Of Fathers and Sons

All was silent as the car sped along the highway from Nairobi enroute to Eldoret. All except for these series of phone calls that daddy kept receiving. I did not make much of them. None of us did. “He is a busy man and rarely is his phone silent for more than a minute”. That is how we justified these unusual calls. However, our ears pricked up when it came to our understanding that all the callers were from Marakwet district where daddy hails from. “It must be some wayward relative causing trouble”, I thought to myself. It wasn’t unusual for such to be brought to daddy’s attention. He is a strict disciplinarian and my young backside testified to this very well. Granddaddy had been sick for sometime and daddy kept going back to check on him. However, I didn’t dwell so much on the thought. I didn’t allow it to progress- didn’t want to even though it lingered at the back of my mind. My young mind drifted off to the things that young minds ponder on-food was number one on the list. Daddy finally put the phone down and an eerie loud silence filled the car. Not even mum dared ask what was wrong as she would have usually done. In a low husky voice that was full of pathos, Daddy broke through the silence in our native Marakwet language…

“I think father has rested.”

Very little was spoken after that. I glanced back and forth across my parents’ faces. I couldn’t help notice daddy blinking away impending tears. This was one side of him I had never seen before. I knew him as the tough dad. If I knew of one person on the face of this earth, who could face up to any challenge, no matter how insurmountable it seemed, it was him. Seeing him grieve for one who had lived to the ripe age of 104 years struck a cord in my heart. Like a light bulb that had been lit in my head, it all dawned on me how much he loved granddaddy. I recalled of the many stories he had told with much fervour concerning him; his historic trip to Uganda where he had a road accident that left him with a characteristic limp, his business ventures in Northern Kenya (buying and selling goats), his music band and their famous performance before His Excellency, the Late Mzee Jommo Kenyatta in Iten, the respect accorded to him as being the first one to build a “posho” mill in Aror nearby Kapsowar centre-it was run by water energy. The list is endless. He loved him and a picture that rests above the fire place testifies of this. An old man in a wheelchair, where he spent his latter days, smiles broadly revealing teeth that have stood the test of time. The more I think of it all, the more I see a little bit of him in daddy every other day; his hard work and sharp wit for new business ventures, his concern for family and the stretching of the available resources to ensure that his loved ones get the best of formal education. As I ponder on this father-son link, my young mind goes ahead of time and asks itself, “Will my son see a little bit of granddaddy in daddy?”

Father-son link. It is universal. It transcends tribe, nationality, race and yes, even religion. Two particular scenes come to mind. All from the movies. Movies that were inspired by true stories. Though they may have been exaggerated by Hollywood, the truths put across are so real in our day to day lives. Carl Brashear in “Men of Honour” shows bravery and courage that is not commonplace. He goes against the grain to prove that he is good at what he does-navy deep sea diving. One time, his career is at stake all because he is coloured (read black). His trainer in a bid to try and break it down to him that he will not be allowed to qualify, ends up in confrontation. This brings to the fore what fuels Carl on. His father exhorted him to be the best. Never quit even when the going got tough. And just to make sure that he won’t forget those pertinent words, he inscribed the initials “ASNF” on a wooden home-made radio and gave it to Carl. Nothing could hold him back. Not a low standard of education. Not his skin colour and definitely not even an accident that rendered him disabled. All because a father had dared inspire his son to a higher notch in life.

James farmer Jr. in “The Great Debaters” was the son of a local preacher. He went to the local college. Racial segregation was at its peak and from time to time, he had to endure seeing his father go through some embarrassing moments just to ensure that his family was safe. Fear and shame were the two foes that James longed to see fall. He didn’t have to wait for long. He saw it on the day his debating coach was illegally arrested, and his father-that local preacher-led a local farmers union and students in protest. James saw his father use the power of words and a sprinkle of civil disobedience to stand up against the sheriff. The coach was released amidst cheers of victory by the farmers and students. I couldn’t help wipe away a tear when father and son met eye to eye and without words but with mirth that I could understand, both nodded and acknowledged the love and respect they had for each other. It was a beautiful moment.

A moment that should be shared more often between fathers and sons. I don’t mean to sound mushy. It is not my prerogative to encourage senseless expressions of feelings between father and son. I think we have too much of that already. We do not need more boys growing up into wimps rather than men. The female folk have complained enough. It is time we listened to them. They have a point to put across. Going easy on the words, allow me to state my heartfelt intention for this treatise. I think, and I know there are many out there who would agree with me, that fathers should teach their son the issues of life-both now and hereafter. Privileged is the son who learns these virtues from his father; the importance of hard work; respect for the ladies; good management of resources; choosing of friends wisely; discipline in time management; respect for authority, …and definitely fearing God. Privileged is the son indeed. Many have failed in their roles as fathers. Many have failed in their roles as sons too. However, there is one who gives both a fresh start and the prodigal son knows that too well.

I am now at campus. A picture of daddy adorns the wall with the words “Prov 15:20a” and initials “ASNF” above and beneath it respectively. A wise son brings joy to his father and I intend to do just that if I have not already. Besides…A Son Never Forgets!

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