African man, African dad, African pride

It was easier to reject this temptation knowing I was making you proud.

It took me about two months to finally say to the married man who wanted me that I just couldn’t comply because it felt wrong. I told him you had just died and that mother had followed eight months later so I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to sustain any kind of relationship with him.

I said it was highly likely for me to form an unhealthy attachment to him since I had been so lonely without you and mother. I reminded him that he had a beautiful wife and children and told him my history with an absentee father and how I couldn’t belong to the same group as those women who took you away from our family.

I told him so much, but that was not the whole story. I yearned to tell him that I wanted to spend time with him, to lie on his chest with his arms around me and to feel comforted and cared for by a grown man.

For the first time in my whole life, I realised what the desire for a present father figure can spark in a lonely woman’s life. And for the first time, you nudged me in the right direction even if from a different realm.
It was easier to reject this temptation knowing I was making you proud.

Rough terrain

You see, the first time I met you it was under duress. Mother was tired of the frustrations of raising four children alone and asking you to participate, so she pointed me in the direction of your office, saying I needed to introduce myself and ask you for school fees from then on.

Every three months I came to you, nervous and scared, and presented my case. Every three months you were not welcoming and you put the fear of God in me, made it clear that mother was useless and could not even afford our cheap needs. You told my brothers and I never to come to your office without appointments and treated us like we were leeches.

But you were the first man I loved and unlike others I would meet later in life, you had to love me back. I wanted a proper father-daughter relationship with you so I kept making the appointments, taking deep breaths and saying prayers, bracing myself for your insults in order to see you and get my school fees.

Once when I was 12 years old, I drafted about 20 questions for you that would help me understand why you left us. But your hostility scared me stiff so I ripped the paper into pieces and carried on with my appointments and deep breaths.

Amidst the confusion, you and I kept surviving – you hiding behind your work and meanness towards us and me clothed in a dark cloud that said there was no way around our issues and that our relationship would forever be strained.

New leaf

But when I grew older, I realised we were both suffering in silence, so I vowed to love you till death did us part, to tell you I loved you even if you didn’t say you loved me too. This was all I could do, so I would give it everything I had. It took time and I often got discouraged but I kept going.

With time, you mellowed and I saw the man I had longed to see my entire life. I saw that you loved me so the dark cloud started to drift and I began to understand why you were the way you were.

I realised that just like me, nobody taught you how to love, so you had difficulties expressing it, but that did not mean you were incapable of love or that you did not love. I realised that you cared about my happiness and satisfaction with life. In your own little ways you showed me that you valued my existence, contrary to the belief I had held my entire life.

Acceptance

And so, even though you died before we could do more of what fathers and daughters do together, it’s okay. I see now that you were every bit the strong African man you were expected to be, often ‘too African’ for my taste, but that God was intentional about that in order to make me understand love and how to love. I often asked God for a true understanding of love and now I see why he told me to look closely at my relationship with you.

Looking back, I see that you showed me that just as it is stated in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “love is patient and kind, it isn’t jealous, doesn’t brag, isn’t arrogant, isn’t rude, doesn’t seek its own advantage, isn’t irritable, doesn’t keep a record of complaints, isn’t happy with injustice, is happy with the truth, puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things and never fails”.

You tested my limits and I tested yours, but through it all we loved each other mightily. So I will love mightily and purely. In this twisted world you left me in, where it seems there is only room for corrupted love, I will tell the wrong men who come my way that I cannot comply comply, simply because it is wrong, simply because I must always make you proud.