Fatherhood thoughts: the making of a memoir

I’m always torn between marriage and eternal single-hood. Deep within, I’d rather be single than attempt marriage only to fail at it miserably. If I am ever blessed with a child, I would love that kid to grow with both parents. I don’t want that scenario where the mother cheated or I did something and we had to part ways, (me) losing custody of the kid.

I don’t want to be an embittered dad who will one day drunkenly tell my kid, ‘see your mother was a hoe who cheated on me, don’t be like her’. Or my future ex-wife telling the kid that ‘your father was a SOB, incapable of discharging and fulfilling his manly responsibilities’. I am very territorial. Very monogamous at heart. And jealously so. Yet, the modern reality tells us; no matter what you do, she will most likely cheat on you, at least once when things stop working in the matrimonial bed.

Having said that, I should say that I have this deeply entrenched desire to be a father. Every time I have seen a young boy, who is confident and exhibits some shots of brilliant masculinity, I get quite jealousy. Is there such a thing as paternal jealousy? Freud, that is for you? As I type this, I am listening to Luther Vandross’ Dance with My Father. Not that I have a sex preference, but I would like to have a baby boy for very personal reasons.

One being that my childhood was deprived by circumstances beyond my calling. I never had a father of my own. The man who was supposed my father, was not my biological dad. I learned quite early. I only have vague recollections of the man. He was light-skinned, averagely tall.

We lived in Kibera. I was only four or five. He drank too much. Once or twice I remember him savagely beating my mother. He was the typically infuriated Kisii father. As a child, I never knew how wrong it was to raise a finger to a woman, much less beat her. He used to swear (prari pakin) which I would later learn was a corruption of the word ‘blood fuckin’.

I also remember someday that we went visiting another family, could have been in Kawangware. He held me proudly, the way only a father can hold his son. I really would have wished to know what became of that family. I somehow remember the other man. He was probably Kikuyu. The house was a Mabati shanty, and I can still picture that stove and his simple family.

My other recollection of him is when they went paying dowry for my mother. Could have been something else. But I remember walking with them the eight or so kilometres to my mother’s home. Along the way, either my father or one of my uncles threatened to throw to some river, in a jest. There was another day; I think we were travelling from Kisii, that we stopped by a bar, for him to grab a beer or something more sinister. Now I know the kind of man he was. Or just a short call. I scarcely remember.

He used to work in the House of Manji. Christmas time he used to bring this metallic box with assorted biscuit types; salted, sugared, dry, plain etc. I probably picked my sweet tooth from the indulgence. I particularly remember the last two Christmases.

These were my only encounters. There was no bond, chemistry or any connection. With the benefit of hindsight and proper understanding of our culture, I understand why he was not necessarily proud of me. Soon, he was taken sick and hospitalized. In Nairobi, and later in Kisii. There used to be a hospital called Getembe. Just as I was about to join Kibera Primary School, that January of ’92 he succumbed. I was too young to understand what death meant. I remember the villagers running helter-skelter, crying and wailing. He died before ever building a house, and the community was obligated to build him an aboard, given he was the first born, so that we could inhabit it, now that we had to permanently relocate to the countryside.

Later on, I performed the cultural rite when his grave was being dug. As the ‘firstborn’, I was the one to strike the ground and scoop some soil. That day, I ran with some other ‘cousin’ my age mate and namesake oblivious of what was happening. There used to be a photo of me, sweaty from running that I can’t now trace. Memories!

Soon, I was to join some shady primary school. On the first day, I sat on a brick. The other children treated me suspiciously. Soon, I was to be reminded that I was a BASTARD, in no undisguised terms. Being illegitimate in my community is liability you carry for life. I know a dozen politicians who have been denounced-their bright ideas, notwithstanding- because their mother ‘carried’ them with them when they were married. It was impossible to integrate, even as my mother tried her best to incorporate and assimilate us. We were handled cautiously and as the lone boy, I had a difficult time and only my elder sister to look up to. She too could be mean, in the ways only siblings are normally to each other when they are kids.

