Another Father’s Day had come and gone. I’d wished you were here to hear it from my mouth that I cherish you for being my father. Though I have no memory of you locked up anywhere in my conscious mind, you’re not and have never been a phantom reality to me. You walked through this world and touched lives long before I knew what living was all about. Abraham, my father, I raise a prayer of thanks to God in honor of you.
It’s funny that you liked to do your stuff in obscurity and was wary of standing before the camera’s lens to pose for a picture. Hence the family album I watched as a kid had lots of pictures of your friends, but not you, and that’s the only ‘beef’ I really seem to have had with you, dad! You made me order Uncle Ikoro, your photographer friend to search through his library/archives of black & white pictures and their negatives just to catch a glimpse of you but after a futile search, he confirmed that you’re just ‘camera-shy’ and took no personal pictures. Could that be the reason why I had no baby pictures? Anyway, good news is that now I have become a camera freak and the beautiful people and scenes around me have not been escaping the clicking shutters of my camera.
Two months ago I went to the village for the interment of your sister-in-law and a middle aged man from Umuihi village whom I scarcely knew, called me aside and asked, “Are you the son of Abraham?”, and I answered with a sense of pride for he had mentioned that you were a kind man who helped him and a couple other kids when he was a primary school boy at St. Joseph’s Primary School Ihitte. He said they usually came to your shop at Isinweke Market to buy exercise books and stuff, and you’d often help those who couldn’t buy due to lack of money. I can’t count the number of times during my stay in the village as a kid and subsequent visits as an adult to the village when folks I hardly knew would ‘accost’ me to ask: “Are you the son of Abraham?” and they would add, ” He was such a large-hearted, generous, kind and peace-loving man who cared so much for people.”
Guess what? People have been kind to me on account of your kindness to them. People paid my school fees as a child when mum couldn’t on account of your kindness. Several uncles and relatives stepped into your shoes to be a father figure to me all because of your kindness. I couldn’t even have had a university education if not that someone you had been kind to, took up the responsibility to see me through the university and has remained a true father ever since. You never knew you’d leave too early and now your kindness has been reciprocated in my life, and often times am baffled at the show of love and kindness I receive from even strangers. Could they be the fruits of the seeds you’d sown way back?
Was kindness a gene you inherited and replicated in your offspring? Sometimes I feel like being mean and heartless to people I meet but something always thaws my heart, and I wonder if that was a prayer you’d prayed. I wonder what it is that you did to my mom.yes your only wife; that made her stay stuck with you when she’d the advantage of age and gracefulness to win the heart of another man long after you’re gone. She once said to me; ‘My son, no other man could ever love me like Abraham your father did!” What did you really do to stir such commitment and loyalty from a woman you left behind with such enormous responsibilities of raising your 3 kids? She said it was your dream that I become educated rather than go to learn a trade like it was for most kids who lost their dads early in the village. I wish you’d know now that I am not just an educated man; I’ve become a man of letters; a wordsmith and troubadour of sorts, who trade in words that now travel to people in far-removed cultures and lands through the internet!
You know what father; I once wrote a poem for you when I began to craft words into poems. It was an ode and I wished I could find a way to send them across to the celestial beyond where I hope you’re resting in the bosom of The Father of all flesh and spirits. I poured my heart to tell you how much you meant to me, and that I was proud to be your son. My only regret was that I didn’t really get to know you since you left too early for me to recall your picture or how your voice sounded. But everyone who knew you had so much to say and tell me about you.
You know my best childhood friend calls me ‘Nwa Abraham’ and you can imagine how tickling a feeling it evokes in me each time, and he has called me “Nwa Abraham” for years now. I’ve known so many other kids and grown-up men who hardly could say anything complimentary about their dads and their dads are even alive today. Though you’ve been gone for over 30years, I’ve not ceased to say am honored to be your son, and that your genes run deeply in me.
I have just a little secret I wanted to whisper in your ears but I hope it won’t make you green with envy though. You know what? Over a decade ago, my lips could hardly articulate the letters that combine to form the word ‘father’ because I wasn’t used to calling anyone ‘My father” as a kid. So you can imagine how funny and weird in the mouth it would be for a full-blooded adult like me to call anyone father. Though my great uncles filled your slot and disciplined me when I erred and instilled in me the sense of right and wrong, I still didn’t call them ‘Papa’ nevertheless.
Anyway, I once had an unimaginable experience that opened up my heart to the concept of fatherhood in your absence. Somehow God adopted me to become his own son when I decided to believe in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. It was a long and chequered journey before my mind and heart were conquered by the reality of God’s love for me. The first time I tried to call God ‘Father’, my lips sort of felt clumsy and it just didn’t make any sense. But with time, I have come to really know that Almighty God is actually ‘My Father’ though in heaven and I didn’t even know all along that He was the one who sent all the lovely people that cared for me in your stead.
I didn’t know He’s the ‘Father of the fatherless’ until my heart came to appreciate that He’s always been there even when you’re there. Shebi you no go vex say I been dey call Papa God, ‘My Father’? Him na correct papa: ‘confirm’ like my brothers wey dey sell 4 Idumota will say to a customer to prove the genuineness of their product!
One last thing, I adopted your name Abraham as one of my official first names in my international passport. And because am now linked to Abraham the patriarch and father of faith, I decided to add an ‘S’ to your name to accommodate this double paternal and spiritual heritages that I have. So you’d see that I am called ‘Abrahams’ and that tells you I’m proud of you. I want to retain and perpetuate your name and what you stood for, and I am happy to be your son, and hope years to come, generations that will follow your lineage will be called a truly Blessed People. Happy 2009 Father’s day Dad-in-Celestial-Diaspora!
Felix-Abrahams Chukwudi Obi