My Father Through my Eyes – Chapter I

One night during family devotion, after dad had taught us about Noah and the ark, I was asked to pray. I stumbled through the prayer, saying my own things. My older brother laughed. That’s the last time he ever laughed during devotion. The rod was not spared; the seriousness of God’s matters was communicated to him effectively.

I was born in Pumwani and raised in Nairobi to strict parents. My dad was extra stringent. He believed in the cane and there was no negotiation for misbehavior. We somehow knew we were loved but those words were never verbalized by dad. He would do things like remembering our birthdays which he does up to now. There are no more gifts like in childhood but he calls.

My dad was working for the government press, was a part time pastor and did quite a bit of missionary work. From an early age I watched dad worship and preach in church and mum lead worship. Values such as integrity, hard work, honesty, etiquette, good manners were inculcated in us from an early age. Dad was also big on us reading so we consumed lots of novels and bible stories.

I started pre-school at Citam Valley Road when the kindergarten was still there. Around the same time, my mum relocated upcountry and we stayed in Nairobi with dad. We loved going home every holiday because we were more ourselves there. For that one month, we could let loose, interact with other kids, climb trees, unlike in Nairobi where we always had to be on our best behavior around dad.

We were also introduced to different cultures as dad had so many friends visiting from abroad every other time. They were missionaries; building churches and helping with bible translation for marginalized tribes. They were working through my dad, who had left the government press and was working for Daystar University. Some just visited briefly and others stayed with us for a while. They brought us gifts. By class 3, I knew how-to walk in wedges and high heels courtesy of my dad’s friends.

We were staying with an aunt (dad’s cousin) who used to take care of us since mum wasn’t there. I was playing outside with my siblings one day and then as I went into the house to get something, I walked into her and dad in a compromising situation. That picture has never left me. I knew that wasn’t appropriate but I was too shocked to say anything. I just kept quiet and went back to playing. They were too lost in whatever they were doing to notice that I was there.

When I was in class 6, my dad was traveling a lot (within Kenya and abroad) for work and he would leave us with relatives which he didn’t like and so he decided that we go live with mum upcountry. We didn’t mind. Mum was strict but you couldn’t compare her to dad. She would beat you more with her words, and they were more bearable. For dad it was both words and the cane. We had more fear than respect for him.

We were bright students, aced exams in the local school, our surname would be called severally on closing day parade. I finished primary and went to a high school near home in Vihiga County.

Dad would come home once in a while and during the holidays I noticed there was some tension between my dad and mum. I noticed because growing up I had never seen them quarrel. And my dad was always the romantic type. His PDA game was unmatched. He would hug and kiss our mum in our presence, we would hide and feel embarrassed. He would even cook for her.

And then for the first time I heard them quarrel and I was scared. My dad could be heard clearly from our bedroom. Later, he started leaving upkeep money with me, which would land me in problems with mum since it’s the money he used to give her. He would come home overnight and we would wake up and find him sleeping on the couch. He would only go to the bedroom to change. In the evening he would travel back to Nairobi.

Apparently, I was the only one seeing this. My brother was in college and my younger sisters were just clueless. I was beginning to see another side of dad I didn’t like.

In high school I gave my life to Christ after some consistent nudging from a friend. I had grown up in church but was struggling because of what I saw in my dad. I didn’t want his version of salvation.

After high school, I came to stay with him in Nairobi as I waited to join college. My brother would come home on weekends but the rest of the days it was just me and dad. People would visit, mostly ladies and they would be introduced as cousins, the explanations and connections wouldn’t resonate but I would go with it. One time two ladies were in the house, one cousin that I knew and another ‘cousin’ I didn’t know. They started having issues among themselves and strangely, they were both trying to appease me. They were competing for my attention and validation.

Their issues boiled over and in one explosive argument they had, I realized they were both my father’s girlfriends.

I was fed up and I needed an outlet. I could not confront my dad because I feared and so I started telling my mum. Mum knew some of the girls who would visit. What I didn’t know is that I was fueling the tension between mum and dad. Mum would confront him and that would rub on me the wrong way.

“So, you came here to investigate me and you’re supposed to join college!” He lashed out at me.

At that time, I had bottled up so much emotion, I was angry. I was stuck with my dad because I waited to join college which wasn’t coming soon enough. The two girls left but random girls would still show up. I would be sent for an errand and I knew what that meant. I had read enough novels. Every woman he introduced me looked like another one of his girlfriends.

The wazungus, my dad’s friends had volunteered to pay for my college fees. They were also paying for my brother. But as I waited to join college, they had known about the tensions between my parents. At the same time, they were having accountability issues with dad regarding the finances they were sending.

My dad knew I was on to him. The things I was telling my mum were getting back to him and he began to take it out on me.

