Celebrating East African Writing!
For the longest time, I have denied a significant part of me, an essential half of who I am. The denial? That I am not only my mother’s daughter, I am also my father’s daughter. Lately I have stopped fighting that element of my soul by re-examining who I am. By denying that part of me, it dawned on me that I was denying my totality.
My father died three years ago. I never really cried or mourned him because I did not feel that he deserved that space in my life and thoughts. I was angry for a long time at who he was. To me, all his foibles were scores I had kept against him. He had at one point disowned us, saying that we were not his daughters. Yet, the irony is that at his deathbed, he expressed a wish to see us.
At home, my mother’s favourite admonition has always been, “You are just like your father.” I hated that statement.. He loved all the things tagged wrong, irresponsibility, alcoholism and womanising. Yet through all this, there were finer aspects to the man, my father. But I am not him; I have to create my own personality. I am not going to be defined by the person that he was. I am my own person; I create the realities I want to have.
My father loved books in all shapes and sizes, be it the daily paper, or the Readers Digest subscription my mother scoffed at. I remember him in the house with a novel of sorts when not drinking,. I remember in my mind’s eye the library subscription card which he got me as a child. The one that was cancelled when my primary school was banned from using the library. I remember how sad I felt.
Lately, I have to come to appreciate that love of the written word is my father’s gift to me. Of all my siblings, I am the book addict. In fact, my life journey has been totally absorbed by the written word. It has always been my escape from the awkward moments of my teenage years where I found refuge, to the university course I chose to undertake. Maybe the next phase of my life will be defined by this, too.
I have recently reclaimed that love which other people may find a bit bookish. My father was a man of the world but his legacy to me is the love for literature, the risk-taking side of me that I fight, love of adventure, and the drama queen in me, all the tamer aspects of his personality. To this canvas, I have added my own patterns and prints that I hope will enrich my life and the people I meet in my own life journey.
So last AIDS day, as I lit a candle for him, I cried because in so many ways he missed out in so many ways on the gift life gave him, me, his daughter. I shed the tears for the relationship that got lost in the process of living large and acknowledged that for all his faults, I am still his daughter.
In his life lessons, I have learnt that we make our own choices; that we are parts of our parents and we have the choice to claim the best of them and integrate those parts into ourselves to make a whole. So as the new year dawns and I make my resolutions a reality (one being to finally get something I write published), I hope my father would be proud of the changes going on in my life and I am happy to reclaim him in my heart.
© KIBANYA A. W. 2005