It had been some years now of me asking myself millions of queries without any elucidation.
The queries I used to ask myself were:
“Who is my father? What does he looks like? Even though I’ve never see him before, he might look precisely like me. Why did he brutally decide to harbour himself from me?
All the years of my childhood had been horrible, laborious and obnoxious in particular. It is a usual thing or a habit for every child to learn to talk with the word “Mama” followed by the word “Papa”. But that simple small four letter word, Papa, was unknown to me, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it. I heard that word for the first time when I was ten to eleven when it was uttered by another child in the neighborhood
The second time I heard it, when I was on the playground with my peers, then I felt as if my soul was falling apart, feeling restless and useless all at once.
That’s when my days changed and stared to be monotonous. The world around me was made me feel weak.
I listened attentively to all sort of things my peers were sharing about their fathers and I was a little bit jealous.
I made them go quiet when I said, “Enough! Guys, we’re not here to share what your fathers do for you, we came here to play soccer. So let us play and stop gossiping.”
One of my peers replied rudely, “Go to hell! We’re not gossiping here. We are sharing information about our own fathers… we’re… we’re proud of them. Are you jealous? Take the ball and play alone if that is okay with you. We’re still talking here.”
His bitter words went straight into my heart. I saved my response to avoid a cacophony. The best thing was to leave them in peace because it was awkward to tolerate them. Anyway, I wanted to avoid conflict. That was not because I was intimidated, or afraid to face the challenge but it was the best decision that a wise child would have taken. I knew that our disagreement might have resulted in a fight, because most of boys I used to play with were hooligans.
I stood up and went home with my head pounding like a storm. Their conversation had become a burden over my shoulders. On the way I was almost hit by donkey cart because I was too preoccupied and hurting inside me.
The person that I should express my gratitude to, was a foreign lady from Mozambique who shouted to warn me about the danger that was behind me. I quickly ran off the road with my bare feet where a spike impaled me and I bled a little.
That cruel man who was riding the donkey cart didn’t stop and confirm whether I got hurt or not, instead he laughed and didn’t care. It was only that Mozambican lady who came to me and said, “Sorry, are you okay?”
“Yes, don’t worry, I didn’t get hurt,” I nodded.
From there I waited until she gone so that she could not see me limping. The blame was upon the donkey cart man who made me get impaled and never said sorry afterwards. His reaction didn’t surprise me, because he once ran over a six-year-old child with his donkey cart, and refused to admit it until the parents of the child took legal action.
My mother was surprised when she saw me at home. She knew that I never came home early when I was at the playground, unless I got attacked by starvation.
“And then, what now? I didn’t expect to see your face this time,” She said, checking her wrist watch.
I retorted cantankerously, “So is that a crime that I came back early today?” My tears were dropping down rapidly.
She saw that something had gone wrong at the playground.
“What went wrong, son? Why are you limping? Is that why you’re crying?”
Those queries enhanced the volume of my tears; I wasn’t able to answer those questions immediately.
Later on, I asked her to show me my father, and then she was surprised by the request. She couldn’t believe that I had asked. “What did you say?” She asked.
My response was very short and clear, I simply said, “You heard me.”
She gave me a quick glance exactly into my nude eyes and I saw a teardrop falling down on the other eye. She wiped it quickly so that I could not see that she was blubbering.
The problem was that she didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was adding salt to injury, but I had to know everything regarding my father.
Her lips were trembling rapidly and it made her voice sound unclear. I offered her a glass of water to calm her and then she was able to converse with me.
“I am sorry, I didn’t have time to explain to you what had happened to your father, besides I didn’t want to overload you with problems.”
“What actually happened? Stop beating around the bush and talk,” I said.
“I fathom the feeling that you’re going through, but I want you to persevere and believe everything about your father. Your father died a long time ago.”
My heart froze; I didn’t believe what she said to me. “No, tell me nothing but the truth, Ma. He passed on in what year?”
“Your father died in the year 1998 on the 5th of April. What hurt me most is that you were only seven months old and so little. It was too awkward for me to raise you on my own, particularly without your father. I had to go around with you on my back to look for a job so that I could afford to buy you milk, nappies and some clothes. So you have to accept that your father is no more and carry on with life,” she said.
My face was all full of tears and misery.
“Please, don’t bear this into your head, just pretend as if we didn’t have this conversation and carry on with life,” she said.
“No, how is that possible? My peers are talking about their fathers out there… And I don’t know my father.”
To help me to believe she took a photo of him that was hung against the wall and showed me. He looked a little bit like me, but more precisely like my brother, Reuben. Their eyes, mouths and less protruding noses looked exactly the same.
I put the photo down slowly as the tears were falling down. “Am sorry, my child,” my mother said, slapping me on the back.
“Why God chose to do all this to me? Now I have to grow older without him. It’s not fair anymore. Does God know how painful it is to live without a father?” I said.
“No, don’t say that, God knows the pain that you’re going through and I promise that he’ll protect you and be on your side no matter how difficult it is,” she said. Everything she said sounded like fairy tales to my ears.
That dilemma made me to feel like there was no God. I began to lose hope in everything. What was left was to envisage all good things I would have attained in his presence, a full bucket of joy and happiness. It was really hard for me to comprehend and to ask further questions about my father. I couldn’t handle the pain any more, and then I stood up to go to bed and left my mother right there.
“Don’t worry, it will be okay,” She said.
