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I sigh. It’s a tussle of internal conflict. The edges of my psyche have tugged on opposite sides, leaving me outstretched right in the centre. I had imagined it would have been simpler, letting it all out. But that’s been met with fierce combat from within. Voices have echoed in my head saying, “You know what man, it’s water under the bridge now. You don’t have to look back and be Lot’s wife – a pillar of salt. Let go and carry on, life is for the living.” Then I asked, my own father ? Water under the bridge ? Impossible.
A few weeks ago at the dinner table, my eldest sister remarked, “Everyone went through it individually. We never took time as a family to process it together. We all just got on with our lives.” At that moment my face may have looked reticent but that statement was full of thunder, it struck me to the core. Maybe she was right maybe she wasn’t. That mattered less. What bothered me is I became restless and I came to a resolution. I vowed to address it my way. No longer yielding to the tyranny of silence. Until of course I decided to act and here I am emotionally sucker punched.
It’s eight years today dad since you breathed your last. Eight years have elapsed now and the word dad bears insignificant meaning to me. Whom am I to call that ? It was my utmost desire to be frank as I penned you this letter. It’s worth noting that honesty has an exorbitant price tag. But you are worth every dime dad so I’ll go ahead and try. Wish me luck.
Fresh as morning dew. That’s how my memory is of that accursed evening. 9p.m Ctizen t.v news bulletin. When Wahiga Mwaura read the chyron,”Nalo succumbs…” I didn’t listen to the rest of it. My head dropped because for the second time that day my worst fears were affirmed. First at dawn by doctors. Then at dusk, the fourth estate reading it out loud to an astonished public.
We live in a country where it’s strenuous being the son of an illustrious man. You don’t catch too many breaks from your pedigree. Everything you achieve is linked to your lineage including taking a wee. Barely do you get any credit for your own agency. Any brilliance you may possess is zeroed in to one factor; you are the son of ‘so and so’. And therefore by extension incapable of any commendable act were it not for the blood-ties you share with the renowned man. Neither are you allowed to have problems nor encounter challenges. There’s an unwritten consensus, you had it easier, will continue to and so the school of hard-knocks will seldom call on you. So zip it! Privileged wimp!
Inarguably for this reason, I have purposed to distance myself from you dad. I have desired to be my own man, to personally orbit round my accomplishments though diminutive. Knowing that I am not the type to bask in another man’s glory regardless of our closeness. I have sought distinction for self so that I may live wholly and not merely by proxy. In your lifetime you held your own pretty well, I desire the same for myself. It may not be what you would like to hear dad but beyond family conversations, in some moments, I have erased you. It is in this spirit of laconism and aloofness, that I found so much trouble articulating my thoughts to you, eight years after the plug was pulled between us.
It hasn’t sat well with me because I have felt like a traitor. Picking and dropping you like a bad habit whenever convenient. It’s emotionally grating. Some days my conscience is drenched in sorrow and I can’t help my eyes getting rheumy. Other days, I am stolidly cold, feeling nothing as if you never were. Ultimately, I must admit my efforts to flee have been inutile. From time to time I’m still reclaimed by the shadows of your greatness. Despite how far away I wander, I keep coming back to you. Dad, your name has rendered me opportunities. Mighty men have looked at me twice and given me audience. Your many good deeds have trickled down blessings to my life. And the contrary is also true, in some spaces I have been loathed to death for our association. Hence my attempts of renouncing you have been akin to waiting for pigs to fly.
How dare I deny you ? When we are so alike. When we both have identical birthmarks on our left ring fingers. When during our hay days we were like two peas in a pod. How do I start cutting of the hand that fed me ? Arms that cradled me ? The man that named me. How does a seed refuse to sprout in its innate form ? It has dawned on me that I cannot have my cake and eat it. That looking further I will not shy away from my heritage. For without you there is no me. If you have to live twice so that I can live once so be it. Fame is the perfume of heroic deeds’ and if being your son is a heroic deed; then let me be famous. You prayed for rain, it’s my turn to deal with the mud.
Eight years down the line and you have missed out on quite a bit. I must say I feel obliged to let you know. That’s if wherever you are, they let you read snail-mails sent from earth. Okay fine, I’ll start with the most important things but you have to vouch not to break out of the casket. Seriously, I am not burying you for the second time. Anyway that’s up to you, if you decide to show up then just show up.
