My mother used to tell me that my father is in Gauteng working for the family, maybe she was just trying protect his name or my fragile heart at that time. Fortunately enough I believed her, because most of my friend’s fathers were also working there for their families, so it made sense to me that mine was also there working for us.
The only time it did not make sense was when all their fathers came back home at the end of the year for the Christmas holidays, except for mine. I used to ask my mother whether he was coming back this December or was he going to be working overtime throughout this December too, just like all the other years.
“He decided to work throughout this year’s holidays son we need the money.” Those were my mother’s famous words year in and year out and they were getting kind of old to me.
When I turned fourteen years old, I asked my mother one question which needed one answer.
“Is he dead or is he alive?” I was tired of living in a box.
My mother cried the whole day that day. It was my birthday – maybe my question was too painful, maybe it brought back memories of my father who had passed away a long time ago, surely he was no more, what else could make my mother cry like that? Those were the questions I had in my mind the whole day.
That evening my mother took my hand – it was pretty warm outside and we were sitting under a tree. She said to me: “Your father is still alive and well and he doesn’t stay far from here. It is just a couple of hours. I can show you the direction if you want me to. I will even accompany you to his house where he lives with his wife and children, but I will certainly not enter.”
I told my mother that there was no need to take me to him, I have a father. Actually, I have more than one father. The postman that brings the letters every once a week – he is my father, the bus driver that takes me to school every day – he is my father, our neighbour, Mr Mudau, who always needs my help recharging his airtime voucher – he is my father, the security guard at our local supermarket – he is also my father.
They have been there for me when I needed them the most. They showed me what being a father is and I can proudly say that I was raised by many fathers except for my own father.
Because being a father is not only about blood. Yes, I know blood is thicker than water, but water is crystal clear and it cannot hide the truth. And, the truth is that a father is not a man who has a child but it is a man who is there for a child regardless of the biological connection between them.
I hope that one day I will also become a father to my own children and to someone else who needs that fatherly love that I was given by total strangers.
This was one of the runners-up entries in the My Father essay writing competition. Click here to read other excellent essays from the competition.