The 5th of March 1944, the birthdate of my father also known as my hero; ironically born during the second World War. The 17th of September 2011 is another date I couldn’t forgot even if I tried as it is where I was for the first time in my existence, completely broken and unashamedly vulnerable. Without sounding over dramatic it’s probably the point in my life where I became emotionally unstable, but I’ll leave that for another post. September this year would be roughly six years since he passed away but the pain still remains even in that length of time.
Whenever I am reminded of my father, I automatically stop and think about where I am currently and if my father would be proud of the man I have become. Would my dad look at me now and be proud? Would he approve? Would he say, you did alright for yourself or would he be disappointed with the choices I have made? It’s funny how one memorable day can make you stop and think about your entire life.
What is somewhat remarkable to me is that when my dad was alive I wasn’t really concerned with this concept of pleasing him. Our early years weren’t your typical father & son relationship, albeit I loved my dad and he loved me, I still felt so distant from him. A majority of older Nigerian fathers tend to take this iron fist approach when it comes parenthood, and although my dad’s disciplinary methods were ‘light work’ when compared to what my older siblings received, I never felt as close as I would have liked with my father.
What may be surprising to hear is my Dad’s shortcomings were one of the reasons I loved him very much. Yes, he certainly made mistakes, but this simply showed the humanity that is apart of every single one of us. He did all he could to recompense even in his fraility, and it’s a lesson I could never forget nor dismiss. Furthermore, the fact my father would slave away at his job to provide for his eight children; and several ‘outsiders’ on countless occasions, had a huge impact on how I provide for my own family.
The stark reality is that the pain of losing a loved one is a devastating emotion regardless of the past. People find different ways of dealing with it, either letting it consume them or over time finding healing in the process.
The question remains as to what brought on this sudden epiphany? Probably, because I regularly ask myself if there is anything I could change right now to make my dad proud of me? When I evaluate my life, without fail I ponder if there is something I could do differently that if he were here, it would make him somewhat happy with my life? The truth is no matter how I feel, I will always be thankful for the memories of my father that I hold dear. Memories of a loving father who only ever wanted the best for me, and was proud of what I achieved even if I thought those achievements were worthless.
This emotional rollercoaster simply brought me to a very simply realisation. I’m a son in desperate need of my father.
I know he had to go, I completely understand it was his time but that still doesn’t change the fact that right now, I need my dad more than ever before. I just need to hear him say everything is going to be alright, you are going to make it and I’m with you every step of the way. I would give anything and everything to hear his voice again, just to hear him tell me I’m on the right track, that yes it is hard and you will face some incredible struggles but somehow you are going to overcome.
Even after death and separation it doesn’t change the fact that a son will always need the embrace of a loving father.
I can’t change my past, but I can certainly impact my future with the decisions I make in the present. It’s clear I need to allow my pain to make me a better person, not letting my regrets taint the moments I cherished with my father and I must refuse to let my so-called disappointments hinder me from achieving my goals and making those around me proud.
R.I.P – Joel Adewole Oluwatobi
05.03.44 – 17.09.11
Words by db