A Space Too Little Explored [4] Broken

broken

Every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes.

Broken

When I look back on my childhood, one word sums the hours spent playing football, riding my bicycle up and down our street, studying for exams, wincing as iodine was dabbed on a grazed knee, wrestling with friends, and fighting with my two brothers and only sister; carefree. My childhood was carefree because my parents, my father in particular, were careful to make it so.

Although he travelled a lot, my father always spent time with us whenever he was home. He was fun, rolling on the carpet with us, not a disciplinarian like my mother. I am the last-born. Deemed my father’s favourite by my siblings, I was the emissary who always obtained from him the favours they made me present to him as my idea. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

When I was sixteen, I returned from school to find my mother sitting atop a trunk box, as we called those silver rectangular chests with black trimmings, not attempting to hide her tears as she welcomed me home. A couple of my aunts cooed encouragement to her like mourners. My heart raced. Had someone died?

At my prodding, in a moment of weakness I suppose, my mother spilled the details of my father’s affairs. Nearly every family in our neighbourhood lived with the evidence of polygamy or infidelity: half-brothers, half-sisters, second and third wives, and aunties, who were really girlfriends. Although these educated and wealthy families had a veneer of sophistication and cohesiveness, their children, my friends, let me know that the glue that held their blended families together gave often.

I took pride in my family of six, one father and one mother and four children. The glue that held us together did not give way, until that day, that day when my dad stopped being my hero.

My childhood was no longer carefree.

My mother’s belongings were in the trunk box. She had been waiting to say goodbye to my older brother and me, the only children who still lived at home, before she left.

“Who will look after you?” She asked when I insisted that I, her last son, could take care of myself so she should pursue her happiness.

In the end, my mother decided to stay. Life at home was routine again with one change, I stopped talking to my father. I could barely look at him talk less of greeting him. The ball of anger in my heart grew larger and larger. To keep from hitting him, I avoided him altogether.

I felt betrayed by my mother. As she served my father’s food and they laughed at the dining table, I could not understand how she forgave him. But I could not hold a grudge against her for she reached out to me and asked me to forgive her for involving me in something that was not my business. Still I could not do the one thing she wanted from me: forgive my father and reconcile with him.

My father stopped paying my tuition or giving me pocket money because he said that he would not support any child who disrespected him. I still lived at home, and my mum and older siblings picked up where he left off so I was never in need. I grew to resent my father even more.

At nineteen, I met a youth counselor who took an interest in me and we grew close as we talked about various subjects including my father. He nudged me to forgive my father. I said that I could not forgive my dad, the hypocrite. To the charge of hypocrisy, he gently insisted that I was no better, pointing to the evidence in my hostel room of days and nights spent with different girls. I was in the university, changing girlfriends the way I changed my clothes.

“But,” I protested my innocence, “I’m not married to any of them!”

Yet, his words haunted me. Was I no better than my dad? Had I become what I despised?

It took three years of encouragement from the counselor, three years in which I left university and moved out of my parent’s home, for me to forgive my dad and accept that I would have to be the one to reach for reconciliation.

“Yes,” my dad answered, the first time I called him, “who is this?”

Had he forgotten my voice or was he pretending? I told him I just called to say hello and then he said okay. I listened to his breathing, heavy as though he was waiting for something more. Or was it my own breathing? My heart, beating rapidly, obscured my hearing. I hung up, exhaling euphoria like a deflating balloon.

But, the next phone call was easier as was the next one after that. Eventually we settled into a routine without awkwardness, conversing about the present and the future. We do not talk about the past, that five-year window when we became strangers. When you bury something and pack dirt on it, then stamp it with your feet, sometimes plants grow above and you cannot tell where you buried it.

The only reference we have made, if I may call it that, to the past, was when my wife and I needed a babysitter to fill in for our nanny’s three-month absence. My dad, who was visiting at the time, mentioned that his friend’s daughter, just out of secondary school and waiting to gain admission into the university, could help. We welcomed the offer.

My dad said, “Please she’s my friend’s daughter. I don’t want any stories . . .,” his voice trailed off but his eyes did not waver from mine.

