Dad, if there is really something called letting go, this is it.
I am kind of getting to grips with the fact that you are flying high and watching over us, never to return to this earth again. March 19th hasn’t been easy since you were called to glory 14 years ago, and yet it still feels like yesterday. But this year feels different from all other years gone by because yes, tears well up in my eyes or run down my cheeks, but not with me holding on to any more baggage. Having to deal with the fact that on that fateful day, Chanti, my oldest daughter had turned six months old, I eagerly called the hospital hoping to brighten up your day by breaking this great news to you. How gutted and angry I was to learn of your having passed on moments before my telephone call. You had already bonded with Chanti and I Ionged for her to bask in the glory of your eccentric care!
Having to endure the loss of a father who had also given me that vital motherly and sisterly love and friendship was too heavy a burden for me to bear. Attending funerals over the past few years meant my weeping incessantly, not for the deceased in question, but still mourning you Dad, with the wounds of my loss re-opening each time. I am not sure I still understand why it had to be you. Watching your colleagues and mates getting old and grey when I lost what was between me and you made me feel vulnerable. This year, it is instead a new sort of mourning; a mourning in celebration of an exceptional man’s life forever entwined with my own personality.
Yes, I am an African woman who must portray her father in a certain acceptable way. I must speak conventionally of the dearly departed, which in the Zimbabwean way; I must always dwell on prudent exaggeration. Well Dad, isn’t it so wonderful that you always told me to be myself, no matter what the extenuating circumstances? Remember how you always had to say, “Please forgive her, she tends to speak her mind”? That always got the clan tongues wagging, citing your flawed parental skills.
I remember how after your burial, there was rampant gossip about how “She will definitely struggle to cope without her father who was way too tolerant of her uncouth, un-African manners and childishness.” Hanzi, “Akarererwa mu teaspoon”!
The most significant years of my childhood were spent with you, Dad. I believe in the saying that children become what they learn and surrounds them in their childhood. Dad called me Sunshine or Matinetsa, his mother’s name. He told me I was the ‘sunshine’ in the house. As the only girl, my feminine voice in our home was filled with warmth and brightness.
What more could I have asked for in a father?
It was always hectic around the house the day of going back to boarding school. The ‘help’ hired to assist with household chores was expected to get me ready for school, but alas, Dad would pile up my school uniform laundry and begin ironing every single item, meticulously folding it ready to be neatly stacked into my school trunk (I was enrolled into boarding school). The evening before I left was always punctuated by the aroma of a chicken roasting, which would then be packed in tin foil for my first day at boarding school. Looking back, every single thing he did for me was signed with love and affection coming straight from his heart.
And Dad, I could never forget that very special day! I recall the shock on your face when I came running into the house and announced I had started menstruating! Yep, you were my mummy, sister, aunty and BFF. So I innocently asked you for a tampon because the Johnson & Johnson Company had come to my school giving us information on menstruation and hygiene. They had even given all the girls free packets of tampons and sadly, I had given mine to a friend, not seeing the need for it then. Of course Dad knew about tampons, but he was clearly not prepared for them being used by his little girl. Deep in his mind, he grappled with the notion of my tampon use, as was evidenced by his insistence on my using sanitary pads. Only after consultation with our neighbour, a nursing sister, was he convinced… but not necessarily converted.
Dad, remember also how we danced to loud Thin Lizzy rock music, Bob Marley, Ashford & Simpson, Thomas Mapfumo and many others? Those were the days song books were the craze and I loved to go through your diverse music collection. I remember how you would always take us to the Safirio Madzikatire, Thomas Mapfumo, Izintombi Zesimanjemanje shows and Dad, didn’t you just get down, dancing to the beat? How could you not steal the show with the amount of dancing practice that occurred in our home, merry-making like there was no tomorrow?
Dad, I am forever indebted to our regular tête-à-têtes on self-expression. I loved peanut butter sandwiches so much that once, you challenged me to describe my feelings in writing. And voila, that became my first poem. Dad gave me poetic license which led to the candid transformation of my emotions, thoughts and opinions into poetry. In 1992 at the age of 16, twelve of my poems were published in Rosemary-Smith Kebe’s prose and poetry collection, “Bury Thy Humble”. Many other accomplishments followed.
Dad, you were so insistent on me taking up journalism as a career, much as I wanted to study law. Of course I studied journalism but am not in mainstream media owing to the environment which in my opinion, is not conducive to women. Just as some people were born great and others have greatness thrust upon them, I was born to express myself. Thank you dad for being spot on in directing my career path.
In spite of my media training, I am damn sure you turned in your grave when I eventually enrolled for my Bachelor of Law degree. Or did you perhaps laugh out loud?! Though I have since suspended the degree, what remains are the wings you gave me to fly with. Your parenting was not by the book. You saw what was in me and used it to bring out the best of me.
As I remember my dad, I cannot but help wonder why there cannot be many others like him. Traditionally, fathers are a powerful figure distanced from the practicalities of child-rearing, save for financially providing for their families. And yet, they can be a young girl’s best friend, boosting her character, affirming her personality and complementing her ability to relate and deal with society in general. Zimbabwean fathers only need put their mind to being there for their children as much as possible to contribute to their meaningful development.
Today I am remembering you, Dad, with sincerity. I really would have wanted you to be there for my girls too. I find solace in the fact that I am seeing a lot of you in me which somewhat compensates for the loss of you, my witty ingenious man who made me see the world with openness.
This is it, Dad. On this day I move on, even as the instant of our parting lives with me always.
Main photograph is from www.soultravelmultimedia.com