As a child, I believed that my Dad was invincible. He was healthy as a horse, he never complained about anything, and it seemed to me that he had an endless supply of money. This wasn’t true, of course; teaching is not exactly a goldmine. But I couldn’t possibly know that, seeing as I never lacked for anything.
Ignorant of the fact that Dad was at pains to give us a good diet,I was the vain little girl who always bragged to my little friends about eating fish on a normal day of the week.On those days, I avoided washing my hands in order to retain the evidence of my glamorous life.Glamorous by village standards, of course.
My elder sister the firstborn did not partake of this ‘glamour’. She was born during a financial drought. To compensate for my sister’s lack of access to good quality education, Dad taught her himself. She owes her linguistic eloquence and mathematical fineness to him.
Even as Dad did all of this, he didn’t demand gratitude or reverence. He was, and still is our father who greets us with warm hugs. He was and still is the man who asks if we have eaten before he puts food on his plate.
My dad was the man who entertained my childish obsession with myths about Museveni, the president of Uganda. This was during the late nineties, just a little over a decade after Museveni had come into power. I now know that poverty and ignorance were the ingredients of these stories.
But then I was seven and therefore gullible. And anyway if in doubt, I only had to ask my father.Could Museveni really fly? Was he omnipresent? Was he immortal? My father always answered in affirmative for his own amusement. He then proceeded to provide examples of the incidents he had witnessed just a few weeks before. I stood there wide-eyed, at the risk of suffering from a stroke from too much excitement.
Dad has never told me that he loves me. But I have never wondered about it. I know from the numerous sacrifices he made to make my childhood comfortable. I know from the way he still calls to ask if I am okay and if I have eaten. And because of that, I know that words are not necessary. I have learnt to believe people solely by their actions.
We do not agree on my lifestyle choices, my father and I. He is a stickler for rules while I like to be free. But I think this is more about the fact that we come from different generations than it is about us being different. I know for a fact that the more I know about myself, the more I realise that I am my father’s daughter.
If I am a perfectionist and a workaholic, it is because my father is a relentless pursuer of excellence. If I am an ardent reader, it is because he put books and newspapers in my hands at an early age and told me to read. If I am kind and generous, it is because I have constantly watched my father spread himself thin to help the people around him.
The child in me still believes that my Dad is invincible. I know from the way I downplay the situation every time he is unwell.
So here is to my father, the invincible man.