I was tempted to share some wisecrack about his philandering days. Instead, I said, “Dad, you don’t have to worry.”

There were no stories three months later.

Discovering that underneath my father’s superman cape lived an ordinary human broke me. Forgiveness mended me.

 

Broken pieces actin’ like we ain’t cracked
But we all messed up and can’t no one escape that
… Broken hearts inside of a broken soul
… And we all need grace in the face of each other

– Broken, LeCrae feat. Kari Jobe

 

Broken, is an amalgamation of conversations I had with people who were willing to tell me their stories but reluctant to write for this series.
©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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19 thoughts on “A Space Too Little Explored [4] Broken

  1. Such an excellent read. “Discovering that underneath my father’s superman cape lived an ordinary human broke me. Forgiveness mended me.” Sigh. Deep words. Aren’t we all ordinary human beings underneath a superman’s cape? For me, my superman powers come from God and underneath is a very ordinary human who thirsts for His strength every second.

    People often say things like, “I am strong in this area.” I learned a long time ago that this very area could become their very weakness if they are not careful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How wonderful to have “super powers” enveloping our humanity!
      I’ve heard it said that your weakness is at the other end of your strength …
      @ excellent read, thank you.

      Like

  2. Interesting write up… as ever, well written… I however sympathise with the individual stories amalgamated into this one…because while what it describes thankfully was not my experience, it was / is an all too familiar story with a number of friends I made in my time in Nigeria. I remember a comment made by a “senior aunty” at the one of the many funeral ceremonies (before the eventual burial) for an elderly family man. She said, “we will know at his funeral if he really was a good man”. When I asked why until then, she responded… if no secret wives or children appear out of the woodwork, then his “goodness” would have been validated. She was willing to give him a 6 out of 10, for at least staying at home and educating the kids from his recognised wife.. but the final score of 10, would only be awarded if he passed her earlier stated criteria. I cant quite imagine what living like that would be and my heart goes out to those who do. It is a shame though that the cycle isn’t broken by the kids…ironically, I heard another aunty once say to a relative whose husband had just been seen leaving on a “business trip” abroad …”be grateful that he is at least keeping you in the house and educating your children”. Hypocritical I thought… you wouldn’t take it, why should she? I could go on….

    On a lighter note, we also called those huge rectangular silver boxes with black trimmings “truck boxes”. I goggled it just now, and guess what…that is what they are called! Mystery solved!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I could go on too…
      Yes, I’ve heard people in Nigerian society say that you never know how many kids a man really has until he dies. Culture is a powerful thing …

      It is a shame when the cycle isn’t broken by the kids… If we don’t stop to examine our lives and choices, we may embrace what we despise!

      @ trunk boxes, thanks for checking. I’m glad you recognized what I was trying to describe.

      Thank you Ayo.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing this. A tragedy many young people deal with. Almost like a rite of passage for most: heroes with clay feet and the power of forgiveness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed a number of the men I approached to write for the series could not because they had unresolved issues they were dealing with and were unwilling to go there…

      Heroes are human too … This knowledge helps with forgiveness but should not exonerate our ‘heroes’ I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmmmmm! Being in the same society as you this story definitely resonates with me and it’s the same feeling we have towards our fathers whether we are male or female for their infidelity but what gets me is the continous circle of infidelity from one generation to another . Most young men who were very disappointed in their fathers end up doing worse than their dads and the circle never seem to end with their own sons doing the same. It takes courage in our society to be a faithful husband and a good father. May be if many understood the impact it makes on their own families and future generations they would take up the courage to do the right thing.
    Thank God you understood your own vulnerability early enough and kudos to you for taking the first step in breaking that circle by forgiving your dad and taking steps to reach out to him.

    Nice one really nice thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It’s interesting how many people declare that they’ll never be like one of their parents, a dad maybe, and end up doing the very thing that they despised the parent doing.

      Forgiveness may be a door into stopping the ‘cycle’. Like you I wish all men determined to break the cycle, strength for the journey.

      Glad you enjoyed reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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