My sister was resourceful. She was the wiser and I was the awkward and cowardly, little brother. My cowardice was more informed by self-preservation than anything. I really wanted to get out and play with the boys, perform all those heroic things in the formative years, but the turmoil both at home and externally only meant we had to tread on our lanes. When you were not being called a bastard, you were being reminded that you never quite belonged to that village. I am only thankful that God had gifted me and I was not badly off in class work. I always emerged among the top 3. Bright chaps were always given a benefit of doubt. And luckily my mom’s side was ever so helpful and supportive. We always visited them. Grandpa, gave us money and Gradma was just amazing(God bless their souls).

One day, I remember the biological son of my ‘father’ came visiting and we shared a bed in my saiga(a house built for a boy once you have been circumcised. You were not supposed to share your house with your mother). He was a young man, older than me by may be three or four years. He was too shifty for my liking. Reports were already up that he was thief in Kisumu. I never knew the purpose of that visit. May be it was to remind me that I was not the only heir to that prized piece of land. When he left, I never heard of him, nor saw him anywhere.

When mum died, I had just turned 11. The pain, the untimeliness and the inconvenience of her death only made every one mad. Her funeral was rushed and in three days, it was done. My sisters had left with my maternal side. On the last night, I was left alone with a few of my childhood friends who stayed me through the night. In the morning, I was beside myself with grief. No one around. Not a neighbour. No folk or one friend. For one fleeting moment, I thought that is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with an orphaned young boy seated outside their house with just radio, listening to some Kwaito songs. I remember it was Nthombi Marumbini, Mafula or such third rate South African musicians released in the post-apartheid period that as peasants we enjoyed so much.

I sat there assuming that everyone had deserted me, and I was to start from scratch. It was harvest season and I started imagining myself as a manager of our farm. From now on, I was supposed to be a man, fending for myself. Thank goodness that my sisters arrived to save from these highly suicidal musings. We picked the few clothes and other possessions and hit the road, to our mother’s home, a road we had trodden for the five brief years we had stayed in that ‘paternal home.’

I was a highly privileged orphan. I was showered with love and parental care. I never lacked. But thing with growing up as an orphan is that you never quite belong. You are acutely aware of your place. You know when to talk, when to shut and there is no such a thing as 100% rights. Nothing to regret, however. I had a lovely and caring family that catered for me. My male cousins were accommodating and gave me a room to be a man. I looked up to them and admired their courage and ingenuity with stuff. But it was rather late to develop the essential life skills. You know, like kick some ball; crack open some stupid boy’s skull-they were many. But you are constantly reminded of the main thing: SCHOOL.

My uncle, Kepha, was a true father figure. He taught me two important things. Sometime, in February/March 1998, when we came for our mid-term break, he looked at my report form and told me (and I quote him verbatim),

“Gisiora, that is not your position. You can do better than that.”

It was not a reprimand. Hitherto, in that new school, that was my best performance. There was something touching about those words that left me feeling loved and appreciated. Of the nine or ten examinations during that year, I emerged number one, but for two. I never did anything special. God played his part, but his words were responsible for my performance and inculcated a strong sense of belief in myself. And that is what a father should do. Pat their sons on the shoulders, gently and reassuringly, and remind them that they are worth and they can make it. And constantly remind their daughters on the right men to pick, even though they might disregard the advice.

The second thing he taught me was to always live within my means. He always reminded me of my background. It is a lesson that has never abandoned me, even though sometimes I have been forced to impress women beyond my means, crying afterwards, especially when I didn’t have my way. He equally taught me the godly ways, and emphasized that a real man is the one who will grow in the ways of God. Have a family and take good care of his family. He has also taught the power of simplicity and modesty. The power of giving, and the blessing of receiving. The inherent rewards of generosity.

He always reminded me that only university education that will liberate me, and in deed ever since I set foot in University, he has never interfered with my affairs, other than occasionally call me to check on me.And I am a liberated man.

