Like ice, my father froze into quietness. He lay still. Hands immobile. Legs straight. Usually, he would wave at people but today, nine years ago, he had not the energy to. He was a jovial man. His milk-white teeth were ever on display. Today, in 2006, his lips were tightly shut by the power of death and his face looked weather-beaten, lifeless and cracked like a dry leaf.
His eyes were firmly locked. Perhaps by the heaviness of the eyelids or the very many eyes that looked at him. Maybe it was because of his dark skin. Our science teacher told us melanin is as dense as the bark of a tree.
My father adored my voice whenever I sung How Great Thou Art hymn but on that day, his ears did not recognize the alphabet, not even the sweetness I tried to achieve by projecting my voice. He loved to call me Ajim but when I set my eyes on him, he looked like the glass separating his face and mine was soundproof. He was neither cognizant nor reactionary.
You wonder what killed my father. He was an enemy to no one. He was a friend to no one. Everybody was a human being before his eyes. He even made friends with Mother Nature. He planted trees. He loved animals, beautiful sceneries – mountains climbing on top of other mountains and hills peeping between the sunrays. My mother would accompany him to the forest. Together, they watched birds, monkeys and fruits unheard of. Sometimes, when mom was tired of walking, she told me, dad would stop so they play a kalongolongo. He cat-walked as she cheered him on. He would grab her just below her waist and raise her chest to the height of his. She would obediently lift her legs in excitement as they completed a 360 degree turn. He would then terrorize her neck with sumptuous kisses and pollute her ears with erotic talks.
But that is no more. He left her. He abandoned us.
On the day he left, I got an opportunity to view his boy. His soft skin was gone. It tightened like hatred between two men fighting over a girl. His skin looked rough, rugged and rippled. He changed his colour. He was darker than a cooking pot and uglier than a baboon. It is true Africans came from apes and so they must return.
“He has changed. They should have spared his handsome eyes,” I say to mom after noticing her emotionally looking at my dad’s old photos.
Did the mortician beat my father and why? Did he hammer my father because my father beat his candidate in elections? Of course, my father loved politics. His last born has Raila as one of his two names.
Was the mortician given an opportunity to revenge against our family? My father’s cheeks had remnants of scales from a fishy hand. His bones were crushed. Probably his ego too.
The post-mortem report was nothing but a mockery. The autopsy, though done by an experienced doctor, did not reveal anything. It showed my father died of lung failure. What is that? How can the lung fail when it sat no test? I don’t know why doctors cannot make such things clear. Should I blame it on their poor salary or on the shortage of the English language?
But the post mortem report was not a big issue because it was not going to resurrect him. Mourning was because it is a Luo thing.
How was I to mourn my father? Without his effort, I would not have had the opportunity to enjoy this world. How was I to mourn a politician, a former Councilor, a teacher who was said to be the first person to own a car in our village? How was I to send off a man who was very strict, “Ajim, who is that boy I saw you with? Does he go to school?” Was I to weep for some minutes then recede to sobbing? What if I joined the ululating women? I would be able to hide inside their cries. What was I to do? I had to mourn adequately otherwise people would think I was happy with his demise or worse still, I participated in his killing. Oh, yes. I got an answer. I threatened to jump into the grave after the casket had been lowered.
I saw his spirit rise. He was going to the courts in heaven. He was entering appearance in a case Satan filed against him. Sad I was not a lawyer yet otherwise I would have lectured him on what evidence to adduce. That he lived like a man. That he was not those Christians who ‘love’ God but hate some people created by the very same God.
What English did my father speak with his maker? American English? No. The very many f*** in their sentences would piss Him off. British English? No. It was created by the Queen. The deity is too jealous for rivalry. What about Kenyan English? Not quite. It is the same language politicians use to cover their corrupt deeds. I suspect my father spoke Dholuo because Jesus loved fish.
I have no idea how life would have been had my father lived to this minute. May be I would not have studied law. Perhaps I would have been more careless and lazy. Imaginably, I would have been outside the country. These are guesses. But one thing is certain: my mom would have been happier.
I think about Jaduong’ (as we loved to call him) whenever someone mentions ‘my father’ in a sentence. Solid tears collect around my heart. I grow weak. I lose appetite. I force sleep. The pain of knowing your father is rained on daily.
Making good use of the alphabet