I was raised a bastard; you know, but I like to see myself as Jon Snow of Game of Thrones.
I lived in a home where everyone knew I was a bastard. The children around me would taunt me with the fact that I had no father, while the women around me mocked me for being the only child in the household with a different last name. Ahh, my mother’s co-wives never let me forget who I was.
The only difference between me and Snow is that whereas Jon lived with his father, I lived with my mother in her second husband’s home which was a polygamous one.
I was stubborn, I was a rebel, I pretended that I didn’t care much about what was being said about me. I pretended not to feel the insults nor let anyone know how I lay awake at night hurting so badly from the abuse, the unnecessary beating from the other wives, the pain I caused my mother by constantly being the one child in the big compound that would not do anything right.
I didn’t plan on making my mother miserable though, I blamed her for whatever happened to my dad. I was told different things about him. Some story said he abandoned my mum when she got pregnant for me; another version said he died when I was little, another said he was married to another family and they lived rich and happy in some faraway place. The thing is, even my mother couldn’t tell me the truth about my father. She just told me that maybe someday, I would meet him. She never liked to talk much about him
She always wanted me to behave properly with my step father, the one she had my younger siblings for. I tried but didn’t succeed much at it.
Then I was sent to the boarding house in the north. As far as I was concerned, it was to punish me. To get rid of me; that school was in the middle of nowhere which was also why my mother found it difficult to visit me during visiting days.
At school also, I showed my true colour. I was always named among the troublesome boys in school. You can be sure I would be listed among those who scaled the fence to party in town, those who bring contraband to hostel, those caught outside the classroom during prep, those who who still wander around after lights out, that was me.
I have never truly attributed my behavior to mean anything, just that, I hated who I was inwardly, I wanted a father to give me identity, yes, I am told I bear his name but hey, where the hell is the man who’s name I bear?
I was in school one day, during visiting day, I was in the classroom area. Usually during such days, there are those of us who know we would never be visited by anyone, least of all a parent or guardian, even the devil wouldn’t visit us.
So I was just chilling, when a younger student ran up to me, he said my father was waiting for me in the dining area.
I didn’t get up. I didn’t have a father. I simply assumed he meant one of the other boys around me in the classroom.
He repeated himself, Senior Billy, your father is waiting for you at the dinning. Now, the dining area is the designated place for parents to stay when they come visiting. Their children would come meet them and they would always have a feast. If you’ve been to boarding house, you will know what I mean.
So now, you’ve got to understand that nearly all students if not all in that school knew I was a bastard. It had become so common place to insult me and call me a bastard that when I quarrel with people, before they start insulting me, I have already insulted myself before them by calling myself a bastard.
I had to do that to take the sting off being called one. If I already call myself one, you can hardly hurt me again.
So I looked at the boy and told him I would fling him across the fence if he doesn’t scam from my class! I was also a bully in school by the way. I couldn’t have been a nuisance and not be a bully!
The boy ran away a distance telling me that indeed, my father was waiting.
At this time my heart was pounding so hard, I could hardly talk or even get up from my seat.
My friends were excited for me, they came and dragged me off my seat and with one on each side, supported me on the long walk to the dining area.
I kept saying, what if it’s the wrong boy the man at the dining was asking for?
What if indeed he was my father?
What if he takes a look at me and decides he doesn’t want me after all?
The normal 5 to 7 minutes walk from the class room to the dining area took almost 20minutes for my friends and I that day. It was pure torture for me.
Then I saw him from afar; he was standing up. he was staring ahead, he was tall, dark and the shape of his head was just like mine. He was me, an older version of me. I knew without any iota that this man indeed was my father. I couldn’t run to him. I was 15years but I had grown to be about 18 in my ways. I didn’t know whether to hug him, shake his hands and just stand and stare. So I stood and stared until my friends called him, he turned around, rushed to me and embraced me.
For the first time in my life, I cried from the heart. I cried like a child. I was not ashamed that people were staring; some boys were giggling; a few parents were shaking their heads. My dad and I cried.
We held one another and cried for more than 10minutes. He held me as we walked towards his car and hugged me tight telling me he never knew about me. He said my mother never told him about me; he only just got to know two months ago…he said my mother finally came to him and though he at first doubted her, when he saw my photo, he knew I had to be his.
Of course dad was married, had other children; funny, I have older siblings because the reason my mother never told him about me was because she had a brief affair with him and resulted in a pregnancy she couldn’t bring herself to tell him about because he was already married.
And the rest of my life had more meaning. I have spent the last 16 years trying to catch up on lost years with my dad. No, I don’t live with him; I told you is married. It was a big blow of course to his wife and my other siblings from his side, they have not fully accepted me but that’s ok. I can relate to their hurt, the betrayal they feel and I am a constant reminder of that.
I no longer feel like a bastard, the last pieces of the puzzle have been placed. I am not your trouble lad anymore. I am older, wiser and I have even been described as being ‘gentle’.
series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)