By Kariuki Dave
Now that Father’s Day is here, we are all obligated to honour that special old man in our lives whose efforts are least appreciated by the society we have today. Father’s Day is one of the little known international days. That is not my concern for now though. I am more concerned about those of us who were brought up by single mothers. Who do we salute on this day? You see, I belong to this group of people who, for one reason or another, didn’t get to grow up in a household with a father figure. Some of us had fathers who were just there to be seen, not to be heard nor felt, but we are here anyway like the rest and we do have a story to tell about those who took up the challenge and played the father’s role in our upbringing. My grandmother (God bless her soul) happens to be that person to me.
I was born in the late 80’s to a very young mother in high school and just like the script goes in most of these cases, she would have to take care of the baby alone as the boyfriend couldn’t handle the new reality. My grandmother was there though to guide my mother through the whole situation. She was a strong matriarch who had brought up seven children herself and this was just a small challenge to her. All went well and soon I was in nursery school and at the same time my mother was back in high school to complete her studies. My grandfather had long passed on and my grandma was the provider and the commander in that humble homestead. She took up all the responsibilities of a father in my upbringing; from disciplining to providing food and schooling stuff for me.
My grandmother was a staunch Catholic with strong faith that always amazed me. Not a day would go without her praying her rosary. All her children were baptized and had to go to church which was a little far. Living in her homestead left me with no choice but to follow her instructions. And when I complained that the church was very far for me to walk there every Sunday, I had to go to a nearby Presbyterian Church of East Africa (P.C.E.A) to escape her attention. This is where I attended my first Sunday school classes and engaged in some drama and music events that I really enjoyed save for one moment when my team lost ‘marks’ due to my pocketing during performance of a choral verse. It is here I learned about God and how I should honour my parents so as not to annoy him.
Growing up at your grandmother’s, one would expect you to be a spoilt kid since she is too old to engage in petty issues with kids, but this was not the case. Any small case of indiscipline was met with a thorough beating accompanied by some painful pinching on my soft thighs. (You can imagine it’s with those tough hardened finger nails.) And when the lesson was learned, she would shower praise on you in public and say you were a ‘grown’ boy who knew what was wrong and what was right. I loved how she would come to my defence with this statement when my mother thought I should get a thorough beating for some mischief. She had a special way of delivering wisdom and discipline on the same plate. She did it with such high precision that you would feel embarrassed for having failed her in the first place.
I learned the value of hard work from this woman. She would wake up very early in the morning to ensure I was off to school while she went to attend to her farm. My performance at school was always important to her and she did all she could to ensure I scored good grades. She would even prepare sweet potatoes for me during exam days; she said they would give me luck. All that seems funny and superstitious to me now but it gave me confidence then and I guess that was the idea.
Even though I never grew up with a father figure, I had two wonderful women who brought me up. I honour one during Mother’s Day. For this Father’s Day, I salute my grandmother. She provided for me just like a father would, disciplined me like a father would, defended me just like a father would, and loved me just like a father would. Maybe from these I learned what can make a good dad, maybe. Happy Father’s Day to the true dads though.
Kariuki is one of those ardent readers up in here. I loved this piece because it is a breath of fresh air during this season, if you know what I mean. Hats off to all them power grandmas! Catch Kariuki on Facebook or Twitter.[Photo credit: Flickr]