A Man Like You and Me

dad

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 –

 

Becoming Dad

Ha, mo de ma’ngbe e jo gan o . . .” my father replied, after some silence; his voice strained with regret.

His eyes were misty and distant as the words fell from his mouth a second time, “Ha and I used to dance with you in my arms a lot.”

I had just asked my father why he never played with me when I was growing up. It was a warm Tuesday morning and the sun’s glow outlined the Welsh mountains. We scoffed a lovely breakfast at The Melting Pot, my wife’s café. While resting our food, we talked about the meaningfulness of things done and left undone. The mood felt safe enough for me to explore territory I should have outgrown but which sometimes dragged me back to youthful despair, hence my question.

You see, he was visiting my family again after several years. We spent more time together during this visit than we’d ever done before. In recent years, we’d begun to discuss matters, from the deep and trivial to personal and philosophical. Each subsequent discussion stretched us, not apart, but closer, as we better understood one another’s worlds.

He leaned forward in his seat and explained that he had no such upbringing or peer influence. Moreover, he was usually away because of work. He reassured me that he loved me, but given his background, he’d only danced and played with me in my very early years. We were both sad that he had neither seen nor met what had been a big need for me.

I am now a proud father of two wonderful children. Ours is a joyful story of love and affection expressed through banter, wrestling, singing, cuddling, debates, work, travel, and discipline.

However, as a young married man I had angst about having children though I relished the prospect. I wanted to be the beautiful father I had carefully conceived, but there was no one to walk me down that road. Because I’d heard that hurt people hurt people and you can become the worst of what you hate, I feared that I would wreck my children.

I studied and I prayed. A major answer came through friendship with our pastors Rob and Sue. The intimacy they shared with their kids freaked me out at first, but I soon realised it was what I longed for. My wounds began to heal as they mentored my wife and me.

I believe every man has a wound or two that may hamper his display of love or calcify his heart towards his children. I also believe each man has enough desire, courage, and capacity to love his children and show it in edifying ways that buoy them into robust futures.

I’m still on the road to becoming a beautiful dad. However, I’m confident that my children are not archiving questions they plan to ask me when they are forty-four and I’m visiting!

Later that evening, my father watched me battle my children on the carpet for what seemed an eternity to him. He exclaimed with delight, “Ha, joo, ma se awon omo yen l’ese o! Please, don’t injure those children o!”

My children and I are enjoying the life my father couldn’t have with me. He treasures our lives because he is part of the reason I found a happy intervention and started a different story.

OluFemi Ogunbanwo lives in North Wales with his wife Margaret and 2 kids aged 21 and 15. He is a Pastor, Family Mediator, and Parenting Coach.

 

Seeing Dad Through Daddy Eyes

My best time with my dad was when I was about eight or nine. Dad was always the disciplinarian. He gets a bad rap in my memory, which is unfairly coloured by that one attribute, except when I focus on this period of my life.

Several defining incidents jump to mind. First was when I told Dad that our dog, Ricky, was run over by a car. My strong, Nigerian, macho dad turned to mush. He was visibly upset and I thought he would cry. I witnessed a sensitivity that I had never seen before.

My fascination with science started early. Dad got me a chemistry set and I had fun with it. I also spent many hours shoving dad’s tester into live sockets for the fun of seeing the light come on. I tried to create my own lamp once; armed with bulb, bulb holder, electric cable, and plug obtained from Dad’s supplies drawer. I put it all together but since I hadn’t learnt about proper wiring, I ended up with a mini explosion rather than a lit bulb when I plugged in my contraption. My ingenuity was rewarded with a tanned bottom.

I remember riding my Chopper bicycle with stabilizers down our crescent-shaped driveway, which ran for about 100 metres linking the entry and exit gates of our house. One day, Dad decided the stabilizers were coming off. He came close, real close, supporting my bike and me, running down the driveway with me, and then suddenly letting go. I went through a mixture of emotions: enjoying his tenderness yet embarrassed at being the focus of attention. I was afraid of disappointing him if I fell, but I relished the adrenaline-fuelled exhilaration of riding unsupported with the wind in my face. I was riding! I was riding!