Another uncle of mine, taught the power of submission when you are disadvantaged. The circumstances that warranted the lecture were totally uncalled for and it is not right that I narrate them, but to wit he told me to always open my eyes, ears and nose wide and keep my mouth shut. If you are at a disadvantaged position, always listen. Another uncle taught me never to hold a grudge and never to burn a single bridge; friend and foe always play a role in our lives. But my comrade PO, insists that some bridges are not worth keeping. An ideal, that has become very persuasive lately. All the lessons really worthwhile.

So it should really be understandable, why I might need a son. In a way to immortalize myself, give the kid all the freedom I never had and let him be. My only wish, nay prayer, is that he never turns up gay. Now that will defeat the whole purpose. May be I should introduce him to porn at an early age; we don’t want them bending the rules, now do we?

I will teach him the world is not fair from an early age. I will teach the power of tragedy. It can strike at any time. Death, disability, anything can happen. I will teach him to love and respect women. I will teach him that women are complicated and most books written about understanding them are basically blank. No one has ever figured what they want. But they are special and nurturers of life. When they love, they can love. They can wash your poop, when you are bedridden, sick and dying. Women have guts to stomach so much shit from men, they are special.

I will teach him to obey the laws of the land and always be obedient to his seniors. I will encourage him to pursue his dreams and to be his own man. I will tell him to avoid loud women with an attitude that stinks. Time and again, they are never worth it. You toil to get their attention and they end up being disappointments both intellectually and in bed. I will teach him to live within his means, to cut that damn coat accordingly to his clothe. I will teach him the ways of God. I will tell him to avoid alcohol at all costs, and if necessary to test but never get addicted along the way. Even drugs, he should experiment, but to avoid indulgence.

Hopefully, he will love books. Hopefully, he will be courageous. He will look at me, not as a god, or a hero. Heck, even a super hero. I would like him to look up to me and carve a better man out of what I am. He will be called Silas Junior or Silas II.

And of course, my desire for a daughter is just as intense. I would love to see her as well. She will named Norah, the name of my mother. I would like her to grow in the ways of the Lord. I hope I have not broken many women’s heart so that I will be repaid back through her. Hell no!

I will never wish to see my daughter cry because of some stupid man. I would love her to be strong. And pick the right men; though it is sad looking at the caliber of men, we have around. Men have gradually grown stupider. That is just depressing. I would love her to be confident and bitchy enough to keep stupid losers at bay. I would love her to be principled and never to tolerate jokers. I would like her to look at her body as a temple of God and never desecrate it. I hope, she never sucks things. Wherever they pick the habit?

It was Tom Clancy who rightfully observed that daughters are often a punishment to men from the gods for the bad things they do to women. I have interacted with some women who left me wondering how their fathers look like.

But all these hopes, are forlorn hopes. Nowadays, they grow into what they wish. Ours is to hope that God will take charge.

This is an excerpt from a memoir I am penning…

FRIDAY SERMON: OF WORSHIP AND FREEING MARY

Today, I break the mould.

As a Seventh-Day-Adventist, August is the most important month of the year. It is that time of the year when we have our camp meetings. It is a tradition borrowed from the Jewish practice, whereby they used to bring to God their sacrifices and dedicate some more time to worship and praising God. Or something like that.

In modern times, what our churches does is that they organize for a week-long spiritual fare whereby theologically qualified and gifted speakers share the word of God with the congregation. It is a thoroughly enriching experience as they dissect, analyze and interpret the bible in ways that us ordinary mortals do it can digest it.

This year, my church, Nairobi Central SDA (or Maxwell as it is famously known) brought a preacher from Cayman Islands (look that one up in the atlas). A gentleman by the name Shion Washington O’Conor. O’Conor is a slightly-stern faced black preacher with an unveiled sense of intellectual humour. If he was a high-school teache, he would that choleric Physics or Chemistry teacher who students considered a genius. I took home two very important messages that I want to share this Friday.

The first is the concept of WORSHIP
.