For a start, you are a grandfather of three. Thee ‘trifecta’. If only if I could send photos. Two girls and recently a boy. They look nothing like you but they are adorable. How pleased a man you would be. I will hug them tighter for your sake.
I am done with high school and on to tertiary education. If I am in University then every other person is more or less balding. Your kids are old man, they are beginning to shirk birthdays and are concealing their age in their knees. They conclude WhatsApp texts with corny phrases like ‘Godspeed’. Some of them have jobs and speak corporate English, for instance, “ Thanks, confirmed receipt.” They are taking life a little too seriously because they have utility bills to pay every month.
A credible education is a feat I am certain you’d hold in high regard. You got a shot to a decent life because you boarded a plane to go gobble books and mint ideas. More so, that mum did it on her own. She balanced the books and somehow each of us found their way into a classroom. She’s a farmer which of course you are well aware. She’s a granary of abundance. She’s harvested more than enough for all of us to stomach. Both for our bellies and our hearts. We have never lacked dad. We are yet to stumble on a windfall but the hand of providence has proven sufficient.


It’s not worth splitting hairs for. However, you ought to know that a few prominent fellows attended your funeral. With chase cars, strobe lights and bodyguards. They promised us manna from heaven; school fee, healthcare, food and other short stories. While the subtext of what they were meaning to do was mock your downfall. And with your plummet to the grave they envisaged that of your household too. Well this is me telling you sit pretty or lie pretty whichever the case. We are fine and will continue to be so. ‘Godspeed!’ remember ?
Manchester United are evolving into just another English club. I can hear you gasp already. Old Trafford has finally become the theatre of dreams. We scarcely win anything nowadays, we just dream on chanting, “Next season mtaona!” How do I begin explaining to you that Arsenal beats us sometimes let alone draw against us. They don’t dread us anymore Dad. We do the talking and they do the kicking. I’m sure their feet hurt after defeating us two nil last season. I can’t believe this is the club you so fervently and ritually inducted me to, in 2003. When all we did was win. Damn it! I am only 22 years old but have to turn historian whenever I want to trace our last Premier League triumph. Hey I’m not trying to allude to anything here, though if you had actually planned your demise, because you foresaw what’s coming. I deserved a heads up at least to find another planet. From 2012 I have known no joy just perseverance. Dad you left with the best of us, you saw the last of it. You left with Sir Alex and the silverware. Glory Glory Man United (GGMU) not anymore.
Which leads me to a burning issue. A few months back mum narrated to me an account of your youthful shenanigans. Perhaps, while in your 30s. It was an enthralling story, one I’m not ready to get over. She told me that you were a diehard Gor Mahia fan, if anyone were to slit your wrist the oozing blood would resemble green. That you’d have Ugali and a heavier escort for breakfast on match days. Then you’d meet up with your fellow K’ogalo mercenaries. Ready to march and sing war songs as you awaited kick off. That you were so devout you took part in cleansing Mombasa road before the Gor bus passed.
That apart from her, your fidelity was committed to a football club. And she did not mind being a charitable lover sharing her bed with the many Gor games reeling in your head. Or rather she had no choice. You would have supported Gor anyway. Is it true Dad ? Were you a Green Army zealot? How did you lose that niche because in your latter years I never saw it. Please find a way to answer, this one is a cliffhanger I find hard to ignore. If so, it vindicates my fanatical behavior towards Man U and Gor Mahia. My manners are thrown out of the window when they play. In spite of losses they accrue I never grow dispassionate. It seems like I’ll have to pin this negative trait on you. I am not a fanatic, it’s my father, it’s genetics. If the solution is modifying genes then it takes a village.
Talking about villages. For the entirety of my life I have never spent so much time there than I did this year. Similar to African literature that prescribes the advent of colonialists here as, people who looked like pigs who came through a long snake. A virulent flu too, that manages to kill, got here from the East via a plane. Know-it-alls christened it a pandemic, it’s like something you lived through in the 80’s. In the calibre of HIV/AIDs – when the promiscuous lot of your time played the field and dropped dead the next morning. So this pandemic got us doing insane stuff we found inane. We wear masks to cover our noses – which in all fairness I doubt you’d survive, God had endowed you with a 4000cc nose. Everytime you sneezed in the house everything went mute, the gas cooker and t.v set notwithstanding. Dad your sneezing was a blitz; you did it like you meant it. Anyway, we also wash our hands habitually and we stay an arm’s length from the next person.
