A Space Too Little Explored [5] The End

coffee end

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

The End

Wetin make you cry?” I asked the six foot two gruff security man.

A mattress leaned on its side against one wall and a spare blue uniform hung from a nail on the opposite wall. A small desk and chair on which he sat and lay his head completed the furnishing in the gatehouse.

After prompting him for a while, he replied, “My papa  . . . e die before I fit show am wetin I be.”

When im die?” I asked.

E don tay.”

A tender moment that never repeated itself. It was the second time I had seen a man cry. The second time was like the first. Both men were crying over loss of something that they had never shared with their fathers because death came too soon.

I have wanted to explore the relationship between sons and fathers for a long time. Finding men who were willing to tell their stories was difficult then as it is now although this time, I offered anonymity.

Two years ago when I approached a friend to contribute to a series on fatherhood, he said, “Do you know I live down the street from my parents and I hardly drop by? When I do, it’s because of my mother. My father, too much stuff going on there.” 

When I pressed, he said, “I’m just not ready to go there.” 

He is in his thirties now.

A writer I admire said, “We just discovered we have another brother who is twenty-eight! Don’t ask me about my father right now,” before going AWOL on me.

A recent conversation I had contained elements of estrangement I have come to know.

“I didn’t talk to my father for nine years. Well I wanted to, but he wouldn’t speak to me because I disappointed him.”


“All my siblings followed the path he carved out for them based on what he perceived as their strengths. He read me wrong. I tried. I really tried not to waste the money he’d spent on tuition, but flunked the first year of school and then quit to do my thing.”

“Let me tell your story,” I urged. It will help someone.

“Dad and I just started talking again, it’s still too fresh.”

I understood and respected that.

When fathers don’t speak their sons’ love language, internal bleeding occurs on both sides. I am suspect of sons who proclaim that they don’t need their father’s affirmation. Sons, who admit that they need and would love to have their father’s affirmation, but have come to terms with not having it and the man they call father, feel real to me.

However, not all stories are punctuated with grief or trauma. There are many stories of afternoons playing ball at the park, evening conversations about what it means to be a man, and long-distance phone calls seeking advice on pressing matters.

Is every man trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes? I think so. The dots were obvious to me as I read or listened to stories, even when the narrators were oblivious of the sub-plot of their lives.

Maybe one day I will author a coffee-table book with elegant photos of sons and fathers on one page and the story of their relationship on the other. I hope to paint an accurate picture, editorialized through the soft lens of a son who has received grace for his own mistakes and so better understands the shortcomings of his father.

To me, it remains a space too little explored.


Forget Batman: when I really thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be my dad. -Paul Asay

P.s. Special thanks to Ayo, Tola, and A.C. for sharing their stories. I thank everyone who also shared their story by commenting on the series.


©Timi Yeseibo 2016


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27 thoughts on “A Space Too Little Explored [5] The End

  1. If a parent has tried to be a good person to oneself, then it’s always worth making amends/expressing some appreciation before they are gone.

    Thx for the stories, Timi from the contributors. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve enjoyed this look at the dynamics between fathers and sons. So heartbreaking at times! I can’t help watching my brother interact with my nephew. It’s definitely a different dynamic than the way he interacts with my niece.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharing your observation about your brother and his son and daughter, causes me to think. Thanks for sharing. Your feedback confirms what I feel: we could examine this some more, from a storytelling point of view. Thanks again.


  3. My father had no sons. He was a good, loving father to my sister and me, but a little shy, as though he felt it wasn’t his place to get involved in raising girls. And yet, I felt very close to him. It was as though I knew the inside of him without his expressing anything. I never felt I had to live up to his expectations. It might have been different if he’d had a son.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I admire how close you felt to your dad and I felt the ease of no-expectations-to-live-up-to in your interactions.

      Your beautiful story made me examine mine because my dad only has 3 daughters. I think my father’s only expectation was that I be a decent human being and make choices that brought me happiness. I realize now that any pressure I felt to live up to some ideal to ‘please’ him, I put on myself.

