Someone said fatherhood is a doing word. How true!
I was at this wedding, weeks back; the type where the host/hostess pulls out all the stops just so they can get to make the wedding the talk of the town. And indeed it was; the time came when the bride gets to be walked down the aisle on the arms of her father and that’s how the talk began.
At first, all eyes were, of course, on the bride but no one could look away from the father. Many of us couldn’t resist letting out gasps of horror at the sight of the man; he was a real sight for sore eyes; shrivelled, gaunt and looking unhealthy. He looked like he had been hurriedly dug out of some forgotten place; washed quickly to give a semblance of life, given the expensive clothes that seemed borrowed and dragged to church.
When you see sights like these just know that there’s a story behind it and it’s a common enough story, told over and over again with a few touch-ups here and there to suit the storyteller or the audience.
Here it is; the absentee father eventually leaves the mother to raise the kids alone. Mother slaves through the years, selling virtually everything to send her kids to school and now that they have become ‘something’, father shows up, asking to be forgiven, blaming everyone but himself for his irresponsibility. But most times, his words fall to the ground like rotten mangoes, they don’t count.
Until years later, when kids are ready for marriage and then someone suddenly remembers, “Where’s dad?’
“Last I heard, he lives in some shack at Makoko”
“Go dig him out, we need a father for your sister’s wedding”.
Father is dug out. He comes out either grudgingly or gladly, depending on the version you hear. He’s measured for the aso-ebi. He’s either happy to be finally acknowledged or fed with a long spoon, a reminder that he will never be truly accepted because the years of neglect can’t be swept away with a wave of his agbada. And he’s quickly reminded he won’t be given any mic to speak on that day. What would he have to say, anyway, that he was there when his little girl was growing? That he saw her through the university? That he helped her sort out boy issues? That he was there to cheer her to victory when she won that medal during inter-house sports in secondary school? He doesn’t have such stories to tell, so he sits quietly and watches the event unfold.
Some versions would have the father married to a ‘witch’ of a second wife, one who has prevented father from taking up his responsibilities over his first family. Such versions would include father being prosperous, lavishing all he has on the second wife and her kids and suddenly going broke. He would then realise his need to reconnect with his first family, who at this time have become ‘something’ and that something can range between being prosperous to just getting by in life.
Anyway, so we were all there, we witnessed the father, shuffling from side to side, nobody really giving him ‘face’ because they felt he’s had his fun and it was the turn of the mother to enjoy the fruits of her labour over her children.
So, she gets on the dancing floor and because she’s actually the money behind this lavish wedding, the praise singers and musicians can’t sing her praises enough; they praise her to the high heavens, guests get up to spray her naira and dollar notes, all of them turning their backs on the father who has managed to edge his way to the dance floor in the hope of getting something extra because you see, father will be returned to his shack that very night, until, perhaps, it’s time for another kid to get married.
So the talk began at my table. “Forgive and forget,” someone said.
“How can? After over 20 years of hurt and neglect?” Another chipped in.
Then the questions came fast and furiously.
Where was this father when his mates where doing school runs? Where was he when fathers like him were taking their kids for soccer every Saturday?
Where was he when his wife needed him to scold their errant child? Where was he when other fathers were going hungry just so they could put food in their children’s mouths? Where was he when the school threw his kids out of class because mother just couldn’t find money to pay the fees that term?
Such fathers will have their stories told like this one, maybe with slight variations.
Fatherhood is a doing word; it’s not convenient, it’s not comfortable, it’s not glamorous, it’s downright murky but the reward, like MasterCard card says, is priceless!