Happy Father’s Day!
Have always used Dettol soap since the days of high school. But recently I switched gears to Imperial leather. Not that Dettol is nolonger cool. No. Dettol is still as cool. Dettol is always been this cool thing since the days we were told it’s number one brand endorsed by Kenya Medical Association. And no, no one at imperial leather poached me. No one gave me a brown envelop to make me switch. Absolutely no one. It reaches a point in time when a man got to do what he got to do. Ahem and that point is now. Why did I switch though? I had this feeling that at this age, I have outgrown Dettol. Yes because I have used them since High school days! So what inspired my new brand switch? What about you read on…?
The product washed away but the sign stayed put, centered and commandeering like a boy coming out of teenage hood. It read boldly “imperial leather” like this damn thing came home aboard KQ. It reminds me of my father as we grew up crumbled in his crib or is it our crib? No it’s his because all decisions were made by him. He taught. No he dint teach all his life. He was once a boy younger than me. Then a man of my age, unmarried and confused of what the future held. He went to Dar Salem University (I had to say that because he did say always; it meant the world to him. He did statistics while there, came back and worked at the treasury. He was a big man, he says. He’s big headed. He quit and went back into teaching college. Have always doubted if teaching is his passion. Every time I sneaked into his place of work to find him in class, they deliberately made me stay at the staff room then the head said “patieni mtoto wa mwalimu chai” dint I say tea is boring.
He was adult. Always occupied and absent from home. Mornings were characterized by him battling with his bushy beards. It was a battle. He coughed hoaserly and rattled the blade on the wall. Gillette was not invented by then. He dressed, left then tension eased around the home. OK point is, he bathed with Imperial leather. It was uniquely his. You smelt it. Saw it placed on the window pane leading to the bathroom but never touched. The rest of us used “Jamaa” You remember that notorious advert on Kbc radio. He’s retired. He lives upcountry and does small scale peasant farming but drinks alot. We talk. A while ago, we met over the weekend at Nakuru and hit the locals. He ordered Allsops. I found it weird. We laughed. When I grow up I want to be like daddy. I want to bathe with Imperial leather
Wednesday evening 5pm GMT East African time to be specific, I call my old man. I tell him am scheduled for a Talk at a University near home the evening of the following day. “awesome. Awesome. Awesome kid” he says that repeatedly on phone. I think that makes him imagine his son is this big guy in the city. No daddy. He’s not! So I ask if we can meet afterwards on the presentation day. He goes “yeees” Like he was waiting for that part.
Thirty minutes past eight in the morning, I leave the city aboard a shuttle for six hours of travel. I seat behind the man on the wheel. A nice middle aged chap. Composed and assured. He does his thing like it’s all he wanted to be as he grew up. There’s always one passenger who will speak in some disturbing accent, call everyone on their limited phone book just to tell them that the engine just started and they are now leaving. But alas! That’s a security threat you guy. Someone might intercept that convo and way lay us. Go slow on showdowns. That driver was dope. He played old school hiphop back to back through the six hours. I think he made it an easy journey plus you guys know am the kind of chap who will visit you again if you play hiphop on the first visit.
That presentation was what would pass for a success. It had been a busy week. The campus authorities took forever to confirm logistics now making me travel on the material presentation day. They had asked I talk about Talent Monetization. The gods of time were well, not favorable. I couldn’t even research about that! So I staggered in phone and note book in hand. No comp. No projector. No slides. Just me and my empty note book and phone. I shoot up a disclaimer. Not that am not prepared for this presentation but rather, I want to make it easier fur you guys. I hope it gets comprehensible. I want to talk about common stuff in good English. They laughed at that part (see this comedy shadow keeps following) I spent two hours talking about common stuff in good English and comrades loved it. They cheered, asked questions and took notes. (Ahem moments) wrapping it up I did that airtime challenge (BizHub chaps get this), signed some autos and checked out to find my old man a town a part.
