November 4, 2014 Mad Hatter

IN MEMORY OF THE DEAD: FATHER I AM NOW 24

So many times, in my own quest to be a man, I miss you. Those small voids that a young man experiences; the questions that a father would be suited to answer. The small successes that would make more sense if I felt your pat on the back. And that one thing that I would pay with my life to hear you say: Well done son.

In two short days, it will be sixth of November, 14 years since you died. It was on sixth, November, 2000. It was a Monday. I recall that day, though I was tiny, in stature and age, I still recall that day. I had been swimming in River Sio, you know that rock filled trench that taught my heart its rhythm. Water used to flow swiftly dad, and here the measure of a man was how swift you could swim against the current. A lifelong lesson I carry today.

Now, I know you are not aware, but three years earlier, I almost drowned here. You see, I was tiny, but always wanted to be a man. So I always took a dive, and when my brother Odhis, was not watching, I would go to the deeper ends. So on this day, I went into the silent waters, where current could not save me. So I swam, and swam till when my feeble arms could no longer hold me. I gasped for breath, and swallowed water.

These deep ends were so silent; no one seemed to notice as I gasped. Until this one guy, I just remember him as Moni. I should look for him, noticed me as I sank one more time. He did not rush to save me. The art of rescue meant that he had to wait, until when I had just swallowed enough water, before he could come.

But however designed that rescue thing, has never drowned. With every gasp and every gulp swallowed, is a step closer to death. The problem with drowning is that you are so aware that you are dying. So you keep reaching out to something, something that is not there. So you keeping gasping, amidst hopes that you may find something to hold onto to.

Well, that close shave with water never deterred my spirit. In childhood bravery, I still stood on the rugged rock naked, and took that bold plunge into the very depths that almost drowned me.

So on this Monday, after the ritual, I started walking him. You see, this plunge had so many things; you would leave the river with a buzz in your ear. And you had to jump up and down with the ear facing downwards for the water to come out. As the water came out, it was warm, close to being hot, and then you would hear well again.

So as water came out of my ears, I heard that unmistakable shriek. In Western Kenya, it could only mean one thing, a person was dead. People were crying, and from a far, I picked out Granny’s cry. You see, Granny had such a distinctive way of mourning; a rhythmic pulse that described loss and grief; a fusion of artistic cords with genuine cry. She could mourn, Granny mourned you Dad.

I wondered who would have died. I do not recall hearing anyone say you were sick. Even so, your death would have been the last thing on my mind. You were the last thing on my mind then.

But as I got home, I sensed danger. Mom was sobbing uncontrollably. She sat looking west, saying her friend had gone. Saying he had gone without a bye. Saying she missed those small things that were eaten up by years of separation. You see Dad, mom mourned you.

At first, it never struck me as anything. The gazes I received from people, those deeply warming sympathies that would make a young person believe that the loss only meant more concern. It is strange, but as I try to recall exactly what I felt, I think it was pride.

I felt proud of the loss, strange that sounds. But yes, I was ten, I had lost a father, and I had gazes of concern all around me. I was surrounded by love, and pats on the head. I was a son who had lost a father. All people go through this; just few people do so in the innocence of their childhood.

The memories of your funeral, cars; it is magical how in a village the number of cars that come for a funeral matter.

My last glimpse of you, you were stretched in that mahogany casket; peaceful in death. And I think I saw this dust on your shoe which I wanted to wipe before Auntie Pamela whisked me away.

Now, I never shed a tear, all through the days of the funeral; until by your graveside. When I saw your casket being lowered into the eternity something snapped.

I remembered that was the only time when it was just you and me. It had been in November, 1999. You were bringing me back home after a long stay in hospital. So you drove, I still remember the bottly- clings as your car, a jungle green KAC something passed over bumps. I still remember that sharp swerve on some corner when you almost hit a Matatu. You smiled with that guilt on your face.

Perhaps you may not recall, but I cried by your graveside. I just don’t know why. But you see, it is not good for a son to grow up never knowing how a pat on the back from a Dad would be.

I recount the hate I felt, and in my adolescent escapades the rebellion I waged against your grave. I never experienced your strict reign. But I enjoy the tales when my sister and bro tells me the fear your presence wielded. I am told anytime the hum of your car would pass by, they would run to their books. Yet, you had an eye for the one who was pretending. Bro, Tito tells me one day you found him looking at the book upside down. I think that was cool.

So many times, in my own quest to be a man, I miss you. Those small voids that a young man experiences; the questions that a father would be suited to answer. The small successes that would make more sense if I felt your pat on the back. And that one thing that I would pay with my life to hear you say: Well done son.

Now the last time you saw me, I was nine. The last place you saw me, was Granny’s gate. That was the happiest day ever Dad. You gave nine shillings; shiny silvery new shillings. It was such a boost. I added seven to my savings. You know I had a small hole on the Eastern wall of the house where I saved. I only emptied it on Christmas Eve. Because that was the only time mom would allow us to go and walk. And I would indulge in spending; I enjoyed outdoing my brother Odhis. Then I would some back home, a poor little fellow.

So that nine shillings went to my Christmas. And that smile is what the last thing I remember of you is.

Dad, I am now 24. And I no longer save for Christmas. I rarely celebrate Christmas. Mom, your friend has been awesome. I have stopped rebelling; I now live your aspirations. You know, it has not been easy. I do not have your photo, and I have to listen to stories about you and guess what you would have wanted of me. Granny thinks I really look like you, so secretly, I look forward to being old, then I will take two photos, one, I will write Lone Felix, and the other, Lone Felix-he who resembles Charles. That sounds cool.

Dad, I am now 24. And I no longer save for Christmas. And I would laugh at you if you gave me nine shillings. Your going gifted us an invaluable chance, to grow in uncertainty and lack. And so we have become tenacious and well rounded. But somehow, mom always reminded us that you would want us to succeed. She has been awesome.

Fourteen years can be a long time. I think they have taken a toll on her. But she has been awesome. Happy 14th Anniversary of your Rest.

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