Since my father passed away on February 1, 2010, the world changed for me. For a while, it seemed as though the axle on my wheel of life had been broken and everything was spinning out of control. It has taken industrial quantities of God’s grace and a lifetimes worth of introspection on my part to return to a point where I feel like a fully-functioning human being again. But this note is not about me, it is about life’s challenges and rising up to them, it is about the duty of a father to his children, it is about my view of my father; whom on this fathers day, is the majority shareholder in the business of my thoughts.
After his passing, my brother and I set to the unenviable task of sorting through all his papers, documents and possessions. Seeing as how my father kept extensive documents and records of everything, from the mundane daily transactions of life to the most valuable of documents, this was no easy job (even today, there are some documents left unsorted). Its funny how when father passed, I was not much interested in property left behind or money passed on, (most of these went to my mother anyway) but I was very interested in the books, magazines, documentation, pictures, letters, etc. You see, my father was a somewhat closeted man who silently bore many heavy loads on his shoulder and never doubted he could carry them, hence there were a lot of details of his life I was eager to distill from the materials he left behind.
As my brother and I perused through these documents, trying to arrange, sort out and decide which to discard, a picture of my father began to emerge, or to put it better, gaps in the picture of my father that I had began to fill out. A more complete picture was formed and I realized that if we had more time together, those gaps would have still been eventually filled because as he grew older, he would have shared his memories with us (as old folk tend to do) His unexpected and somewhat premature death has robbed my family of many things but to me, the most valuable thing taken from us is the time we would have spent together, learning from him.
I’ve been described as and told by many people that I am very much like my father, even he once described me as a “better version of himself” (I think he was just a bit carried away with pride, it was my graduation day afterall). The truth is: I know I am nothing like him. Sure, to someone taking a cursory look at our lives, it might seem that there are a multitude of similarities but I know myself best, so I suggest you take my word for it. If anyone in our family was to be described in that way, in my opinion, my elder brother would be the most likely candidate. I boldly say this because while my father was a man of strict principle, I am much more, shall we say… pliable. Where he was strong willed and determined, I am more open to compromise. Where he was kind and understanding to people, I tend to retreat from people and find solace in ideas and concepts. Where he possessed an extensive knowledge of important and useful information, I possess a cornucopia of random facts and interesting trivia which may or may not be useful “on any given Sunday”. I say all this because there was still so much I wanted to learn from him, to know about him, to tell him.
They say that by the time a man realizes that his father was right about most things, he already has a son who thinks he is wrong about most things as well. Fortunately for me, I have always believed that my father was mostly right (he actually was, most of the time; so much so that it was uncanny). I’m very grateful to God for the time we had together.
Allow me to share one of my most treasured memories of him with you: when I was in primary school and trying to decide what secondary school to attend, I wrote the entrance examination for Igbinedion education centre and was placed in 9th position overall. I was told there would be an interview to complete the entry process and that the boy and girl with the best overall scores would be beneficiaries of a full scholarship. Being in 9th place, I didn’t have much hope in winning the scholarship but my father was adamant that I could jump the eight (or at least seven) places required to win the scholarship. He was so sure of this that his conviction was transferred to me and soon I started to believe it. Further, he spent time helping me prepare and traveled with me to the test centre in Benin the day before the interview. We spent that night in a hotel preparing for my interview and for the first time since I was a baby, I slept in the same bed with my father.
The following morning, we went to the venue and he waited with me till it was time to go into the hall. As I was walking toward the hall, I heard my father’s voice call me. I turned and saw him walking up to me, when he reached me, he knelt down near me and said “Keep track of time” he then proceeded to take off his wrist watch and hand over the oversized timepiece to me. For some reason, this handover of the watch seemed to calm all my nerves and reassure me. I left the hall that day feeling confident and sure that I had done my best, my fathers support bracing me all the way.
A few weeks later, my father walked into my room and dropped a newspaper on the ironing table. In his usual reserved manner, he simply smiled and walked out of the room, obviously he expected me to read the newspaper which at the time was a relatively strange occurrence. I picked it up only to see my picture and name on the top of a page listing the names of students who had been admitted into the school. My picture was there because I had won the scholarship. But I already knew that, that smile from my father had already told me all I needed to know. I have always known in my heart that without my father, I would probably have never won that scholarship. But that was his way; he silently supported everyone in the family with encouragement and action and never made a big fuss when the results came in. It was just his way. He believed it was his duty as a father and he executed it with pleasure, simplicity and pride. I pray that every young man reading this realizes that a mothers love and care is something special, but a fathers support is worth more than a trailer load of diamonds.
I’ve been told that my writing is much better than my oration and while I will never be sure if that statement was made in derision or meant to be a compliment on my writing prowess, I do agree with it (even if just marginally). The point is: the only reason I am writing these thoughts down is because I will probably never say them out loud. I only hope that these thoughts mean something to someone, make everyone appreciate father’s everywhere (mothers seem to get all the credit these days just because so many fathers are silent while bearing their cross and mothers will always remind you of the time they bore theirs) and inspire someone to walk up to his/her father today and say “Daddy, I love you”, the words I never said to my father and I wish to God I could right now.
Happy fathers day.