A homeage to my dad
Once upon a time there was a mighty man. The only survivor out of 9 siblings, a FiTawRaRi’s son non-the-less, he lived his life the way he saw fit: saying what he wanted, doing what he wanted or beating up anybody standing in the way. That doesn’t mean he had an easy childhood, on the contrary! But he never took life seriously, until lost or too late.
• He was a genius, but never stayed in school long enough to finish it. He either had a fall out with a director for making the kids laugh while earnestly singing the King’s “Mezmur” with his hoarse voice, gets punished a year for starting a group fight in high school/college, or tells the American lady doing the interview that “you Americans” were segregators and losses his scholarship.
• He loved his mother to death, still spent most of his time in Addis, partying his youth away at “Wube BeReha” (while she sent one messenger after another begging him come see her before she died) until the fatal day she fainted in his prescence, and he run to the nearest doctor weeping “Enate Motechibign. Enate Motechibign”, and discovered she’d had the worst case of diabetes which she kept from him and refused to look after properly (saying, like everybody else did in those days, she wasn’t going to live forever) the same year he was taking his ESLCE exam. Resulting with her dying, him falling his exam and being left all alone in the world.
• He loved his wife, and children, but they never knew about it till she got tired of the beatings and left him or one of them got sick and he starts crying like a baby.
He didn’t have much of a role model, neither. His mother traveled across countries (with him next to her, on a mare that later broke his nose) on the trail of one judge after another until she won over her land from her [male] adversaries at H.I.M. Haileselassie I’s court. An experience that taught her son a valuable lesson he’d stick to even in his old age: that if you are alone in this world, you are vulnerable to all kinds of attacks you should be able to defend yourself from, by seeing them from afar if you can.
So he knew about and brooded over “conspiracies”, saw them coming even when they weren’t, sometimes in his own family and children who can barely pronounce their grandpa’s name, better than anybody. The only men in his life (his dad died young) were either the various tenants working in various capacities in his father’s estate who made fun of his mother’s impressive figure when her back was turned, grieving his young heart (they used to call her “GArA MuLeta” he told me once) or the men she married and divorced – for being mean to her son – when she wasn’t traveling. He remembers once waking up from sleep in the middle of the night, covered in ants; and screaming for help; and being beaten for it by a stepfather whose wife has run away that very evening.
Unfortunately, before they learned that parents weren’t really smarter, only older, and that they got weaknesses too kids should learn to understand and forgive; his children couldn’t tell the difference between the darkness that covered their door in the evening and the dark man that walked through it drank, angry and “sniffing blood”. A difficult man who found it hard to live with himself, he wasn’t exactly the type of father whose return in the evening his children looked forward to.
Nobody loved this man for who he is! His friends were his friends because he spent his mother’s money freely on them. The peasants on his father’s estate loved and hailed him as something of a Saint because he refused to take advantage of their labor and the fruit of their toil. His college buddies & fellow teachers made him their hero because he didn’t hesitate from beating up anybody giving them trouble and taking all the blame. His pretty cousins wanted him around only when they needed a male protection to and from school.
This man is an honest man! A hard working man! A man with principles! As a man of principles, he saw the world in only two colors, in black and white! A hard working, honest and principled person is loved by him like no other. He’d be there for him no matter what, to the gallows sometimes. A person who falls short of it made enemies with him. So he had as many people who hated his guts as he had who bear witness that he’ll never take bribe. And his kids, going to the same school he teaches in and sitting with the same kids he punches in the face with little notice, had to bear all the looks and nasty words from those not courageous enough to say it to their father’s face. They were more or less strangers too, strangers who needed defending themselves for somebody else’s fault (or right).
This man is a good father and a faithful husband! But as a man, he has a long way to go. So angry words are said and bad looks are exchanged. And every time that happens, their mother is told to leave the house taking her kids with her.
Problem is, the kids are all grown up now. They know the laws. They know how far a father can go. And that he isn’t the Alpha and Omega he once was, the loving lord & father with a whip of fire looking at them only to find faults. And they say as much. They tell him, too, that they aren’t kids anymore. That they aren’t scared of him anymore. That they won’t let him scare their younger siblings anymore. No way!!
They don’t mean to hurt him, perhaps only to teach him. But ofcourse nothing sounds the way it is meant to sound in the heat of arguments; when angry words are uttered, when hateful looks are exchanged and when resentments and grudges come out to light.
So now this man is a broken man! A broken old man! A broken and lonely old man whose children are “against him”. Or atleast don’t love and appreciate him the way he thought all fathers who labored for their family should be loved and appreciated. Sometimes I catch him looking at the floor llike a man who has suddenly woke up to find his world gone. A king reduced to a commoner. A mighty man with as much dignity & stubborness, save for the power, who can neither admit he was wrong, nor less than perfect, but whose eyes beg for love and understanding. Like a man … scared!
And I wonder, I sometimes wonder, if being right and having enough reasons are worth it. They never were for my father!!