I learnt that God is synonymous with worship. Without worship, there is no god or God. And in deed he made us define what (a) God is? Then he read a number of scriptures mainly from Revelation chapter 12. The kind of life we anticipate in heaven is worship a 24/7 thing. He reminded us that those who are timers in godly matters, heaven might be not the best of place. Here I was rightly chastised, given that I have been reduced to a sermon-attending chap who shows up a minute or two before the preacher gets to the pulpit.

The reason why, as Christians we must constantly worship is to keep the devil away. In the cosmic conflict between the devil and God, Satan has been struggling to drag Christians from God using all means possible. And to prove that the devil is no joker, he gave the example of the devil trying to tempt Jesus, promising him the world and everything in it, as if he is the creator. And even the case of Job was very pertinent. The pastor went into great pains to explain who the devil is and why it is important that he derails as many people as possible.

To wit, the devil wins Christians on many fronts. What he does simply, he creates alternatives to what God approves. The devil’s alternative all seem right, if not examined keenly. For instance, God says it is man and woman who should marry, the devil comes with gay marriages to contradict God’s will. I know, this might not academically persuasive, but it is not to condemn the gays, if anything the bible is unequivocal on homosexuality as it is for fornication and adultery.

On another level, the Lord set the Sabbath on a Saturday, but Sunday worship is an alternative that brings more confusion to Christianity. I know at this point, the Sunday worshipers, will frown, possibly stop reading but a moment. The argument on which between Saturday and Sunday is the right day is not an easy one, neither will we ever get to any agreement, but our preacher was just pointing out how deceptive the devil can be.

Sample this, look at music. Look at the contemporary gospel music, dress-codes to church and how everything long time ago considered ‘unchristian’ is almost being accepted and okay-ed. Basically, these alternatives are to be a suitable distraction and create an environment impossible for worship. So what are you worshiping? Your car? your job?, your plasma TV? Your boyfriend? Your girlfriend?

In the end, according to pastor, many people will be condemned, not so much because of rebellion (which is open opposition to God’s redemption plan) but because of the devil’s deception which continues to ensnare many people.

Second lesson

And the second lesson came from Luke 7:36… It is the only passage that is carried by all the four gospels. To underline the significance of this passage, not even the genealogy of Jesus Christ is shared in all the four gospels. The passage is about a lady called Mary who was a sinner, which is a biblical euphemism for a prostitute. She came with an alabaster box that contained very expensive perfume.

In theological exploration is has been pointed out that only prostitutes could find need for an expensive perfume, owing to the nature of their trade. And reportedly, the perfume she came with to the house where Jesus was being hosted for dinner had cost her about her whole year’s salary. So picture a woman in Koinange saving all her earnings to buy a perfume to go wash Jesus’ feet with it…

That is what she did. Now the man hosting Jesus had just been cured of leprosy. Together with a bunch of Pharisees They were adamantly opposed to the woman’s presence wishing and cursing why Jesus, gave audience to the woman. Given Jesus, could read their minds, the Smart-Alec he sometimes could be to pesky pharisees, Jesus opted to disprove of them. Theology also explains some of the men who were opposed to her presence were her customers.
Luke 7:39-50 (KJV)
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. 40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. 41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? 43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. 44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? 50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

So there you have it. The pastor castigated the so called men of God who condemn sinners. The people who judge. Actually, he said people who are quick to judge, are often guilt of the same mistakes. Simply because, criticizing and judging makes them feel better about themselves. How shameful!

In summary, the church is a hospital that takes all kinds of sinners who need spiritual treatment and healing. To judge is wrong, because we don’t know what someone has gone through or is going through. If she has aborted, let her come. If he impregnated a woman and abandoned responsibility, let him come. If s/he a fornicator, an adulterer, anyone…Let them come. He saves and these are the people he died for. And they can only discover Jesus, if the churchmen and women stopped gate-keeping them by coming up with all manner of things that keep them out.

Can we all, say Amen.

Now get some Cece Winans, listen and pray.

