We of the fatherless race have one thing in common. When we are not judging people by the arrangement of their facial features when they talk, we are weighing their actions on honesty scales which we invented to see if they measure out to be someone we can attach honor to. These scales are passed on from one fatherless generation for the next.
And as we constantly try to find a friend among the throngs that walk on our carefully tended emotional paths, we once or twice bump into someone that exceeds our theories on morality, justice and intelligence. If it’s a male, he is slotted into the small brother, brother, big brother or uncle section. If it’s a woman, she becomes a friend, or a bossom buddy. With women age doesn’t matter very much.
But there is one slot that few get to be slotted into.
The surrogate father.
This is someone we look up to, respect and don’t mind at all.
Our race has the advantage of forming, or carving out the ideal father figure out of unrelated male acquaintances without the burden of carrying the weight of their mistakes should they make any. My ideal surrogate fathers have always had specific characteristics. Animal lovers, music lovers, nature lovers, non- judgemental, and a pinch of strange(someone we’ll never quite understand)
A year and a half ago, one of our neighbours died in an accident involving a motorbike. I was very very shocked. He was the indestructible man in a small body. I could not imagine how a motorbike rider got him. The last time death missed him it killed his donkey. He has always owned a donkey, so they found the donkey standing by his hurt dying body. My first thought was, what will happen to his donkey? I momentarily forgot he has a son. I was sick at the time of the funeral, but had I attended the funeral I might have re-written the eulogy.
Because this man was my surrogate father.
He loved animals
Baba John has always had a donkey. His donkey never got wounds nor was it ever seen panting under the weight of grass on its cart. It was a happy donkey that knew its way home. When they delivered luggage to the town centre, I am told he had an agreement with a hotel owner to give it mandazi. So after a job, it would stand at the hotel’s door waiting to be served.
He also had a dog, his own and later one of his customer’s dogs. A German shepherd imitation that started to follow him home. Baba John tried to bring it back to its owner but at night, it would break free to come to his home. He explained to the owner that, he didn’t think he could feed that type of dog. The owner locked the dog up, but it found a way out and moved in with baba John completely. I liked the dog, it was friendly.
His cow, a brown and white aryshire was more of a pet than a worker. Whenever I would pass by its feeding trough, it would be happily eating grass, stinging nettle and other greens. Sometimes he would graze it on the path between the road and his house.
|Baba John, his dog and his Donkey.|
Children loved him
One time, we were waiting for the afternoon milk truck to come, there was a bunch of kids waiting too and baba John passed by, they all said a greeting, all eight of them one after the other.
Then they said:
‘Baba John, we are very hungry, we’ve been waiting for this lorry and it’s not coming.’
“Aaaa, is it? Follow me, I’ll give you Githeri.”
They followed him, and soon after each one of them came back hands full of Githeri.
|they came back looking like he had fed them at kungu maitu.|
Our small cousin, would run away to go hang out with baba John. You would find them having a conversation like two grown up men.
His Controlled Drinking
Sometimes on my way home I would find baba John making his way home. I could tell he had had a few beers from his cheerful greeting. I would walk a bit with him then walk ahead to avoid scandal. But the thing that used to surprise me was, even when drunk he never said any obscene word or found an excuse to misbehave. Even when I was already grown up and he might have pretended not to recognize me aanjie wana. No. He spoke to me as a self respecting grown up man should address a grown up girl who is of similar age to his daughters.
He was a man I felt that in case one day I was running away from the big bad wolf, I could easily hide behind him and he would not turn out to be a big bad wolf as well.
I love people who smile. Not people who smile when you ask them to, but people who have an underlying smile behind their face. A smile that can mean they are studying you and think you are not what you are acting out to be. Or the smile that tells you someone doesn’t take themselves too seriously and they are just happy with the way their life is moving along.
Baba John had one of those faces that you are not afraid off. Open faces which don’t stare but look at you just enough to assure you they are not ignoring you.
You know, if our real fathers were put on one side and the surrogate fathers on the other and we were asked to pick one. We would pick the latter, the one we know.