An incident in January of 2008 happens to be one of those instances that prove to me to date that blood ties exist and they bind unconditionally.
It was during the aftermath of the post-election violence, and I needed to get back to school. I was to join class 7 and hence I had that false mature feeling of being a grown man. The tiny fur-like beards on my chin proved my maturity by my standards. This feeling consequently made me put forth unwarranted resistance against being escorted all the way to upcountry by my father, where the primary school was located. I made clear to him my age and my ability to ensure my own safety to school. He in turn, made it even crystal clearer that of the two of us, he was the parent and he was the one to decide on how I would go to school. This was the first of many subsequent disagreements that happen to this day.
“If a son has a peaceful relationship with his father, if neither of them ever shows contempt for the other, then either the father is a fool, or the son is.”
― Abhaidev, That Thing About You
There is a funny Swahili proverb that states, ‘Ukishindana na ndovu kunya, utapasuka msamba.’ (When you compete with an elephant to pass stool, you’ll rupture your rectum.) And so I subdued and my father and I left for the countryside. It was never an interesting journey.
It was usually not pleasant when I realized that I was to purchase my school’s personal effects alongside my parents, let alone my father. I had to come up with spoken, undoubtedly convincing mini theses for every item I would grab from the supermarket. Ranging from a roll-on, to a beard-shaving blade.
As we were walking down the small town proximal to my school, nuggets of advice began emanating from my paterfamilias. I was told on how I should avoid young ladies in order that I would concentrate on my studies. He insisted on doing my best that I would make him proud. He continued to narrate passionately the benefits of education to any person, considering that he himself wasn’t that much educated.
As we were engrossed in the imparting of wise counsel, there occurred a blast that was ear-deafening and horrifying like it had never occurred to me before in my life. People began scampering in a terrifying manner. My hand firmly grabbed my father’s hand and we joined in the befuddlement. Women fell unmethodically as they made effort to grab their items that they had by the roadside for sale. Children wailed indiscriminately. The men tried to establish what was ensuing. In the dash for everyone’s safety, I lost grip of my father’s hand. Another blast with a fourfold magnitude than the earlier one rented the air. Panic gripped every human including the remnant of the courageous men.
I realized I was lost in fear when some man shouted in the local dialect, “You fool! You are headed in the direction of those people!” I was actually speeding in the direction of the blasts. I turned and saw a horde headed fast in the opposite direction.
I joined the multitude in running to the direction. On the sprint, I noticed the guys in military gear with semi-automatic machines walking majestically in the direction of ‘those people’. They looked ready to open fire.
I kept on with the run for as long as my breath could sustain me. After an eternity, we were now in clusters and in a serene environment. I fell to the ground and began coughing continuously. I noticed I coughed out sputum with blood. I then lay supine. A shadow of people formed around me as one gracious woman offered me milk.
In a while, I was up and about and was now paying attention to what people were saying pertaining to what had just happened.
“Those guys were about to capture and raid the entire town!” shouted one.
“No! They are members of our neighboring community trying to seize our town!” screamed another.
“You people don’t understand! The enemies were aiming at killing all of us!” roared an elderly man.
“People, Our neighboring community wanted to prove their dominance!” said another.
I gathered that it was an inter-community fight that was about to happen due to the difference in political leaders elected in the just concluded elections, but was quickly stopped by the security forces that happened to be around.
From a far off I could see a constellation of mud thatched huts on fire. I could see fear stricken young girls standing hands akimbo with seemingly no thoughts in their minds.
That was the first time I had witnessed the absence of peace. I felt my stomach twitch convolutedly with the thought that I was not with my father. Untold trepidation characterized my existence as I began heading in the direction we had supposedly come from and probably where I would find my father.
I ran until I noticed my nose was bleeding. I slowed and began to walk hastily. I walked past guys with bows and arrows who I could tell had pity on me from how I appeared. In time, I was in that town where we had parted with dad and there was hardly anyone in sight. I then saw the security people and I shot at them with the speed of peregrine falcon.
“I have lost my dad. We parted right here!” I mumbled at one of them amidst tears and uncontrolled mucus.
“He is a tall, gigantic, dark, spectacled man in a maroon shirt and black pair of trousers. He was carrying in his hand a big shopping bag. Help me find him!” I continued as I clearly saw how those guys were disinterested in my narrative.
I walked into an adjacent dispensary and literally checked every room and he wasn’t there. I thought I almost felt how it feels to lose a loved one. Darkness set in. As at that time, I hadn’t been quite philosophical yet but I wish I had come across this quotation:
“Boys do not long for fathers who will usher them through the gauntlet of psychological disconnect. They long for fathers who have themselves survived intact. Boys do not ache for their father’s masculinity. They ache for their fathers’ hearts.”
― T. Real
“At the moment when you lost grip of my hand, I turned and couldn’t locate you. I remained still trying to find you among the crowd. I felt a sharp pain of my left leg. An arrow had found its way in the direction of my femur. I was temporarily rendered immobile. I bled a lot and passed out. I woke up in a homestead where I was heavily bandaged in white clothing. I couldn’t move my foot. I immediately demanded that I should be let go to find my son. I was politely told that I wasn’t able to move. I got up and an excruciating pain made me sink back on the bed I lay. I have never prayed with much earnestness than I did at that time. I forbade my mind from thinking that anything had happened to you. I waited in impassion that you be found safe even with any kind of injuries.
I spent that night moving from homestead to homestead asking for a man with the description of my father. Each subsequent homestead seemed hopeless than the preceding. It did not cross my mind that I should seek divine intervention. I felt my feet were sore. I spotted a shed that was seemingly being used for selling items during the day. I found abode there with absolute zero hope. I was dozing off when I jerked at the touch of a hand.
“Are you okay?” asked a husky voice.
“I lost my father.” I responded in record time.
“Who is your father?” the voice asked as if he had seen a sonless man somewhere.
“He is a tall, gigantic, dark, spectacled man in a maroon shirt and black pair of trousers. He was carrying in his hand a big shopping bag.” I reiterated the description of my father for the umpteenth time
“This must be the young man belonging to the man injured earlier today.” said another voice with finality.
Just like in the movies, father and son reunited; something that is unheard-of in Sub-Saharan Africa. The shed I had cast down all my hopes was an arm’s throw away from where the progenitor of my being lay in anguish of an arrow’s injury. Those are blood ties that led me there.
When I later got to school, my classmates enjoyed a term full of an entertaining River-Wood edition dubbed, “Blood Ties that Bound Father and Son in the Midst of a Quagmire”.
“It’s terrible never to find a father in a world chock-full of fathers of all sorts.”
― Jack Kerouac, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters