Mum and dad reconciled when I was 8 years old and in class 3. We lived in Matuga back then and the place was fun for me, most of the time, because I had friends my age both from school and at home. Sundays were a great joy because of pretty Madam Irene who smelled really nice and taught us fun songs at Sunday school. She also had a really nice smile that would show the mwanya on her upper front teeth and make you smile back. Bible study at her house rocked because it included additions like tea with cake or buttered bread- which we never had at other adults’ houses- so I always wished we had bible study at her place each time!
Life was idyllic and very normal for me until the day mum and Angy went to Nairobi. I felt jealous at my sister because I also wanted to go to Nairobi but mom wouldn’t take me! When I learnt Angy had gone because her heart was sick, I was promptly sorry and didn’t feel so bad about being left behind anymore. I don’t clearly recall how daddy came to Matuga but the day Angy and mum were to arrive back, there was a lot of excitement around the house.
And when at last they arrived, it was with a man my sister called “daddy”. It was so weird because I wasn’t sure how to act around him. I didn’t spend too much time caring about him though because I was distracted by the thrill of making new friends with my step-brother who had come along with him too.
I remember my dad sitting in the living room sometime but I don’t recall playing with him or anything. The day I most remember though, is when, in the process of playing around the house and arguing about something with my sister, I made an “inappropriate” comment. I don’t remember what exactly I said, but I know it wasn’t vulgar because my sister wasn’t instantly shocked as would have been her reaction. Instead she shushed me and told me that it would be improper if daddy heard what I’d said. Of all things I recall about that moment, it’s how pissed I felt that this stranger was new to us and now we couldn’t speak as we pleased?! Why does he matter so much? I quietly wondered and was soon to find out.
All of a sudden, we were moving to Eldoret where he lived! Strangely even though I’d made many friends in Matuga, I wasn’t nostalgic at leaving. I don’t know now, if I was too young to have strong attachments or whether it had to do with the fact that I had always been fascinated with Eldoret. Back when we used to live in Voi, my siblings and I thought Eldoret was abroad- and so I was all good leaving Matuga for the place.
I recall Eldoret being very cold- colder than I had ever experienced- and even though I was all cooped up in sweaters and a beanie, I still felt cold and wondered how the passersby in the town walked around in shirts only! The (literally) cold welcome was made bearable once we got to my father’s house.
I loved the Eldoret house. It was the most beautiful we’d ever lived in and I was so thrilled at the thought of living there that nothing could dampen my excitement about this new place . “If having a daddy means living in a house like this, I’m all good.” That must have been my thought back then because I took the move really positively. And I remember my mum and dad speaking to us about moving to a new school and how we shouldn’t be scared. My dad held me in his lap that day and kept saying how I shouldn’t be scared because I was going to be number one in the whole class and that my new classmates were the ones who should be threatened by me. I remember just smiling and nodding because I didn’t understand why it was so important to be number one.
I was happy though, that I was going to the new school with my step-brother and Eldoret held a lot of excitement for me at the time. To his credit, my dad took us out a lot- and we always had a great time during those family outings. To this day, when I see a pack of Aromat with the picture of ox-tail soup, it always reminds me of him. He made the meanest ox-tail soup I’ve ever tasted!
And despite most of my happy memories being replaced by fights he had with mum; despite the fact that I finally understood the angry scribbles I found on the car’s back seat one morning, I was actually sad when he passed away.
The last time I’d seen him alive was in hospital when we’d brought him fruits. I recall how orange the paw-paws in the salad looked. Back home, one time when I was going through stuff in my mom’s room, I found a box of delicious-looking assorted chocolates that I would have eaten promptly had they not been sealed. I considerately asked mum if I could have one and she said that we all would, once daddy gets better. And I felt proud to be able to wait day after day of knowing where the chocolates were!
The morning she broke the news to us- that dad had passed away the previous night- I recall being blank for a few minutes before noticing my sisters crying, mum crying and people I didn’t know, walking into our house with bibles and looking forlorn. And I cried then- like everyone else (Although right now I’m not so sure why I cried). I think I felt really bad that he hadn’t grown better and part of me had really held on to that hope.
The chocolates were forgotten by my mum. When I later rediscovered them, I recall staring at them and feeling guilty because I really REALLY wanted to have one despite what mum had said. And so on impulse, I opened the package because I didn’t really believe the chocolates would just sit there and never be eaten.
The funeral was a whirlwind of meeting relatives I never knew and going to places I’d never been. And now, when I compare my aunt’s funeral to my dad’s, I realize that I’ve never felt empty at losing him. I’ve sat in my aunt’s house and fondly thought, “If she was here right now, she would…”. But I’ve never felt that longing for my father. The saddest loss I recall feeling was my step-brother leaving us to go stay with his mom somewhere in Namanga.
For a man who has shaped a lot of my thoughts on major things like marriage and parenthood, its weird how indifferent I feel towards my late father. Each time I mention that he passed away and someone tells me sorry, I feel nothing, except the need to explain that we were never close, so there is really no need for condolences. I have mourned that late aunt of mine fifty times more than I ever have my own father and it’s not about the hateful person he became. For, even my mother at some point became an unlikable person to me, yet, I will always feel something intense for her- dislike and love too- but I know I will never feel indifferent towards her.
And I usually wonder: could it be that the nine years apart burnt whatever bridges there could have been between my father and I? I doubt this because there are people who meet their parents after decades and still strike a connection. I tend to think that my indifference springs from the reason that in all honesty, my dad added nothing new or significant to my life.
In the two years we lived with him, there is no skill my father taught me; no new story he read me and no place we visited just the two of us. The only mark that remains of him is his famous ox-tail soup- the taste of which I also cannot call to mind.