Losing and Gaining

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Today, our guest writer is Mary Nyawira. She will kill me for saying this, but Mary was the girl every person remembers from our High School class. If someone doesn’t remember you, we just tell them, “Oh, I was in Mary’s class.” And they’ll go, ooh!

For some reason, she was in the naughty corner most of the time. But I don’t think Mary looked for trouble, trouble just found her. Today, she lets us in on a snippet of her life as she grew up — the losses and the gains.

Guess who else found her? Jesus! 

“It’s him,” I told my sister as I looked at my ringing phone. I couldn’t say ‘It’s dad’, we had never called him that. Where we came from, you never called your father “dad”.

Our ‘Dad’ was very military. He was quick to discipline, always knew you are wrong even when you were not and he listened to no explanation and he knew everything – in theory. His word was law!

Once during the first school visiting day, I accidentally called him “dad”. You could almost touch the discomfort and the embarrassing silence I put the family into for some seconds. I almost apologized and from that day, I made sure no such accident ever happened.

Before this call, I hadn’t seen him in 10 years. Now, he was coming. I wished it was under better circumstances.

My mum had left their marriage in a huff citing irreconcilable differences. She did it in a bid to stand up for herself as she claimed. One by one, we children had followed our mum to her new place and we all comforted ourselves in talking about our father’s failures.

We felt my mum was easier to live with without the tough dictatorial house rules that so much described my father. After several years, it dawned on us that every wrong we were ever told he did, nobody had evidence of it.

The exact opposite could be said of my mum at the time of her demise. We had seen enough to know that she was worse in character than could be said of our father.

Exactly three weeks before, I had mustered every bit of courage in me to call him. I had just been informed that my mother was being rushed to the hospital in a very unstable condition. As soon as I told him my reason for calling, he had brushed it off, “she will be okay”.

I had painfully felt the lack of concern in his voice and I had no way of explaining to him that this was serious. The call had lasted less than twenty seconds.

Two weeks later he had called me in shock to confirm the news of her death, “You didn’t tell me it was that serious?” This time I just threw every care to the wind and firmly stood my ground to confirm that I did. I didn’t care that we had grown up being taught that his word was law, I didn’t feel like he had any right over me at all and I wasn’t taking this one.

Now here I was, sitting quietly as more people trickled into the room and reality beginning sink. I didn’t even find any more solace in talking to my elder sister who was seated next to me. I hated having to answer any question from anyone.

Most of the people in the meeting were not new to my sister and me.  We had grown up seeing them at one time or the other around our family. Some were friends from church, former workmates, and neighbors too. This was the last meeting to arrange my mum’s burial.

I was finally glad when it was over and I could only smile politely to the numerous condolences offered. I felt too crushed to say much. Hearing the words “be strong” over and over again wasn’t helping either. I didn’t want to be strong anymore. Being strong hurt, being strong was too draining, and I was just done being strong!

All eyes were fixed on the corridor that led to the main entrance of the place we had held the meeting. Would he be looking haggard? How much had he aged? Had life been kind to him as they say or just the opposite?

Much as I felt hurt and betrayed by him, it would add to my sadness to see him looking beaten by life.

And then, there he was! The feelings of betrayal and pain seemed to melt and I broke into a run towards him. After a few steps, I stopped trotted towards him, my heart palpitating in anticipation.

Everything in me wanted to throw myself into his arms for an embrace. I needed the embrace of a dad, but he had never embraced me in my entire life.

He caught my outstretched hand in a tight handshake and I let my hand linger in his for some seconds. His face beamed at me joyfully and he said “Kairetu”.

We were both happy and our hearts knew it. I would have wanted to stay longer at that moment but everyone else was waiting in line to greet him. As I stood back eagerly waiting to have his attention back, I whispered to my sister, “he looks good” and for the first time that evening, I smiled.

Most of our talk as my sister and I walked with him outside played around the next day’s program. None of us talked about the last ten years. They simply couldn’t fit in the few minutes we had.

My mother’s funeral was what a funeral promises to be – a nightmare. My entire body was trembling and cold chills ran down my back and taking a shower was an uphill task. I was expected to be among the first at the morgue to sign some papers since my mother had listed me as her next of kin.

I didn’t want to view the body. Walking behind morgue, I was surprised to find my father there. We were both a bit brighter in countenance when we laid eyes on each other.

When it was finally over, my dad told my siblings and I wanted us to have some time together. Only my brother, my sister, and I met him for lunch at a local food joint. He was accompanied by his elder brother. However, our youngest sister did not make it to the lunch, after collapsing when our mother’s body was lowered into the grave.

And then he said the words I had wanted to hear for 10 years: He was telling us that we never needed to feel alone because he would always be there from then on. He wanted to recover the time we had lost being away from each other. We needed not to ever be afraid of him not being there ever again.

I felt hopeful even through the pain. We had lost a mum, but in it, we had received something else that we had never had before; a dad. I was sure I would enjoy this journey that was about to start, the journey of a grown-up daughter and her dad.

My father was here and felt safe, I felt better, I felt protected, I felt at home.

5 thoughts on “Losing and Gaining

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