My father’s love is different from my mother’s love because my dad is not like my mum, as it should be. He is a thinker, not a talker; his low rumble rarely punctuated the soprano-rich chatter that filled our home.
While I can dig up a dozen memories of my mum the superhero, without knitting my eyebrows and closing my eyes, I can only dig up a few of my dad. However, each memory, etched with a permanent marker in my consciousness, represents a turning point that defined me as a writer.
During my childhood, my father was two things to me: Father Christmas and the man I wanted to please at all cost. Perhaps it was because he lived far away and I did not see him every day; the heart often longs for that which is not near. He returned home at Christmas with lots of praise and presents. He brought us tons of Judy, Mandy, Betty & Veronica, and Archie comics.
He made sure I had one Naira every day so I could go to Challenge Bookshop or Leventis Stores to buy a book. That was how I discovered the enchanted world of Enid Blyton and my imagination soared to distant lands and distant shores. I cut my notebooks to mini squares and wrote the stories I would have loved to tell. That was how I learnt about pace and dialogue without going to writing school. Encouraged by my dad, I read and read and read.
As a teen, we read together because he was home every day. I scanned the newspapers daily, but saved the columns and editorials for weekends. Then I would lounge with him in our veranda, he lost in his world of words, I lost in mine, as the clock ticked away. When night fell and the queen of the night flowers released their scent, we slapped the moths and mosquitoes away, turning the pages of our newspapers faster than we had done in the afternoon.
He indulged my love for reading and there was always money to buy more books, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, The Economist, Times, Newswatch, and Classique magazines. That was how I learnt to argue for what was important to me with my words instead of my voice. Enthralled by the magic of words, my worldview changed one sentence after another. I wrote opinion pieces that enticed people to read and not skim, arranging my stream of thought in a logical flow. That was how I learnt about exposition without going to writing school. Encouraged by my dad, I read and read and read.
Now a young woman, it is my turn to be Mother Christmas, heaping gratitude and gifts, so my father can continue to read. When we talk, I listen. I listen for it. I listen for the lilt in his voice as I imagine the spark in his eyes, because something he read has transported him as it does me, to lands of possibilities.
As I connect the dots of my life, it becomes clearer and clearer still: my father’s love is different from my mother’s love. Her love is loud and the spotlight magnifies her heartbeat in motion. In the periphery, my father’s heart beats too, at a quiet even pace that masks its fervency.
My dad is the mostly unsung hero who in a time of uncertainty wrote me a letter that has frayed at the ends and torn at the fold. Whether soaring or plummeting, whether laughing or crying, his words have remained with me, reminding me of when I first dared to dream. Reading and rereading the letter through the years, his writing style has become my own.
Happy Father’s Day dad. Surely, my ink flows in part because of you.
© Timi Yeseibo 2013
Photo credit: http://www.creationswap.com/LuisGarcia
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