My Top favorite 100 songs

Confession: I am a music junkie. I like music. Always have. I started way back when I was child, in the early 90s. We had this National Panasonic radio that used five EverReady batteries. The yellow ones were stronger than the maroon ones. I did a lot of things with that radio, including tuning it past the recommended bandwidth, essentially snapping the tuning code. That often earned me some thorough beating from my mother (bless her soul).

I have always enjoyed the arts. Music and good stories. Every weekend on Saturday, from 10.00-12.00pm. I enjoyed listening to KBC’s Nick Okanga Naftali’s Salaam za Weekend. And every time he played Madilu Systems’ Apula or some Sokouss Stars, my day was made. I have never liked the fact that the Sokouss era lasted only but briefly (1990-1996) and so easily forgettable. Rhumba (which preceded Sokouss), well has its place in our hearts.

Ndombolo, which came in 1998, was not my favourite genre. My uncles liked it, no end and I remember they were so much into Wenge Musica. They listened Metro FM, when the legendary Tony Musalame (bless his soul) used to serve great Lingala complete with Lingala translations, before this noisemakers on Milele FM, who can’t let a song run without interrupting stupidly came to town. Who can forget Nyboma Mwandido, Freddy de Majunga, Arlus Mabele, Alain Kounkou, Pepe Kale, Balou Canta, Nguoma Loketo, Nimon Toki Lala, Tshalla Mwana and the likes. I know some kids here like Boniface Mwalii will find the names really strange. Youtube has really made possible for me to relive my whimsical childhood.

I must take the exception for Soule Ngofo Man, though. Save for his hideous hair style ( shaving box style has an age limit of 26), had a brand of Soukouss Music that was fast paced, danceable, and techno. He planned his music well. I still listen to his top 4 tracks( Femme, Ewa Ewa, Mikili, Bana. They greatly lift my spirits. His male soprano and the energy he exudes and the solo guitar(probably done by the dexterously famous Dalikimoko) and the heavy fast beat was something to savour.

I remember when we used to go video shows, paying 5 bob to watch Jean Claudde Vandamme and Billy Blanks kick some ass, there used to be a music interlude and some Lingala, Lucky Dube or some Yvonne Chaka Chaka was always welcome. Boy we had fun.

Extra-Musica, a quicker version of Wenga Musica entered the scene at the turn of the millennium and Boy,did they rock. Etat Major is Club Banger and will remain so for the next 77 years. And then came John Karani and Charity Karimi on KBC English Service. He brought some mojo back and sustained the little the likes of legendary Jeff Mwangemi and Jimmy Gathu had left in the entertainment scene. Between 1999-2002, John Karani had his day. His reggae show on Friday was something to talk about. Then Maina Kageni and Cess Mutungi made our evenings in the early 2000s when Kiss was the in-thing in town.

Anyway, I will be listing the top 100 songs in my play list. It has remained highly static over the last 15 years, with slight readjustments and a few inclusions, every once in a while. I have to state it from the outset, that I am not one of those persons who listen to abstract forms like Neo-Soul, house, trance, rock or anything like that. I don’t listen to those guys with effusive lyrics and people with names like Norah Shamines. Without further ado or gloating…here is my list.

100. Gallery-Mario Vasquez
It is a great R&B number that came through in the 2000s. I like it. It has a slightly danceable beat, the song is sheer poetry and for the hopeless romantics, I can’t help but hum along as I go about chores in the house.Great piece of work, Mario.

99. She’s worth the trouble-J Valentine

I’m into R&B, and any other good song in this genre once it comes out, will definitely be included. This number by J Valentine definitely scored for me. He is a brilliant song writer and has penned for the likes of Mario, Tyrese and other sensational black and RnB stars from the early 2000s. He actually wrote ‘I like ‘em Girls’ for Tyrese and one of my Tupac’s all-time favourite ‘Until the end of time’(somewhere in the list as well). This personal effort killed it for me in the mid-2000s.