That flu made me descend to Ahero, mum spends most of her time there nowadays. What better place to wade off a flu, no man from Nyando has ever died of one. Not a single incident I’ve heard of. It’s in the ins and outs of that voyage that I understood how much of a deluge you still are there. Not even your posthumous state has reduced your seminality. Boss you are a juggernaut. Deservedly so, I trudged murram road networks attributed to your interventions. I walked in alleys brightly lit with electricity connected by your jolting fire for development. In the village, you are very much alive. Of Tura’s many fallen heroes you are one of them. Embedded in it’s fabric and generations to come will listen to lores of your splendid life. Those of your contributions to Tura as a paragon homeboy.
Looking in now and in hindsight. We are men of contrasts. Stark chasms persist that set the course of our lives apart. You were born rural, died cosmopolitan. I am born cosmopolitan and on assessment I may just die rural. City life does not kick it for me. It should shed light on our views on religiosity. You a staunch Catholic. How I have lost my lustre concerning Catholicism over time. I find it difficult to mesh my indigenousness and Christianity – a foreign concept.
Why would a god from the middle east be any better than Obong’o Nyakalaga from Nyanza ? Not that I despise alien beliefs but if Obong’o Nyakalaga has to vanish for the alien God to reign. Then maybe it’s worth despising. Especially coming from a community where we rarely suffer inferiority complex. Why do we hate ourselves so much ? It’s a facet of my life I would seek your counsel on Dad – my spiritual journey. Whether it should head to Jerusalem or Kendu Bay.
Beyond being a Christian deviant, I’m grown now, physically. Taller than you with a foot the length of a fluorescent bulb. And a richly tanned complexion compared to yours. My physical attributes do not reflect yours much. My best bet is my genes took the better part of mum’s side. There they are lofty, burly and have a complexion filled with bitumen. That’s what I am. I have a mane too – crispy beard. Unfortunately the hair on my chin does not make me feel more of a man. I thought it would but I was mistaken. I get sleepless nights, mulling my masculinity. Pondering whether I am doing it right. Am I too tender or too machismo. Should I put my foot down or be pregnable. Your wisdom would come in handy Dad. On what a model man is for I was inundated with adulation for you.
Frankly it stings knowing that I am deprived of that validation for the rest of my life. It hurts even more after each milestone. I suffered the pain most on my high school graduation. When I saw friends get embraced by fathers for stepping into adulthood. Present were my two sisters and nieces whom I candidly appreciate. But it was not the same. It shred me into pieces, I was bereft of your touch. “I am happy for you son,” the would be baritone in your approval. Oh how I wish. And it won’t be any different when I complete my degree. It will be another ceremony where I will crumble to shambles. Grieving as others achieve. I miss you immensely and how I long for you. To see what I am becoming. To critique, to journey this process together. What I’d give for one more rendezvous Dad. You are the missing piece to my puzzle. One that will remain incomplete forever. Sometimes scribble a note or we could work out an AGM. That will suffice Dad. Just a glimmer of your presence. After you passed on, I have died many deaths inside. Particularly on father’s day.
It’s a day when my loss glares at me. When all I get is to reminisce while others jubilate. Not only then, parent’s days in high school were an uphill task. I got smothered by envy because my deskmate’s dad always appeared. Which evoked so much of you because you were always there. I remember all those Saturdays you turned up to my football training sessions when alternatively you could have chosen to go make an extra buck. I remember the games you cheered me on and we celebrated all the goals I scored together. I regret to inform you our football dream hit the wall. I will not be a pro in Europe furnishing mum’s bank account with sterling pounds. I tried it out at Ligi Ndogo and realized many are called but few are chosen. I have other talents to boot now. Playing pro football was one of our final conversations, I rue that I couldn’t deliver. Life happened.
We were out and out friends. Best buds. My siblings can choke on this but I was your favorite child. Just as Jesus had John, I was your most beloved. That was affirmed by the numerous times we sought company in one another. I recall the 2006 world cup final on a Sunday night. I had school the next but you managed to convince the powers that be to let me watch it. We supported France, we lost, we sulked but woke each other up to face the week the next morning. You looked out for me, so did I for you. Weekends when I covered up for you when asked about your whereabouts. I said you were in the office but I knew you were enjoying your golf.