      Yes, with sons, the script might have been different. Thanks so much for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Timi, this is soo spooky because I had a “moment” just yesterday. I was cleaning out my bag in preparation for work today and caught a glimpse of my business card which was printed rather hurriedly by my current company because it was needed for official business. I cant blame the company, I had always found those things pretentious and so never quite asked for a set to be printed for me.
    Anyway, I saw it… my name and job title. In an instant, I thought of my dad, and inevitably, one of his very many “when I’m gone” sayings came to mind. You see, we had grown up with an English surname which was changed when HE decided to return to Nigeria. Through no “fault” of mine and obviously without a say, I got “burdened” with this “Kinta Kunte” type surname. It didn’t help that on arrival in Nigeria, we moved to the North and my first school was a predominantly white school, so of course the surname could never be pronounced properly. I HATED the name and on a number of occasions, I made my feelings clear to my dad. In the week leading to my leaving Nigeria (having “served my time” and being” released for good behaviour”) , my dad had a series of conversations with me..one of which was about the name. He was aware that I had informed my mother that one of the first things I would do on my return to England would be to change the surname back to what was on my birth certificate, after all, I was now an ADULT. Son, he said to me, your name is not important, it is the person behind the name who is. If you become “somebody”, the people around you will learn to pronounce the name”. That should be your goal, “force” people to pronounce your name because they have to.
    Fast forward twenty something years later, I am sitting in the office of the second most senior person on the site I work, interviewing an applicant by telephone….and to my surprise, I am introduced to the applicant, by this guy who had no reason to know my name, not only did he know it, he had managed to learn how to pronounce it! And trust me, it is not the easiest of names to pronounce. My dad’s words crept slowly into my mind, I HAD become important enough for this person to learn the name. How true ….just like so many of the things he said would happen … “when I’m gone”…….. tears as I type. I miss the man! He left before I could show him what I had become…. even more tears……

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’m so moved by your story! I’m praying my parents live long enough …
      Sometimes we don’t truly appreciate the wisdom of our dads until much later. What a wise answer he gave you- not insisting you keep the name but helping you understand worth.

      Lol @ “Kinta Kunte” type surname. I know the feeling 😉


  5. Hi Timi,

    @ “My papa . . . e die before I fit show am wetin I be.” broke my heart into a million bits. There’s this raw pain from the irreversibility that death brings with it. One’s belly remains swollen, full of unsaid words and undone acts.

    Most children hope to reward their parents with their own success, we want them to reap the fruits of their labour in our lives. It gives a sense of closure.

    I enjoyed this series, it was very nice to see the “father” side of things. Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. So true. Many people pray their parents live long enough to eat the fruit of their parent’s ‘labour’. I did not imagine that this tough security man possessed a ‘soft’ core. No matter our station in life, there’s a universality to our aspirations …

      Thanks for reading and being an active participant in the series, Nedu.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, this touches me, because I’ve seen so much hurt because of simple differences in personality and gifts that go unrecognized by both father and son. I really liked this and Curt’s comment definitely resonated with me. How wonderful that he recognized the difference and could accept it..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, thanks for sharing Eileen.

      I guess it takes us a while to understand and appreciate that the grass isn’t greener on the other side; it is greener where you water it.
      We take our family for granted, taking liberties we wouldn’t dare take anywhere else… Thankfully love and forgiveness are adhesives that bind us together.


  7. Interestingly, Timi, I think the time I spent in Africa helped me understand my father better. Living in another culture led me to the conclusion that my father and I lived in different cultures. He was in his late 30s when I was born and had grown up in another time and another place. This didn’t make his view of the world wrong, just different. I needed to respect his differences just like I would respect those of anyone else who came from a different culture. (Naturally, we also shared a lot.) Using this approach, we became more than father and son, we became friends.

    I enjoyed your series very much. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing Curt. If only we could adopt this view earlier… Reminds me of a quote:

      It’s only when you grow up and step back from him–or leave him for your own home–it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it.
      – Margaret Truman –


  8. ‘I hope to paint an accurate picture, editorialized through the soft lens of a son who has received grace for his own mistakes and so better understands the shortcomings of his father.’
    So love this phrase! Can’t wait for the book!

    Liked by 2 people

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