day. There was cake and ice cream. It was my birthday and he made it really special.
I wonder if these two years count in our relationship. I wonder if he stopped being my father for these two years, if he stopped loving me…
I sometimes wonder if it was something I did or said that made him stay away for so long. That is the first thing I plan to ask him when I finally see him.
My mother does not understand, neither does her husband. My sister has caught me crying silently on many occasions but she doesn’t understand either. This is her home after all. She belongs here. I don’t know where I belong.
It is debatable whether I have been a good father or not. In fact, not only is it debatable, it is possibly true that I am not.
It has been one thing after the other since Osamudiame was born. My fatherhood is a democracy. Everyone’s opinion matters but mine. His mother’s, my parents’, his step-fathers’ , my son’s…
What cannot however be debated, at least not in my presence, is how much I love about Osa. And today I mean to tell him.
There are snapshots stored away in my brain; the first time I held him in my arms, the first time I made him laugh, the first time he called me ‘Dad’, the first time I met him as a boy that could and would recognize me.
I wonder what snapshots today will provide for tomorrow.
How do you tell a child that you are sorry when you have said it before and nothing changed?
My father is finally here and it seems he isn’t here to visit; he is here to take me on a road trip. My mother calls it a trip where men can get to know themselves, a bonding trip, she says.
My sister is giggling. I am nervous, I do not know the kind of man my father is. I am scared; when I am nervous I tend to talk a lot. It has gotten me into trouble far too many times. I still am not quite sure who God is, but I say a quick prayer to him anyway.
If life had a nexus, a turning point, this will be one; this road trip that I proposed. I am surprised his mother even agreed to it. Maybe we have all matured. Two years ago, she would have rather died that let me have her son, my son, for more than a few hours at a time. When I called to tell her my road trip though, she was actually excited and even gave me tips.
I am so far out of my comfort zone that it is scary. Usually in times like this, silence is the trusty friend that I embrace. But for Osamudiame’s sake, I have put silence away. I will make an effort even if it kills me. I will be a father to my son today. I will make good on my second chance at fatherhood.
My father is smaller than I remember or maybe it is me that is bigger. He is wearing an orange t-shirt and I wonder if he knows that it is my favorite color. I watch from behind the door of my room as my mother welcomes him and hands him my school bag and some other things I don’t know about. My step-father shakes his hand as they exchange greetings and my heart is torn between the man I call ‘Dad’ for 365 days and the one I call ‘Dad’ twice a month over the phone.
I walk out from behind the door to greet my father and even though he tries really hard to hide it, I see the rush of blood to his eyes. He is just like me. Before tears fall, we see red first. I let him hug me for a few seconds before my mother’s prodding leads me to awkwardly hug him back.
I say goodbye to my little sister and my step-father. My mother demands a kiss so I oblige her.
‘I love you’ she whispers in my ears and I see red. She is not one to say those words often.
My father holds out his hand. I hesitate before taking it but once I do, I wonder what took me so long, what took him so long…
He is so much bigger than I remember and I wonder if he has reached the age where forgiveness is hard to come by. I hope not.
‘Ready?’ I say when he is belted in.
The look in the sad eyes that turn to me breaks my heart in places no woman could ever touch.
‘Why did you stay away for so long? Was it something I did?’ He asks.
There are many things I learned from my own father. Goodness, love, confidence… Before Osamudiame was born, I thought those lessons were enough. After I spent his first night home from the hospital failing to still his cries, I realized that nothing could have ever prepared me for fatherhood.
I look at my son now and reach for his face. I have no answers. I am as new at this as he is. I have made mistakes. I will make many more.
‘I have no excuse Osamudiame. I shouldn’t have stayed away for so long. I am sorry and it won’t happen again. You have my promise.’ I tell my child.
He nods his head and smiles. I smile back and start the car.
Today belongs to us, not to the past, not to my failures. I will tell him stories he has never heard before, stories my own father told me. I will tell him about my dreams when I was his age. I will tell him how I much I have missed him. How no day goes by without my thinking of him. How every woman I meet, I seek first to find if her heart has room for him.
When I am done telling, I will take his hand and listen to the stories my son tells me.
I am crying, crying so hard that the words can’t come out. Once again. it is my fault. My father is not moving; he is lying still as men in blue and white try to put him in their vehicle. They are saying something about robbers, but I know the truth. I also know my father will never forgive me. My father caught stray bullets from a botched robbery operation all because he was running after me. I had not wanted to go back home and my solution had been to start running.
I wake up in a hospital, not quite sure where I am. I call out for my son and a doctor comes in.
‘Where is my son?’ I ask repeatedly.
The doctor is saying this about how lucky I am to be alive, I am not interested. I know I was shot but what I also remember is the look of dread on my boy’s face. I look at the doctor again and ask, ‘WHERE IS MY SON?!”
I walk into the room where he is. I am scared and can’t stop trembling. I am surprised to see my father is smiling at me. I am surprised, I expected a lot, but I did not expect this.
My father opens his mouth and says ‘We have to do this again soon, Osamudiame.’
That is when I throw myself at him and hold on tight for dear life.
I hold my son as he cries and for the first time since he was born, I think I can make it at this thing called fatherhood.
I tell him as I watch him cry that he will always have me. Wherever I am. Wherever he is. Nothing will come between us. Blood will remain blood always. We are family. That will always be home.
These are the stories my own father told me.
Song of the day: Sade – Babyfather