I find it complicated to speak about my father sometimes, because it is for me a lot of tripping down the cobbled lane of nostalgia. My father lived and worked overseas; as such, I saw him mostly during holidays, spoke to him over the phone and wrote him often in between.
I do not have memories of him angry, or sitting on a couch with a newspaper, or anything of the sort; this, for me, and the short time he and I had together (I was eleven when he passed away), make the memories all the more 'weighty'; they are gems I like to press close to my bosom. Something like that!
As such I can honestly say I was not exposed to my father's faults. Because the time we spent together was varied and therefore precious, it was not to be wasted in the trivia of fault-mapping. I was a child then.
Growing up all I ever wanted was to emulate him; everybody in the family seemed to hold him in high regard, his intellectual pursuits were often talked about and I heard often how my father was a 'smart man'. But none of this would matter, of course, had he not been a father to me; far away as he was, my dad and I had a very close bond.
A child’s expression of yearning
I remember as a child, thinking, rather selfishly, that this man was my father, and I his only child, and this seemed extremely special to little me and all I ever wanted was him all to myself. He seemed to effectively impart this as I remember getting attention from him whenever I demanded it. Phone rendezvous had to be honoured, letters replied consistently. Any deviation from this norm would send little me off into a sulking fit.
But I suppose these seemingly churlish reactions were simply a child's expression of yearning for constant connections with this father she loved so much. I remember I would go and sit by the post box and wait for the postman, for successive days until the anticipated letter from my father arrived. I would show off these letters to my classmates. I was like the proudest daughter ever!
I never understood why my father kept on going back to school to do these 'Masters' and these 'PhDs'. In my little mind, school was for people my age, really! I remember I did 'chide' him about that once.
A Matter of Injustice
As I was saying. In this previous post on my blog, I wrote how I was looking for Lawrence's book. About a month or perhaps a little over a month ago, I received an email from one of my dad's friends, Pat Thompson. This kind lady offered to send me her copy of my father's book, which he had signed to her as a wedding gift. And you have to marvel at the kindness of people in the world, it is a humbling thing indeed.
To say I was grateful and excited is an understatement. So. Today I received this copy of 'A Matter of Injustice: Law, State and the Agrarian Question in Zimbabwe' in the mail. It is a politico-economic book with all this lawyer lingo and that frowning straight-faced style of the intellectuals. I am going to read it from cover to cover.
I've been perusing the first pages and it's rather fascinating 'cause as I'm reading I keep thinking 'so this was what Lawrence was passionate about; this is the type of intellectual work that my father enjoyed; this is a part of Lawrence the Man who was Lawrence my Father' and I keep linking stuff especially in the acknowledgements page to Lawrence the Father.
The acknowledgments page begins: 'The intellectual exercise of researching and writing a book can be compared to an odyssey. One embarks upon it with a compass, rather than a map, pointing them towards the destination. Since one is without a map, they are usually unaware of the layout and challenges of the terrain to be transversed. One, however, has the company of fellow travellers, some who have trodden the route before and others who are out for the first time. The end of the particular odyssey, the publication of the book, provides an opportunity for acknowledging the support given by fellow travellers...'
Many, many many thanks to Pat Thompson, a thousand thanks, a million thanks. She is so gracious, making the effort to send me this book, which was her wedding gift. That is very humbling for me indeed.
A father-daughter thing
There are pieces of life that fall on us which then come to touch us in profound ways; what is life then but aspirational future breath-taking present in between and precious streams of memory, of breath and thought and dream and hope and the people we have truly loved who have truly loved us, and sweet nostalgia. Memory. Pieces falling onto the lap at varied points in time, to instruct to remind or simply to be cherished. Such as this excerpt tucked into the mail along with the book, dated 1994 (I was six then and in my first year of primary school) - my dad loved letter writing I think it was one of his delightful habits:
'My daughter's name is Novuyo. Most African names have a meaning. Novuyo means 'mother of mercy' in Ndebele. I regret that I do not have an African name. I blame that on Christianity and its supposed civilizing mission. I grew up in an area which was administered by the Roman Catholic Church. We all had to have Christian names as part of the process of civilizing us. Things have since changed - we now give our children African names as part of the process of defining and asserting our identity. While the Shakespearean rose may be a rose by any other name, we feel that names have a lot to do with our struggles to define ourselves.
Back to my daughter, she is in her first year of formal school and is doing well. She lives with her mother and I see her whenever I can. When I am in Zimbabwe I visit her regularly. I usually take her for an outing and I try to squeeze in as much parental love as I can into the time I spend with her. I am happy that she can now read and write because we can write to each other. I got a letter from her and she tells me that she was top of her class in the mid-year tests. She asked me to send her story books and sunglasses. There are indications that she might turn out to be a bibliophile. Her mother thinks she is taking after her father. I do not disagree - modesty is one of my weak points...'
My dad was a relentless bibliophile - there are tonnes of books which he collected, mostly socio-politico-economic books, and some 'serious literature' among the collection. I have boxes and boxes of his books and I wonder what I shall do with all of them. I especially need to read his book; he dedicated his book to his daughter.
'I am especially indebted to my daughter, Novuyo, who went through some of her critical formative years without the presence of her father. This book is dedicated to her.'
A million thanks once again to Pat Thompson, who has just made my day for many days, and who I hope to meet someday!
It goes without saying that the first book I ever publish I shall dedicate to my father. It's a father-daughter thing. :-)
This article first appeared in 2011 on Novuyo’s blog, online at http://writerdelic.blogspot.com/