He would throw words. “Are you rivaling your mum, do you also want me?” Such words would leave me numb. I couldn’t respond to him because I didn’t know how he would react.

The love I once had for dad was turning into anger and resentment and it was all bottled up tight inside me. “You have to be here and you have to shut up, otherwise you will not go to college. I will disown you.”

The animosity towards him was turning into rebellion. The man I cherished and looked up to as a role model was becoming a monster in front of my very eyes. After many threats, I told him, “Just do what you want.” I was tired of playing nice.

“I am going to disown you,” he hurled back.

“Go ahead, you have been telling me this for so long.” Of course, I was scared and standing very strategically near the door in case he came after me. I was fearing him for real. I would lock the bedroom door when I went to sleep. I imagined he could do something awful to me.

I had told my mum and uncles about the threats and they had advised I hang on until I go to college. But it seemed like days had become long and nights were even longer. Time was on rewind and I wasn’t seeing a way out of the pressure cooker that was my dad’s house.

Because I had told him to do what he wanted, he actually wrote a disownment letter that very instant and gave it to me.

A well written letter;

From this day (insert date), I … (insert name) disown you as my daughter….

He signed it down there and gave it to me.

I was numb, I felt nothing. I wanted to show him I didn’t care.

“You are going home; I don’t want to see you in my house. Tomorrow morning, I have booked a bus for you to Vihiga, you are going,” he didn’t make light of his words.

In my mind I was thinking, there’s no way am going back home but I didn’t want to show him.

If two can play this game, then let it be played, I thought.

As sure as day is after night, the next day in the morning, at 5am, we were at Country bus. My initial plan was that I will alight as soon he leaves before the bus takes off. But he had somehow read my mind, he stood there, watching me, daring me with his eyes until the bus filled and took off. At Kangemi I stopped the bus and alighted. The conductor had seen me with my dad so he tried to stop me but I told them I had forgotten something, got off and went to my uncle’s place.

It didn’t take long for my dad to know that I was still in Nairobi.

I had left some things at his place so after sometime I went for them, hoping that we could discuss about him taking me to college. The guts. He opened his heart, some more, and told me he wished I became a chokoraa or I got arrested for loitering and more unprintable stuff. I had developed an arsenal of big words myself, I told him I wished he would die and much more.

I was my father’s daughter after all, disowned but still connected by blood. A piece of him was in me.

One Sunday I heard he was preaching in a church in Kibera, I was living in Ayany with one of my uncles and I decided to meet him at the church. I asked someone to call him outside. I didn’t want to go in lest a scene ensued and caused an embarrassment.

“Who are you?” the man asked before going into the church to call my father.

“I am his daughter” I replied, the photocopy of my disownment letter in my handbag almost jumped out and protested.

He finished preaching and came outside.

He saw me and his face changed, his eyes became red.

“What do you want?” he shouted, no greetings, no small talk.

“I was requesting that if you could…… eh……” I stuttered, his imposing figure shutting down my tongue.

“Didn’t you hear? I told you that I have disowned you,” with that he went back into the church where they would probably be telling him how blessed they were by his sermon on the ‘love of God’ or ‘forgiveness’, whatever the anointed man of God was preaching about.

Meanwhile, the wazungus had done their background check and discovered that things on the ground were different. Whatever the man had reported done was nowhere to be seen in the mission field. They were cutting him loose.

My mum and I had a hand in it. We couldn’t have changed the outcome but my dad’s behavior ignited a sense of justice in us and we wanted the truth to be told.

“There’s no need of wewe kuumia and those wazungus are sending money that’s taking care of those girlfriends,” my mum justified our move.

We met one of the wazungus and told them everything we knew. Every donor aid was cut. He knew I had snitched on him and in his eyes, my sins had been multiplied exponentially. He had been exposed but still had his job at a Christian publishing house.

My need for going to college didn’t go away. I still needed him but I was too proud to beg. My uncles were like, “he’s still your dad, you know he can curse you”. I was advised to get a mediator, his brother, who equally fears him, a pastor himself. We met at my uncle’s church.

“Please this is your child, she’s remorseful,” he pleaded to him on my behalf as I faked tears. I was acting and he saw right through it.

“These are crocodile tears!” He exclaimed.

After that talk he softened up. A few days later he called, “Come with everything, you’re going to school. Let’s meet at Ambassador tomorrow at 9am.” You should have seen me run. I joined college. I was a month late on the intake but they still took me in.

I never went home during weekends, fell into some wrong companies and started drinking heavily.

He had left his work and went upcountry. Things had gotten worse between him and mum. He had bought land in Uasin Gishu without my mum’s knowledge and was building a brick house. Since my mum wasn’t told about it, she assumed it was for someone else. My grandfather and other wazees tried to reconcile him with my mum but it didn’t work. My dad’s word was always final.