98. Charlie,last name Wilson-Charlie Wilson
Charlie Wilson is a legend. And a freaking good one while at it. Both in his career as the lead vocalist of the Gap Band and in his solo pursuits. This track from 2005 that had R.Kelly in the background was good to say the least. I liked the video, the simple and flowing persuasion of Charlie as he pleads to a woman to come to his life. The song exudes energy, and a liveliness for an active afternoon.

97. Two occasions- The Deele

Any R&B person will respect Babyface’s musical genius. The only other genius in the business is Dianne Warren responsible for all the best bubble-gum balderdash that we enjoyed from Monica, N’Sync, Brandy, Mariah Carey and the rest. Babyface started out with The Deelee that his folks from Indianna before settling for a solo career and odd collabos. Ne-yo is just a Babyface reincarnate. As Maina Kageni always says, Babyface is the master of sugar-coated ballads. Listen to BoyzIIMen’s ballads and you will know what I am talking about.

I have ever dedicated this song to a crush. She dumped and ignored me, either way. Still a great song.

96. Summer time-Beyonce feat.P Diddy

One of those mindless collabos you don’t mind inside a playlist that is in shift mode. I like its beat and Beyonce’s near-innocent voice as she was coming of age and Jay-Z was about to start tapping that.
My buddie Paul, reckons that Jay-Z ultimate wealth lies in the fact he steps into the shower knowing that B is waiting for him naked.

95. Super trouper-Abba

Abba had an unusual story about them including the origin of their name. Google that. Their songs were not rich intellectually uplifting, but they bestrode the musical scene in the 70s and 80s like a colossus if I can borrow a cliche. I have never known why they fell out rather badly. But I liked this particular song. It is sensational and amazing.

94. That’s what friends are for-Dionne Warwick & Friends ( Stevie Wonder, Glady Knight, Elton John)

When four perfect musicians meet, the result is obvious. Stevie Wonder has been a blessing to the lovers of music. No musician is more complete than him. @Sickolia made me laugh a while ago, when the wife divorced him and Sickolia tweeted, “women amaze me, how do you even divorce someone who has never seen you?”

Elton John broke my heart when he confirmed our worst fears and marrying a fellow man. But his musical genius is another gift to us from the gods. All in all the song had a strong message. It reads like a prayer and their powerful voices powerfully complemented each other. Love it.

93. I ain’t through-Keysha Cole & Nicki Minaj

The fact that I have Nickie Minaj in the list goes to show I am not the chauvinist-in-chief that some guys take me to be. Actually, I am an OK person. But I like the song because of the beat and of course Keysha Cole. She is the epitome of beauty, though her face strikes me as nagging and sexless. And therein lies her sexiness. Actually, given half a chance, I can marry her. I can live with her nagging and bitching.And what is that I had that she had hots for Young Jeezy? WOMEN AND POOR JUDGEMENT!

92. Nothing is broken but my heart-Celine Dion

I used to have this tape back at home more than ten years ago that I had taped some Ugandan FM station. The tape had a number of songs and this was one of them. Back then, late night radio was good and actually did set the mood for the night. Sheila Mwanyigah and Oliviah Otieno did well then at Kiss, before the market sent them elsewhere. I often regret, that I missed out on Oyunga Pala at Capital FM. Anyway, such slow-jams always worked for me. I fell in love with this song then.

91. Amini-Henrie Mutuku
Only God knows where she went to. Or what she is up to. One of my favourite gospels ever made in Kenya. This generation of musicians had it right. Too bad we did not appreciate them enough.

90. Usichoke-Henrie Mutuku, Roughtone. R.Kay
I am not a big fan of Roughtone, at least musically. But this tops one of my best collabos ever. R.Kay was a great producer. Henrie Mutuku and her girls had vocals that angels in heaven could hum along to. The beat was out of this world. And ahead of its time. This ranks as a timeless classic and anyone from this era in the young 2000s will know what I am talking about. God bless her whenever she is currently.

More on the way.

Keep it here if you have a similar taste in music. If you have a different one, then I will be serving something else sooner.