When I first met you, my joy knew no bound. You brought so much love into my heart, the extent of which was hard to explain. From your first word to your first steps, I reveled in joy and unconditional love.
Today, you are an older, lanky rich chocolate that wears an infectious smile beneath the amazing person you have become! Yes, but you have also grown to your own thoughts, opinions, personality and interests and I worry that we now seem to be growing apart.
I have no idea the spirit that led me today that I elected to write you. But one thing is certain though. I am not coming from a position of merited honour or fatherly pride. Instead, I am contrite, deserving no seat in the row with the eminent. No, surely not with the way I have ignored you lately. Heaven knows I have fallen short and I am deeply pained.
I saw the look in your face when I asked you for a hug before bed last night. I know you didn’t think I was too timid to show love. You had seen me hug your sister a dozen times. And I am sure you may have wondered why not. How can anyone blame you!
But I belive I needed a “we-time” to explain myself. In short, I am convinced it’s now time we should talk. Too many things to unpack before shame and guilt overwhelm me. I know I had often bored you and your sister about life growing up, but I promise I never had the chance to explain how that came to be.
I am sure you remember our last trip back home. And how you and your sister accused me of acting shy and timid whenever I am with my older ones. You watched as your mum dared me to hold her hands in their company. I believe that was pure blackmail but hey, it’s only fair. You also observed and rightly so, how some were even old enough to be my dad. And that says a lot son.
Being the last child is full of privileges. But it also means that parents were too old to care and may have forgotten how to dispense love when I showed up. Show of love gets outsourced to folks ill-prepared to do the job. Your dad grew up surrounded by those who loved hard but struggled with how to show it. He falls short since he can’t give you what he didn’t inherit.
There is also the thing about culture. It envelops you in a yoke that makes it hard to break away. There is nothing bad with it. No, let’s not get it twisted son. But it just fills the mind, clinging stubbornly to how it was and what it ought to be but short on how to evolve.
Just the other day, I learned about Sly. The poor kid that went to school and got clubbered to death. I had chills cascading down my spine. He was sent off to school to learn and not to be bullied to death. He faced those bullies who preyed on his innocence and made him pay with his dear life.
I must confess that my stomach convulsed with bile. It scared the hell out of me. I wondered if the boy could have been saved. I worried that the bullying might have been ongoing but the kid was probably too shy to tell his dad. Or maybe he did and was asked to toughen up; the way I always say to you. Did he think that no one cared and chose rather to fight his bullies by himself?
Right there and then, I thought about you. I wondered how you would have acted; if you would have found the courage. The courage to confide in me of the demons you fight and your struggles. I doubt it because I have done nothing lately to deserve your trust. And that is the thing killing me softly.
In case I haven’t mentioned it before – you are a real source of pride and joy for all of us. How lucky your mum and I are for the gift of you in our lives. Despite the fights, please know your big sister adores you as well. I love you son even if I can’t prove it to you or too timid to show it.
Last night I stole into your room in the dead of the night, making sure no one noticed. I watched you sleep like an angel as your chest rose and fell with each breath. Even though I missed those days I used to tuck you under the soothing warmth of the comforter, it feels pretty good to see you grow everyday, legs longer, shoulders broader and voice changing. I planned to lie by your side, hug you tight and kiss your forehead all night long. I wanted to show you how sorry I am. I wanted to make it up so bad.
Today we will go to the park. Just us. I will watch your free throws while I too would learn how to dunk. You will find me seated close by at your game and watch your team square off. I will cheer to your team and yell out your name to the high heavens. I promise.
Now I know better and should do better. Yes I am your dad but I have a duty to be your friend as well. For too long, I have been fronting in the hood.
Please forgive me son. Through my struggle, I promise to always be there for you.
•Dr. Agbo, a public affairs analyst is the coordinator of African Centre for Transparency and Convener of Save Nigeria Project. Email: [email protected]