For some reason timing, we don’t manage to meet and we agree on phone to do lunch the following day at about the same place we were scheduled to meet. Am in in time. He checks in after me. He asks about girlfriend. I wanted to borrow a leaf from my friend Mac and ask him “Which one?” but then I figured out he’d conclude that I joined the famous Sacco in the city to which by disclaimer I want to clarify am not party.
We have lunch, I hand over some notes in bill. He complains as to why am paying alot. I say “No daddy, it’s us who ordered their topnotch version on menu. It’s okay though” That lady smiles, I want to smile back, dad stares my direction I suppress the smile and wave bye! We, drift towards some well kept local. Along the way, we pass by some man trying to make furniture out of wood. Some village girl passes him by. He puts his best foot forward to open a conversation. That girl turns his side and utters some nasty words. I feel ashamed. Dad hisess “class battles” We move on. A Guinness and sparkling cold coke for me and three Guinness for him. We intend to spend the entire afternoon here. It’s Friday but you can’t bloody tell. Ahem! You guys in the upcountry how do you substantiate between the days? I don’t know, myself whenever am here I wake up to keep asking people “when it’s today?”
I ask about stuff. Common stuff. Complex stuff. Middle of the road stuff. Stuff that are all buy just stuff. We talk and laugh. And talk and laugh again. I keep my phone away and my notebook idle on table. Well, because I don’t want him to deduce am after squeezing a story after him and start answering to prose. With that in mind I increase the Shade of coke and ration the shade of Guinness because I want to keep my ability to reminder high without necessarily noting down anything.
I want to disect some age old miseries. To understand why he chose his way of life. To get to know what inspired his idea of career. And when the gauge gets higher perhaps, sneak in some question on whether perhaps he dated some girl before mummy and by any chance he’s something else to share on that. All in all am out to see whether I can gather some lessons from his idea of being a daddy. And that’s my way of appreciating my old man on this father’s day season 2017!
“You once worked as a stastician patched inside the famous Herufi house in the city. But later on moved on to teach. Perhaps you make me understand that” I put forth that statement and fumble with helping him refill his glass as I take a guess on whether or not he’s willing to open up on that. “Growing up I was good with numbers. That gravitated me towards a statistics course at the University of Darsaleem” He says that part with this glim, you’ll notice it means a lot for him. “Yes I was lucky enough to land work with the government under planning ministry. Waking up everyday to work from my office at Herufi house.” I intercept to tell him every time I pass Herufi house in the city, I remember him. He laughs his ribs out over that. He’s getting slightly tipsy. “One weekend, starting Friday afternoon, we went drinking with my boyish friends. I left my court hanging at my office. I forgot to come back for a week. They fired me” I want to laugh at that. But he had said it with some sort of soberness.
“Yes for the first days I survived on the little I had. But eventually I had to find an alternative. For man must live. My second option was teaching. Yes, I wanted to go back to class and teach numbers. So i went to college and became a teacher of Maths. Apart from your elder sister, the rest of you were not yet born. It was in the dawn of the eighties.
“But you didn’t stop drinking in your new job. Why?” “Do you drink yourself?” “Come on daddy, that’s funny kwani what are we doing now?” “but you have drank more of the coke than the Guinness!” He says pointing at my glass. “Do I drink? Yes but I don’t really want for refer to myself as an alcoholic. Am this your occasional drinker. In fact I rarely walk myself to a pub and order a drink. I must be in the company of a friend or two but today daddy. Neither do I want to turn myself into a drunkard. Anytime am at the club and I start to fail to differentiate between beer and bear, I chuck off. To be precise I prefer a little whiskey to beer but I once drunk wine then it sounded girlish. I quit” I went first to give my version perhaps to let him talk without inhibition. He went “Yes, I didn’t stop drinking. When it comes to drinking as a man, it’s well, incomprehensible. I have always wanted to stop. But I will one day. My advice though, stick to your word!” Dad said, then gulped what was left in his glass then topped it up again.
