Saturday, May 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Daddy


I have written precious little about my dad in the years since starting to publicly share my thoughts. So little that people have sometimes messaged me trying to understand what role he has played in my life, and why my mom has been the focal point of my writing.

I have a theory that explains my tendency to propound the ‘single story’ of my mother. Correct me if I am wrong, but African men don’t generally sit around telling their fathers (or sons) how much they love them.

I thought I’d address that today – so this one is for you, Dad.

*****

I must start by admitting that alongside my mom, you are the biggest influence on my life to-date. All the things I am – and a few of the things I don’t want to be – directly link into you.

That is massive stuff.

I remember my earliest memory of hearing you say the words “I love you”. You had just declined my request to go watch Cartoons at a friend’s house, and I disliked you in that instant. I had no idea why you thought it was more fun to read than to watch TV. Needless to say, I perfectly understand now.

I remember when you took me to Loyola College for the first time. You took me into the Staff Room, and announced loudly “here’s your Head Boy in another five years”. You have no idea how great a weight that sentence placed on my shoulders. I did spend the next three years captaining my class – and probably would have become Head Boy if I hadn’t left for Wesley.

This is a difficult one, but I remember the morning you caught me taking money from your office without permission. You said no words, but the look on your face sent daggers stabbing into my soul. I had the most difficult day at school, dreading my return to the house and the flogging that would ensue; the flogging that never came. I never wanted you to look at me that way again – so I learned to live on less than my friends; understanding that dishonesty was not the way to go.

I remember you driving me to write UME. Yes, you did drive me to write every exam that mattered – but there was something different about this one. As always, you didn’t say much. You muttered about always believing in me and that you would be there when I finished. You were always there when I finished. You’ll never know how much this meant to me. No matter how tough the papers, I could always look forward to seeing you afterwards. Somehow, you always made it feel like everything would be alright.

I remember the scathing note you wrote to the Dean of Technology when he said they wouldn’t admit me because I made OAU my second choice. In fact, I remember the many notes you wrote, and I love you for them. I remember the notes you wrote in Primary School to spare me the embarrassment of being sent home when we couldn’t afford to pay fees. I remember the notes you wrote to Teachers, promising to pay at a future date if they would continue to give me lessons. The older I get the more I understand how difficult it must have been to write those notes – and I am immensely grateful for the sacrifices you made.

I remember the fear in your voice when I called to tell you of the accident on the way to Lagos. Given all your toughness, I had previously assumed you knew no fear. I remember the barked orders, the terse instructions; and I remember lying down that night in Sagamu feeling safe – knowing you were coming to get me.

I remember the pride in your eyes the day I formally graduated from OAU. My initial reluctance to attend Convocation a full year after my final papers was swept away before the twinkle in your eyes. I remember thinking that I had never seen you happier, and I was grateful to be the cause of so much happiness.

I remember the awkwardness when you called me into a room in Secondary School to ask if I had a crush on Ibidun. (I said “No”, but well – I did!!) I wish you could have heard the reluctance in your voice a few months ago as you struggled to accept my choice of rented accommodation – resignedly acknowledging that your butterfly has become a bird. I wish you could have seen the boyish twinkle in your eyes as you playfully asked me recently “Who should now give ‘who’ money when you’re travelling? I give you or you give me?”

You must understand that these memories are seemingly endless. I sit here tonight and think back on every pivotal moment in my life – and you were there. You were not necessarily very vocal, but your presence has always inspired confidence. With the added benefit of vocality learnt from mom, this is definitely the kind of father I want to be.

On the day that I was nine, you wrote to me “I will spare nothing to give you the chances I did not have”. Today, I confirm that you have kept this promise – and more.

In one last memory I’d like to share – I remember seeing a white hair in your beard the last time I was home. That was quite the shocking reminder that age is taking its toll; that the dear man I call “Daddy” grows older with every day that passes.

Here is trusting God to keep you for much longer – to dance the funky chicken at my wedding, to beam at me with pride when I hold my first child for the very first time, to sit around the table and tell my children – your grandchildren – of how impish I was as a child.

We’re grateful for your life, and we feel very privileged to have you.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

4 comments:

  1. This is delicious. Happy birthday to your dad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Happy birthday to your Papi. ��

    ReplyDelete
  3. I had tears in my eyes. I love my dad so much too. We are privileged to have such men as Fathers.

    ReplyDelete