Remember occasionally on sundays when we both snoozed in church and raised questions about the sermon after the service. It was a ruse we used to trick mum into believing we were attentive congregants. It worked, saved us further biblical lectures. I recall the Kigali trip you postponed. You had been on the road and we had not had a Saturday to ourselves for two months. You sacrificed work for us to hang out. I miss the Sunday afternoon siestas, nap time to salve the wounds of the week. When I licked my chops for you to arrive on weekdays, to teach me how to cycle. You did and picked me up every time I fell.
The KBC Swahili interview, that one was a gem. When you said “matako ya wananchi” when what you meant was “matakwa”. It was a hilarious gaffe and you never took offense. You made peace with the decrepit Swahili you spoke. You had to settle for one foreign language. It was to be the Queen’s language or Swahili. You chose the crown like any King would.
A modest and simple man. Traits you exuded whenever flattered. The gleam on your face when you heard Jerry Jalamo shout you out in one of his songs. You had a glittering smile with snazzy teeth. Each case neatly arranged as if in an alphabetical order. Whether it was mid-life crisis or not, figuring out why you started listening to Keyshia Cole and Mary J Blige after you hit 50. Will stand a mystery to me. Or why you used wet hand towels in restaurants to wipe your face. Maybe you were just doing you and am cool with that. It was part of the uniqueness in you. I’m yet to meet a man who crunched bones the way you did. Man you had mandibles on steroids. I will keep missing the crackling laughter and the pensive fury. How you marshalled respect by bellowing “Omera!’ when displeased. You did it your way with values that to date I respect.
I respect that you valued process and loyalty. That every other Sunday you sat down and polished your own shoes prepping for work even when you could afford to get someone else to do it. I respect that we’d go to car washes even when the car was visibly clean because you believed in people who earned a living – so you bent over backwards to create employment for them. I respect the fact that you always tipped whenever you could, no matter how meagre the amount. You believed that people could do with a pat on the back even when all they did was; fulfill their responsibility. I respect that you never bargained with small traders even when they were glad they were ripping you off – you understood another man’s win was never your loss. I respect your willingness to give even when financially your hands were tied. I respect that for the time I saw you on this earth, you never cheated on your barber. Your cobbler and tailor as well. I respect your commitment to work and making a difference. I respect the biggest inheritance you left me was never material wealth but principles.
Cancer is indeed an ass. The harm it did to you it did to me. But though it did the obnoxious to you and ebbed your life out. I want you to know that never at once did I entertain the thought of your absence. Till it occurred. One evening I fled home and ran all the way to hospital to see you and be with you. Well, they refused to let me in, it was past visiting hours. But I never gave up on you even when doctors said the end was in sight. I’m thankful that you hang on with all you had left. You proved that to me, the one moment I held your hand in the ICU. You dared to speak and open your eyes despite your frailty. That fortified your superhero status in my life.
In the brief fourteen years we had, you gave me a lot to relish and cherish. I’m grateful for that. And if I am to peep into my piggy bank, the greatest currency in that trove – are the memories you left me with. What I am glad to know is that you won’t see me get lowered in a grave. I already did that for you. Life is set up that way, it’s either someone you love sees you die and leaves you feeling hollowed as I do, or I die and they are left feeling that way. Either way, myself or someone I love will go through this. If two people love, this is their fate.
I have many tales to tell when we meet. There has to be an afterlife, I need a sequel. I will tell you that just before my nineteenth birthday. I met a girl in the City center, kissed her dizzy and fell in love. She had a fairer skin tone and was a little plump. Everything about her was tender. I mean everything. One year later we broke up and for some months I was devastated. That in those months I turned to a reveler and I never learnt how to sip beer or whiskey. Because I hoped that you’d be the one to teach me how to. On that day I hope to tell you about my dreams, failures and accolades in the life I lived. That I ventured into politics as you envisioned. And that I am shattered wishing to be fathered. I will hope to tell you that I was a father and I did fatherhood in memory of you. I will hope to converse with you to no end.
For now I will keep dialing your number hoping you pick. For now I will live on and strive forward because that’s what you would wish. I have interacted with people who knew you and all they seem to recount is your prowess. Your skill, your profession and career. From my side, you were more than a decorated economist. You were my dad, a bountifully intimate man with a lovable character. From that end you earned a purple hat and were a five star general. In the legion of fathers you were the best of them.
Men only live as long as the last person who remembers them. Long as I am, you will exist forever dad. I will mourn you till I join you. I love you Ratego. Rest in Peace Wuod Ahero. Rest in Eternal Peace JaTura


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