“When it comes to aspirations, your type of aspirations was what I call old paradigm; you are born, you go through school, find some job, Marry, retire, get into quail farming (pun) sorry, die.” Did you always want to be what you are?” “I want to say yes. But there are some stuff for some reason I didn’t accomplish which I think if God allows you my children to accomplish, it will give me peace.”
“Thank you dad, you saw the entire seven of us through school. You don’t have a car, a big house nor these huge investments in the city. Do you consider yourself successful?” Yes, Tony, by my own measures what you have mentioned as accomplished was key to me. I didn’t really want to complicate my life on that material Highway. I looked forward to lead a simple life. Retire after impacting lives. Live in a serene home waking up to tend to my cows and count my chicken. And whenever the financial gods allow, pick one for the road on my way home.
There are things you do in a life time. Then there’s acting parent. Saturday morning finds me at Sunrise Academy, seating in for small niece for academic day. Midday it’s small bro’s AGM meeting session 10 kilometers apart. Tiring but yielding. The previous evening, I think smelling I was home, he had called.
“Tony, it’s now two years since you said you’ll visit. Am even almost finishing form two” See, that’s small bro calling on a teacher’s line. No greetings. Nothing. Just a harshy resounding reminder. So I take up the challenge like Mr. Big Bro and roll down to check him up. Lesson learnt; a promise is a debt! I Marshall up the entire battalion of nephews. Six of them and we go in a brigade. That alone makes small bro joyous. I think coupled with the silent fact that I had gone through the supermarket to pick some goodies plus I tucked a note in his hands as we bid him farewell.
Some of the times we throw caution to the wind, roll sleeves, join them kids and get merry doing their little thing along. But it’s you guys who said youth is smoke. Right? So that’s exactly what I did as we parried that school AGM. I delivered the kids to a neighboring resort and we had fan jumping, swinging, running, swimming and all the kind of stuff that make kids happy not to forget taking selfies. It’s 2017 and we had to announce we were there! It’s six month into 2017 and Mr Wolf will tell you the number of selfies taken in 2017 far exceed those taken in a life time judging by selfie generation history. The kids had merry. I felt wasted through doing things that gave joy to others not me. All along I thought of father’s and the type of similar shit they had to endure in the hands of their kids when they ask they take them for say swimming.
Dad had come through for that small bro AGM. It was six kids, Dad, myself and small bro. After all it was his day. So bro finds us towards the entrance to the school. He’s oozing of slung. He greets dad hastily, turns to me, “Tony umefanya poa Sana kucome” Picks the stuff I had in my hands, turning to the kids, he beckons they follow him. That’s how bad time cuts you out real fast from fun. We remain rooted to spot. Dad and myself; the only adults from an initial group of nine. The kids are all gone. May be they are playing. Or perhaps small bro he’s showing them around school. But most certainly he chose to take off because he sensed I was about to get parental and delve into boring stuff; numbers, marks, assignments. Like “What position were you in the recent exams?” “Teacher Spy says you don’t complete your Maths assignment in time, why can’t you. Is Math a problem or Yourself?” But no! I was never heading that direction. I have been down that memory lane and I understand to be committed to learning or not is a personal decision.
We find some space in the parents shade. The gods are good enough to have left two empty seats side to side. Dad sinks into one of them. I conclude he might not have endured through the session standing in case we missed chairs. Age is taken a toll order on him. The guest of honor is just starting off his maiden speech. Some Jovial, cheeky professor who lectures Psychology at Maseno University. Between tons of dozens of laughter, he’s speaking on “Stress Management” unaware that a dad and his son are listening through his idea of stress management. His is a heavenly presentation but the content I conclude is cut above what school kids can comprehend. After all high-school kids are concerned about assignments, pocket money and girlfriends!
For you who missed, here is a bonus abbreviated version of his speech on “stress Management”…