He used to come and preach at a PAG church in Kabete. The church had a pastor’s house in the compound where he stayed. Whenever we closed school, I would go there. I was there one of the Sundays, stood in front to introduce myself as good pastors’ kids do when a young man sitting at the back of the church caught my attention. He had also seen me and soon after we started dating. He was my first serious boyfriend, tall dark and handsome just as the doctor recommended. And I fell head first into his arms.

I later came to know that he was the architect helping my dad build his house in Uasin Gishu. Coffee dates turned into dinners and more. I liked journaling (I still do) but because my dad would potentially find it, I started writing about our escapades in short hand. He also loved scribbling things down and we bonded over that. We had found each other.

One day, young lady came to the house to speak to the pastor. It was common for congregants to come for prayers and counseling from dad.

“My husband is cheating on me; he has this diary that he writes things in. There’s a time he wrote that he kissed this girl called ….” She said my name as she narrated her ordeal. I followed keenly between serving them tea and eavesdropping awkwardly from a corner. I immediately realized that the husband was the guy I was dating.

“When he comes back in the evening, take the diary and come with it tomorrow” my dad instructed the lady.

When she was gone, I rushed to the nearest booth (there were no mobile phones then) to call his office to inform him not to come home with his diary. I couldn’t get him but I found his friend and categorically told him what message to give my boyfriend. That day he never went to the office, he never got the message.

The next day the wife came with the diary. I know my dad. I knew he would kill me. I would be dead if he got to know it was me.

They went through the diary like archaeologists looking for clues in ancient manuscripts. I stood at a safe distance when dad called me to ask if I knew that guy. They mentioned his name. I calmly said no, keen not to send any signals with my body language. But I think dad had put one and two together and realized I could be involved. He asked the lady to leave and assured her that he’ll get to the bottom of it.

By that time, I knew dad was coming for my blood. He called me, in a voice that says trouble is coming. “Tell me the truth,” he asked, his eyes fixed at my face lest I tried to lie. I was looking at him and looking at the door which was nearer to him than me. I had to be creative. I pretended to throw up, approached the door and took off, in sandals and the dress I had on.

I ran to my boyfriend’s place, asked his friend to go in and call him for me. Thankfully his wife wasn’t home yet. He took me and hid me at one of his friend’s places for the night. I had no idea he was married or even had a child until the wife showed up at our door.

I was on the run, a fugitive in Nairobi being hid at one friend’s place to another. The police were already involved in the case, I have never understood why but my dad is extra like that. My boyfriend couldn’t go to the office because Askaris were there. I would go to relatives and they wouldn’t take me for long fearing my dad. He had asked them to be on the lookout for me and no one wanted trouble with him. So, I would stay a day or two and move on.

I was 20, in college and making all the mistakes I could make in life but dad was treating me like a teenager. I became tighter with my married boyfriend. He was the only one by my side; my security, my mattress to fall on, my shoulder to cry on, our bond fortified by adversity. It was us against the world. Bony and Clyde kinda stuff.  He would come to his friend’s places where I was hiding and we would have a ‘good time’ together. When spotted, we would move to another friend.

In all that hullaballoo I realized that I was pregnant. I had college to go back to. I had a father hot on my heels. At my boyfriend’s encouragement, I decided to get rid of the baby. I went to Marie Stopes, had it done and then traveled home to Vihiga. I was a bottled mess of hate, resentment and now guilt.

At home, things were desolate. My mum was confused, dad had totally stopped going there. It was rumored he had married another woman in Uasin Gishu.

And I was alone. No one knew what I had done. I couldn’t tell mum. She only noticed with concern that I was sleeping a lot even though I was known to sleep a lot since childhood.

A few weeks later, I traveled back to Nairobi to go back to college. I had missed two months or so but I was keen on continuing. Shock on me, my dad had gone there, de-registered me and took all my belongings. He told them I wasn’t going back.

I was toying with the kind of anger that takes you to a dark place and assists you make elaborate plans of vengeance. I wished death on my dad. Whatever he had done to my mum and then de-registering me, causing our family to be scattered, my siblings dealing with things on their own, it was unforgivable and I wished I had the power to deal with him.

Add to that the fact that my boyfriend had moved on after I came back. He had reconciled with his wife. I almost died of a heartbreak. He was my first love and for him to abandon me after all we’d been through was tough. I called him, wrote him letters telling him I was going to kill myself. I couldn’t believe I could go on without him. But my first love was gone, and he was using my dad as an excuse for our breakup.

I was shattered in and out, and I didn’t know what to do or where to go.

The story continues, read Chapter 2 HERE

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