I can still remember my last night with him, I watched him walk away from me with a certain sick feeling that this would be my last loving glance upon him. We had just picked out the perfect gift for his wife and I was curating links for him. I chided him for running down the stairs in his state but he wanted to watch penalties – I no longer remember who was playing. The next morning – the 3rd of February 2013, in our usual – “I’m late tussle”. I hugged him one last time and watch the taxi pull away.
That was the last I saw of my daddy.
It was a cold Sunday morning, the morning I last saw him, I was the only child that was afforded that privilege. I doubt some of my siblings and cousins who loved him so much would remember the last time they saw him but I do, ever so clearly.
They called the evening of the 4th. The airport police. They asked to speak to my mom. They said your husband is dead. He died on the flight – on his last leg to reach his destination. I watched her loose it for a bit. Like I said, I was the only child left at home. I had to get re-enforcements, we needed airtime. We had to make calls. Two of my siblings show up and we begin the dreaded 11pm calls, to 50 – 60 year olds who had already called it a night.
We had no patience for their disbelief, we hung up and called the next person. He had so many friends and knew so many people. The two week fundraising run that ensued to get him brought back home – whoever knew someone who knew someone tried to reach out – We needed help. Daddy had to come home. At one point, we got so frustrated we started discussing the possibility of burying him where he was.
That same week I got a call from the tech company. The one I had been eyeing. They wanted to do an interview. They were interested in hiring me. The very next day, I got an eMail. Carnegie Mellon. They were interested in interviewing me. They had got my school application and they wanted to know more about me.
You see, my dad and I had decided it was time for a shift in our lives. He was looking for something new and exciting to do and I was looking for a change. He suggested school to me and I suggested retirement to him.
When he did return, we picked him up – a casket fit for a king, my sister said – disbelief now finally sinking in. He is really gone, I said to myself at the airport. He is not coming back. The “I should haves started then…”. They say parties are well attended, but that would also apply to his funeral. It was no party, but people showed up to pay their respects. There were so many people. We then boarded buses to that took us to the ends of the earth. That is what my friends now affectionately refer to it. My village. In the deep, sometimes inaccessible hills of Kanungu. His father was distraught with grief as well. Well, I guess we all were but more so for him. He had outlived his son. The roses hit the silver casket and that was it. It was done. He was gone. He was not coming back.
The silence that hit me when I got home was palpable. He was here and then he wasn’t. He was just gone. Just like that. It hadn’t hit home yet. Not for me it hadn’t.
I did get accepted into Carnegie Mellon and left home July of that year. My mother is from the generation that believes in education. I went away with her blessing and urging. I went away but part of me was home. I had something to prove. For daddy. For his grieving family.
That same year, in December. His father also followed him. Gone. In his sleep I believe. I remember getting the news and thinking, “God, will we ever catch a break?” So we went back and said our goodbyes.
The next year, my grandmother moved back home. Some form of paralysis. The bills started then. The worry started then. Halfway through the year, I became single. That was the breaking point. Alone. In an apartment in another city. Away from home. Away from family. Away from friends. I broke. I shattered into tiny unrecognisable pieces. Everything suddenly became real.
Very raw. Very real. I was alone. I had to deal.
A friend or two stuck through it. They called everyday. Scarred their knees every day because the thoughts that twirled around in my head were not healthy. They were dark. They had been waiting. They were attacking with a thirsty vengeance. I wanted to die. I wanted to end. I wanted to be done. I was just tired. That was July – August 2014. I broke.
There is something that is to be spoken of the smile that is worn through such hardness. There is something that is to be spoken about friends who listen through gasps and sobs – Hardly ever deciphering what you have said. There is something to be said about the waking up and mindless routine of going through every day. There is also something to be said about the grasping of the familiar – the refusing to let go of the pain because, because… It is real. It reminds you of things it shouldn’t but you have grown so accustomed to them that you prefer them to the unknown that is wrapped up in hope.
In a sense, I did die that day in Nairobi. The version that returned home after that was different. I had changed. In every sense of the word change. My perspective was shifted. There was no going back.
Jan 2015. Saw me on a plane to Pittsburgh, PA. Me, Iffy, Joey & Vive. Off to complete our last semester at the main campus.
May 2015. I was named Valedictorian. The best in my class. As you have just read, I have little clue as to how this happened – the last part of 2014 still remains a blur.
July 2015. I got a programming job. I am still geeking out over this one. The way this happened, I have no clue. Post for another day.
Today, we stand to give thanks. My friends and I. We have had different journeys. Different brokenness. Different pain. Different lives. We tend to live in bubbles that are quite often clocked in the perfection shroud. There are days I still break a little. It might me a familiar face. It might be a scent. It might be a place. It is okay to give thanks even in breaking. Especially in the breaking.
Lol! No. I do not thank God – my daddy is gone. We still talk about that, God and I. But I thank him for the process that ensued thereafter. Thankful for the mending and the attitude shift. The relationships that have bloomed because of this. The fact that I can now write again. The love that I realised my family has for me – how much I adore each and every one of them. I feel like the word ‘thankful’ itself does not carry the weight with which my heart writes this.
Today Abba, I am standing up and thanking you.
** Images Source: Google Images.