“No, nothing will be okay, how am I going to live like this?”
“You still have a chance to fulfill your goals and enjoy life without him. God will protect you, my child.”
I didn’t respond, I closed the door and locked it without squandering time. The room was extremely hot because the windows were not open. In that case there was no ventilation to cool it down. But I couldn’t feel the heat due to my anger. Since that day, my mornings have never been the same.
Every time I woke up I had to look at his photo for some minutes, trying to console my heart. I would be lying if I say the idea was successful, it brought me nothing but more punches in my heart.
All these pains enticed me to dig for more information about my father. By that time my mother was no longer comfortable and entirely overwhelmed. She wanted me to succumb and let bygones be bygones. Consequently, she denied having had that conversation.
I tried persuading her over and over again to tell me the entire saga about the death of my father. Eventually she agreed to divulge everything; on the other hand she was afraid that all that had transpired would cause me an everlasting pain.
That didn’t matter to me; all I wanted was the truth to get rid of the pain that I was going through.
We sat down together and I positioned myself on the bench beside her so that I could hear clearly.
She gave me a benign smile that was exhausted, particularly by sorrow and bitterness. After a little moment of silence she asked when it would be convenient to forget the past and move on in life.
“As soon as I know exactly what happened” I answered.
“Actually what do you want to attain afterwards?”
“No, he was my father, and I deserve to know everything about him since I’ve never become part of his life. So please, I beg you to explain the cause of his death,” I said, politely.
She saw that I was absolutely adamant that she must be honest with me.
“It was almost dusk when your father was found dead beside the railway at Soekmekaar. I wasn’t home by that time…”
“Where were you?” I asked promptly.
“I was in the bush with your sister, Anna, to fetch small pieces of woods for fire. On the way home a bundle of wood that I was carrying was more heavier than before, and I felt too feeble to carry the load. As a result I became surprised because I knew that I was energetic and never experienced that feeling before,” she said.
“So, that feeling was a sign?” I asked.
“Perhaps it was a sign, because it was an unusual feeling that I never felt before. In our culture we believe that if something unusual happens, it is a sign of something bad. Upon my arrival from the bush, two policemen came to see me. Their faces looked sad…”
“And then what happened?” I demanded sharply.
“From there they began to dish out the information, telling us that my husband had been hit by a train,” she said, close to crying.
Then I didn’t say anything, I held my head down, and started sobbing. My brother, Reuben, came holding a black plastic bag containing three loaves of bread. He put the plastic bag down and began to scorn me.
“I think you should stop all this nonsense, you keep on asking my mother questions, do you think all those questions will bring him back?”
“Really! Is that all you can say? It now makes sense that you’re rejoicing and feeling proud that I don’t know him, I mean our father,” I said.
“No, I’m not proud or relishing any of this, it is just that you raise the old scars. It’s not easy for your mother to explain anything. So can you please stop? This one is a humble request. My mother will not handle the pain anymore; in fact what is done is done. We have to carry on with our lives, and I’ll always be there for you,” he said.
After what he said I vowed not to bother my mother. But on one condition, I asked Reuben to tell me on behalf of our mother. Eventually he agreed to continue from where my mother left off.
He then shared information that was previously concealed. He took a white chair and perched next to me, from there he said the following:”I am sure that she told you everything, but she didn’t tell you that she almost got arrested few weeks after the death of our father,” he said.
“She almost got arrested? What was the problem?” I asked politely, paying full attention to his story.
“It was nothing big,” he said. From there he kept quiet and stared at his phone nonstop, as if he was expecting a serious call from a client. It was so hilarious because he was unemployed. His actions were only to avoid what he had started. Really he was tormenting me, hurting my feelings deliberately.
I compelled him to speak. Thus he began to spit out the thorns of life that my family went through. “The reason was that your uncle, our father’s younger brother, made our mother to buy an ox on credit from a particular old lady to bury your father.”
“Is that all?” I asked.
“No, the problem was that he promised to pay for that ox, but unfortunately he never did even though he knew that our mother had no money. And it is a must to slaughter an ox at funerals in our culture.”
“What happened next?” I asked.
“Our mother was responsible for his debt, the old lady who sold the ox kept harassing my mother. Eventually she was taken to court for not paying the debt,” he said, looking inconsolable.
All this broke my heart. The air that I inhaled and exhaled was filled with misery. Things got worse when I found out that my father’s younger brother hadn’t been there to pay his last respect at the funeral. The truth finally came out that my mother went through difficult times during the death of my father.
I got angry immediately when I found out that my uncle, my father’s younger brother, had registered my father in his policies. But he claimed all the funds from his policies and vanished. They strove to get hold of him, hunting him like a lost animal. Unfortunately he was nowhere to be found. All his actions put the entire clan in an awkward position. They had no doubt as they expected that my uncle would assist to bury my father with dignity, but in the end they realized that they had miscalculated their ideas.
My uncle came back when I was twelve, and I was shocked when I was informed that he was my uncle. He was too happy to see me because he left when my father was still at the mortuary, and I was too young.
I don’t know how he found out that it was me. I was very agitated when I saw him. He lifted his hands to carry me, but I stepped back and went to my room. My mother tried to stop me, but I didn’t listen to her.
”He is your uncle, come and meet him.”
With a harsh voice and heavy heart that was filled with loathing, I said “I’m not interested! He’s a stranger to me, not family.”
Like the author how do you deal with puzzling questions in your mind?