On this day 23 years ago my father breathed his last breath.
It wasn’t really a surprise because he was sick and in hospital in the run up to his death but you know death, it has a way of shocking you regardless.
This day is always weird for me because I’m never sure how I’m supposed to, allowed to feel. He died 9 days before I turned four so I can’t say I knew him well. Am I a hypocrite for mourning a man I barely knew or is the fact that I called him daddy all the reason I need?
Over the years I’ve heard many stories about him that have made me believe he was a good man, a man of integrity. I know they aren’t lying because I’ve heard it from too many people for it not to be true but I also know no man is perfect. Why does no one tell me the bad things? Do they think it will make me love him less? Surely the man must have annoyed some people in this world! I really hate not knowing everything. It sucks.
The fondest memory I have of him was in the run up to his death. It was June 1988 and my birthday wasn’t far away. I asked my mum how we were going to celebrate it and she said we weren’t because daddy was in hospital.
“Daddy, mummy says I can’t celebrate my birthday because you are sick!!!”
I was crying like my life depended on a cake and party packs for my friends at school.
“Your mummy said that?! Don’t mind her, of course you will celebrate it. Tina!”
My mother rushed to his bedside.
“Why did you tell my Princess that she can’t celebrate her birthday?!”
My father made EVERYONE that came to visit him promise that they should make sure I had the birthday of all birthdays.
“Daddy I know you can’t come home for the party but I will bring you some of my birthday cake.”
Sadly, he didn’t hang around long enough for me to keep that promise.
Everyone kept their word and I had the best birthday ever. The house was brimming with presents and I’ve never seen so many cakes in my life…not even in a bakery! My classmates at school awarded me goddess status and my gargantuan party packs were the talk of the class for weeks after. I had to wear a black party dress to school with black plastic earrings but even that didn’t stop me smiling. My mother, aunties, uncles, and the rest of my family were mourning but I was floating on a cloud and they were forced to put aside their grief to make my day extra special. Not the most sensitive kid on the block eh?!
I think I will forever feel guilty about that. It’s why I never make a fuss on my birthday.
I’m not interested in filling my dustbin with wet tissues today. Who will empty it when I’m done?! All I want is for him to know that by the grace of God, I’ve made good of my life. I didn’t get knocked up and sleep with men for money like those aunties predicted I would. I didn’t drop out of university and fall in with bad gangs like all those people said I would. We didn’t have to beg for anything like all those people expected we would. They who were avoiding us were wasting their energy because we sure as hell didn’t need them. We had God (even when we didn’t know it) and he was more than enough for us.
Today I want him to know he isn’t forgotten. I treasure the memories I have of him and I will forever be grateful to God that I knew him at all.
Angels, I’m not sure how these things work but just in case he can’t read this, please pass on the message. If you will, tell him I love him and will bring him that piece of cake when I’m coming to meet him in heaven. Mr Integrity, let him not say I don’t keep my promises!