The father who wasn’t mine but the only father I knew.
I never knew my father. I don’t know what it’s like to look into my hero’s eyes. Feel his arms around me. See the look of love and pride, looking back at me.
My grandfather. Everyone called him Pa. He was my father and until his death, my mother.
A product of an English father and an African mother, he didn’t look like me. But he loved me. Cause I was his flesh and blood.
Pa never said I love you.
But I knew his love for me ran deep. Because he sent his wife packing because she didn’t want me around. He gave up his life to take care of me.
I was only 9 months old.
Our relatives still joke about how he used to put me on one side of the hamper on his donkey. To balance the load, he would place stones on the other side.
It was Pa who would wake me up at 5:00am and dunk me in the nearby river. Because he claimed it was good for me. Who knew?
He willed my childhood land to me. It was his way of making sure his love for me did not die with him.
Pa didn’t know how to say I love you. But he showed it. Each evening I heard it in his voice as he read to me. While I sat at his feet on the back steps leading up to our tiny home.
Sometimes I read to him. He would correct and guide as I learned.
Each New Years’ Eve as he held my tiny hands and placed the money he had saved all year. So I could go to the “grand market” to buy my Christmas gifts.
Pa was the one standing with pride in his wet eyes when I passed my Common Entrance Exam. He had reason to be proud of himself. For enrolling me in school at 2 years old. For teaching me how to read even though he never went to school beyond the third grade.
I don’t care who my father is. I haven’t cared for a long time.
And to those who say but ‘he’ was your father. I say oh yeah? Prove it. And I don’t mean with DNA. Show me the photos. Show me the legacy. Show me the memories.
Because I have none of these things. And that’s what a father does. He leaves his baby girl with pleasant memories of him. Even if they weren’t all good. She will remember him with love in her heart and a smile on her lips.
Like I remember, Pa.
There was no father to tell me what to look for in a husband. My father wasn’t standing in the doorway eyes narrow, peering at my first date. Shotgun tucked away in the hall closet by the door.
My father wasn’t there when I was beaten and bruised by bullies at the end of the school day.
He wasn’t there to fight for me when ‘he’ didn’t listen when I told him ‘no’.
Men did not care how they treated me because they knew there was no one to whom they were held accountable.
But Pa was there for as long as he could. He’s dead now. The only father I miss. Because I can only miss what I had.
So as we approach Father’s Day. I want to raise my glass to Pa. I want to raise my glass to all the men who chose to stay. Despite the difficulties. Despite the challenges to your pride.
Not even a bruised ego could keep you away.
You stayed anyway.
For this, I salute you.
Happy Father’s Day.
I love you.