As I grew older, I felt Dad should have done more, been more loving, paid more attention to me, disciplined me less, and better prepared me for life ahead. So I withdrew from him and moved forward, leaning on myself.

I realise now that even though he looked so big and mature then, he was younger than I am now. A man with five kids in his early forties, he held a mid-management government job. He clawed his way out of poverty with a technical school qualification to insulate his own family from every trace of his earlier life in a polygamous home. He never experienced the love of a father yet he displayed more than he’d ever received.

Have I done better with my son and daughters even though I started out with much more? Would I have done half as much as Dad did if life served me with what he was given?

Faced with my own pressures, my son is being relegated in my thoughts, more often than I’d like to admit, to a day in future when I will have time to be the dad I swore I would be. Remembering my youth brings home the truth that life is only lived in the present.

Dad, I have come to appreciate you more than I did back then. Thank you for giving me more love than you ever received. I hope I honour your legacy by doing the same with my kids.

Carlton Williams lives in Lagos with his wife Anita and has four children. His life mission, expressed in Christian ministry and business, is to help people discover and demonstrate their God-given magnificence. 

 

Photo Credit: Wokandapix/ https://pixabay.com/en/dad-father-tie-father-s-day-798086/

 

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A Few Good Men

a few good men

Movie previews vie for prominence in IMAX theatres as summer calls. The themes are the same though special effects vary. Whether resetting the day to secure a better future in Edge of Tomorrow or fighting for the survival of the species in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the protagonists are ‘ordinary’ men and women juxtaposed in extraordinary circumstances. They earn their place on the wall of fame in our hearts by navigating tough choices and taking the ‘high road’.

They may fall on the way eliciting groans from us or run with injured limbs drawing encouragement from us, but in the end, we discard popcorn cartons and nod to the beat of the song that accompanies the credits. We are looking for heroes and don’t even realise it. Year after year, Hollywood sells us this basic story of redemption, and we say, “Oh yes!” with our Dollars.

The big screen that typifies courage, honour, and integrity is a macrocosm of what a woman’s heart longs for. Sometimes political correctness, feminism, gender equality, etc., educate me to the point that when I place my hands on my chest, I no longer feel my heartbeat. Nevertheless, when darkness causes me to trip, I see clearly.

At nineteen, I chose love that devalued me. Dark alleys and groping hands crumble truth and leave broken hearts. I love you, should be said in daylight so the heat of the sun can scrutinize the lips from which the words pour. Then I met a man who did not kiss the girl and make her cry, although I was ripe for the picking. He said, “You mustn’t fall in love with me, you must reach for your dreams.” A man’s heart can be a safe place for your dreams, because if he believes in you, he will walk beside you and invest in your future.

If women declare unequivocally, “I want a man who will fight for my honour, yes, a knight in shining armour and baby, I’m no pushover, I can certainly hold my own,” then perhaps men will rush to borrow Superman’s cape! Heroism isn’t always glamorous. Countless choices refine what it means to be a hero. Every choice is a ripple in the river of time. Enough ripples, and you can change the tide for the future is never truly set.

Some men look at the dizzy neon lights of the casinos of life and remember that although they once hit jackpot at the slot machines, the house advantage in a game of roulette sets them up for long-term disappointment. They walk past so they can arrive home at six to ruffle Peter’s hair and read Anna a bedtime story; to watch reruns snuggled next to Mary.

They shove their hands into deep pockets when voices rise and tempers boil and even wave a white flag when it is their right to hoist a red one. They let the door click in place because a slam reverberates through the house instilling fear that clings to the occupants in its wake.

Others nurse battle wounds and walk with a limp, a gait at once laudable and laughable, but pay child support like clockwork. They embrace the dawn to polish their dull swords knowing that sheen comes from consistent practice and that just because someone loses his way, it doesn’t mean he’s lost forever.

Fathers, grandfathers, husbands, brothers, friends, sons, nephews, uncles, and cousins, although we do not see you featured in 3D saving the world, we need you to hope again. The curtain is lifted and the spotlight is on you. Don’t be a dying breed.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

p.s. Ayonfe okon mi, olowo o rimi, this one is especially for you.

 

 

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A Father’s Love

Father's Love

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

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.