ÄN ELEPHANT IS NEVER BURDENED BY ITS HORNS.”ZIMBABWEAN PROVERB
I had very peculiar experiences with death recently.
Two of my neighbours, from different homes, died days apart from each other. The female, a member of the ‘Mpostori'(Apostolic) church, apparently abdicated her rights to a normal funeral, which in an African setting, involves endless wailing and a healthy dose of drama. Because she had been admitted in a hospital and seen by a doctor, there would be no crying. The whole affair was quite surreal. People were laughing and making conversation. It was in essence, a family reunion. Never mind the fact that she left behind nine children, countless grandchildren and a polygamous husband, her rights for tears had been revoked because she had broken the rules. She should have believed in a healing, not seek one, I guess.
The second funeral was customarily dramatic. The young man who died reaped his tears. Many wailed. Wife fainted. Children were confused. Food was plenty on the day of burial and people reminisced. The usual stuff that breaks your heart.
These two funerals made me realise how I never mourned my father when he croaked. To be fair, I did not know the man. Memories of him are few and desperate.
The first significant memory of him is when I was in primary school. I was six years old, and about to attend first grade. He came home, took me to town, bought me one very oversized uniform, no doubt intended to last some years, and a brown school bag, popular in those times, a treasure because it came from him.
My second memory of him is when I was in boarding school. He wrote me a letter, after ten years of nothing. I do not remember what he wrote, I must have blocked it, but I guess he was trying to reach out. I wrote back a mean letter, stating how disappointed I was in him. I was furious, and rightfully so! I was a teen, saddled with angst and hormones and hated everything. He gave up, did not write back and told my mother I had no right to speak to him the way I had in the letter. Too bad, because teen feminist.
Number three. His first born son had passed. I went to pay my respects. This was a poignant one for me, because he did not recognise me. He talked about himself when I finally told him who I was. I was a little wiser and right there and then, I knew he didn’t care. I stopped hoping.
When I got the news he had died, I did not feel anything. I did not cry. I was not sad. I just shrugged. He had been buried two weeks before I knew he was dead, news which came via a relative of his whom my mother had met randomly on the street.
When I observed my neighbours funerals, I realised something. Both families got a chance to say goodbye to their person, in spite of the dichotomy in mourning. But I hadn’t.
I never got a chance to ask WHY. Why he did not care enough to be present. Did he know my birthday? Did he ever think of me?
I never had the opportunity to berate him for taking away the chance of knowing how a man should love unconditionally. A chance of knowing divergent opinions from a mother and a father. Ream into him for turning me into a narcissist, a vice in character I abhor, but has been ingrained in my person because of serious abondonment issues. Ask him why he had no room for my love, which I would have given.
So this was it. In perpetuity, I will always be the woman whose father abandoned her. I do not want this for me.
Maybe this is my way of saying goodbye. A catharsis needed for closure. To do it as personally as I can. I might not know where he is buried, or what killed him, but he was a part of me and I deserve to be free.
So goodbye father. It is well.