I never really had a clear example of what a father should be like. Nor have I ever had a role-model or father figure. Well, I could be lying. Either way, whether it is a lie or not, it does not matter. Talks of fathers are quite a hefty topic in our households; in society as a whole. I am still shocked by the way Father’s Day took place this year. It was quiet and subtle. Present and deserving fathers were actually celebrated. Impressive. In my view, however, I feel like South Africa got the bottom of the barrel bunch of fathers. Just because we are geographically at the southern part of the earth – the bottom part of the continent – does not mean we deserve the bare minimum of fathers in our lives. We are already at the bottom of the geographical food chain as it is. The universe truly conspired against us when it came to the fatherly package we attained.

“Thingoluhle! You are going to break my baby’s neck!” She snatches the baby who is tangled and wrapped up in a blanket. I can never understand how they can bundle up a child in that manner. Will it not deform the baby’s limbs? What if it stunts their growth? But… I would rather not express those thoughts again, to avoid having my head being served for dinner. “I love you too, mother.”

I was able to configure an idea of what an ideal father should be like. The one I aspire to be once I become one.

I can safely say that I am on the right path. I am trying to be a good father. A better one than you were, to me. I want my children to experience my love with no fear than the one I experienced with yours. I need my children not to be able to distinguish the level of presence, investment and involvement in their lives, between their mother’s and mine. Obviously, my wife’s level will unequivocally be incomparable, but that is my wish to God each time I kneel.

I need them to see me loving, caring for and protecting them and their mother. Most importantly, their mother. I can vividly remember the first slap that landed on MY mother’s face. Five fingers formed on her face. Moulded by your hand. Then came a fist. Then it escalated to that gut-wrenching kick. I promise I felt the impact on my own stomach. Thereafter, I immediately blacked out into my own utopian world, trying by all means necessary to shut out her screams and cries for mercy, because I was a coward. An eleven year old coward who could not protect his OWN mother against his OWN father…

As the language of the Englishman would suggest: Let bygones be. Joy overcame me when you made the step to step up. At my big age of eighteen I had never questioned God’s grace like that before. I was overwhelmed with emotions. With this open letter, I would like to thank you. Thank you for your mistakes. They have taught me a great deal, and probably the greatest lesson of all time. Thank you for being presently absent. Thank you for your financial presence. Thank you for coming to your grown state with your senses. I say that with the utmost respect. I am also grateful for your love in your own language. I know you never knew who your father was thus you never knew how to father me right. With this, I need you to know that I love you.

Signed and sealed: Your son, Thingo Mngomezulu.

I smile as I tuck it in the suit, in the gift bag.


This was one of the commended entries in the My Father essay writing competition. Click here to read other excellent essays from the competition.