Finding Dad Part 2: ‘Cucu, baba yangu ni nani?’
High school came and went and I was locked out of university for missing the cut off mark by a few points.
It was going to be too burdensome for my grandparents to pay for a parallel degree program.
The only aunty who could help was jobless. So I got a job at a phone shop in Nairobi.
Relationships came too but they ended in a rejection I could not understand. I built a wall around myself and kept the friend zone wide.
I started going to church; to understand God and to like Him to some extent. But I was still angry with Him for killing my mum and hiding my father.
I needed to get my identification card. It was the first time I would interact with my birth certificate. It has my mum’s name.
The slot where my father’s name should be has a bold thread of letter x running to the end of the margin. I could read anger. My mum was skilled with the typewriter.
She must have filled that space herself. I had since gathered courage to ask about my father. I just needed to wait for the opportune time.
Meanwhile, my aunt had gotten a job and she could now afford to send me to a middle level college in the city. It felt like heaven to me.I wanted to become a journalist.
Immediately after completion, I landed a job at a local radio in Nakuru. God also blessed me with a good friend. I would make him my boyfriend as soon as I felt comfortable enough.
That time finally came but in a nasty twist of events he was badly injured in an accident and was hospitalized for a few weeks. One day in July 2012, we gathered at their home for a thanksgiving service and he decided it was time to introduce me to his people.
“Who is your father; what does he do?” This particular uncle I will never forget inquired. Everyone was introduced to him by their surname and titles of their fathers.
“I have been raised by my grandparents. They are retired teachers who practice small scale farming in Kabarak,” I said on my way out. My journey back home was purely mechanical. All the other senses of my body were immersed in the question about my father.
IS HE ALIVE OR DEAD?
“Cucu, baba yangu ni nani? (Grandma, who is my father?)” I responded to my grandma’s greeting with this question the moment I got home. I could see confusion and pain in her face as she answered me.
“Your mother never talked about him. She only mentioned that he was an engineer who worked with the Ministry of Works but later transferred when you were conceived. She tried to look for him after you were born and through a friend, he said he would fetch you.”
Grandma was not sure whether he was a Kisii or Maasai. She did not even have a name. But I could tell that my question caused a spin.
“Why did you ask?” she quipped. I had no answer. We both gazed into the rising steam of the ugali she was preparing for supper. Suddenly, I wanted to find my father or his grave.
I wanted to know the origin of the other 23 chromosomes in my body. But where would I start from? Is he alive, is he dead?
“YOU DON’T NEED HIM”
How many engineers would I have to go through before I got to him or his grave? I now had two questions about my father that no one could answer.
The following day I called my mum’s sisters. No, they did not know him. In fact my last born aunt was only twelve when I was born. My uncle said he used to take her to Maasai Mara National Park during the weekends.
My eldest aunt said mum went back to her parents’ home when she was about to give birth and never said a word about him. It looked like a dead end.
I would think about it every minute especially when I would walk to and from work. “You don’t need him,” they would say whenever I asked.
I knew that legally I was past the age of needing a father for anything. Yet there are some aspects of my life that held importance to whether or not he exists.
Like potential suitors and in-laws who had a problem with my lack of a father or my level of education.
For some reason, it bothered me that he was either out there alive or in a grave, a ghost hovering around me as I hustle in the world he brought me to; or a ghost who just didn’t care.
Hahaha. I kept it at the back of my mind. I would deal with it later.
Part 3 of this story continues next Saturday. The author, Cynthia Gichiri, is a journalist now based in Nairobi. She is also a Women in News Leadership Fellow
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