It became a conscious thought some years back that I wasn’t going to be a mom but a dad.
Before then, whenever I had to talk about my parents, I talked about my mom mostly. And truth be told, I didn’t know I was doing that. I didn’t know I was showing the world a narrative of a single-parent-child when I wasn’t one. I knew what I had been doing in my first year at the university when my roommate, Seun Talabi, asked me this question, his face dead-serious: “Akin, is your dad dead?”
* * *
I have a penchant that is beyond ordinary for words. I have come to call it a relationship, a romantic one at that. And, as far as I can tell, it’s going to be for life.
So, words remain with me for as long as they span. Seun Talabi’s question was the reason why I began to taken conscious thought of absolutely everything I have been saying ever since. It is why I have come to understand that the words I say are creating pictures for the listeners. Since then, I have been careful not to paint single stories where there are none.
* * *
The first interaction I remember having with my Dad was when I was five and we had moved from Lagos to Ibadan. I really can’t recollect much before then. I remember he’d come home from his trips at night and he’d leave very early the next morning. For months.
As I grew up, I understood he was a Federal Civil Servant. And we moved to Ibadan because he was transferred. And he left us in Ibadan because he was transferred. I concluded that Federal Civil Servants always got transferred.
By then, he was staying for a couple of days when he came home. He’d check my assignments. Maths especially. And show pictures of the places he travelled to and tell everyone stories. It was then I began to fall in love with the idea of travelling to places.
By six, he began giving me his novels to read. Hundreds of pages long. I remember the first one, it was titled “Night of The Crabs” (I had to google the title last year to be sure my memories are correct). It was in his library I met Soyinka, Achebe, Elechi Amadi, Zulu Sofola, Camara Laye, Peter Abrahams, Kenneth Kaunda, Pacesetters stories, Sidney Sheldon, Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follet, Stephen King, Western stories, etc. I am eternally grateful to him for not having any Mills and Booms or any other such mushy stories.
Books, movies and wrestling were our meeting points. Football came in years later. Yeah, my dad is a Man Utd fan.
* * *
So, back to me understanding I’ll be a dad and not a mom.
I became naturally very close to my mom because she was the much more physically present parent in my formative years. It didn’t help that whenever dad came around, my brothers and I were more scared of how he’d react to reports of our wrongdoings while he was away than receptive to his attempts to bond with us. We feared his one lash of the belt than mom’s one million lashes and verbal abuses.
Dad noticed the fear and had to have a long talk with me. We spoke about love and respect, without fear.
That conversation made me decide the kind of dad I wanted to be and truth be told, I took practically everything from the dad my dad is. Except for No. 1, the rest I took from him.
- To be around my family, especially in the growing up years of my children.
- To show affection to my wife before our children so that it’ll become such a natural thing to them to do when it’s their turn.
- To ensure no one ever disrespects my wife. Not even me.
- To create and sustain that atmosphere of love and peace in the home that makes the family members thrive and happy.
- To make my children fall in love with reading, humour and wit.
- To become an amazing and kind and level-headed dad.
- To allow my family be who they want to be and do what they want to do as long as it is legit.
- To hold conversations with my family as though they are my buddies.
- To show that respect is earned by doing and being the right thing.
- To never say a hurtful word to my wife or children.
- To teach my children how to solve knotty Mathematics and write balanced chemical equations. (So help me God o!)
- To never raise my hand against my wife. Ever.
- To never condone any injustice at home.
- To be modern and relevant and never grow old.
- To be a supercool dad.
- Finally, if Number 1 above won’t be possible, to make sure I achieve everything stated nonetheless. Like my dad.
* * *
So, answering Seun’s question for the final time.
No, my dad isn’t dead. He’s alive. I was the douche who didn’t pay attention to everything he had been doing despite the odds and physical distance beyond his control. And in more ways than I realize, I want to beat his records. SO HELP ME GOD O!