Nobody needs to tell me, but I know when Mother’s Day is approaching. I usually have an Instagram-worthy caption that will accompany the flattering photo I post of my mother when she was a jeune fille, a young lass, before I destroyed her mental health with the kind of girls I bring home (sorry mom). Sometimes, I call up my brothers and we do something good for her. Did I say sometimes? I mean all the time. Or I can just speak her love language, M-Pesa. But she also speaks fluent cash, and I hear she has just downloaded Duolingo because she is learning cryptocurrency.

Father’s Day, on the other hand, has never been on my mental calendar. It usually hits me like the finance bill, the way she must have felt when questions were asked to that clueless nominated senator who is just happy to be in parliament. Fathers are taciturn things. You can work with people with mummy issues, but if you meet a wo/man with daddy issues, their sense of inadequacy is crippling. You have to issue disclaimers: “Yes, Emily. I am just going to buy milk; I am not leaving you.”  This is why therapy chaise lounges are filled with stories of, “The last time I saw my dad…” I digress.

A father feels like an appendage, something you can do without. I am here to tell you, that you cannot. Male role models are vital to balancing the masculine against the feminine, the society’s thyroid gland. It’s that thing whose presence is made much larger by its absence, it’s our whole country, which you never think of until it’s gone, which you never love until you’re no longer there.

This Father’s Day I am thinking quite a bit about my father, and the lessons I have gleaned from him. And especially now that I too am thinking about becoming a father. It is time, someone’s daughter told me. I think she fears I may end up finishing all the engineers, climate activists and doctors and just be left with brokers, forex traders, and DJs. Does the world really need more DJs?

We don’t talk much with my father. Not out of spite. It’s just who we are, shy men. I pretend not to be seen. He pretends not to see me. My father is getting old now. He has white hair. My friend Ken also has white hair and he is 31, but that is just because of dealing with Gen Zs, I tell him. Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to incompetence. When I call him—my father, not Ken—I think that just the other day, he was a young man at the apogee of his youth. Now his hospital visits have become frequent, his runway much shorter, his eyesight failing, which is not such a bad thing when I eventually bring a baddie home he won’t approve. “You don’t see her like I do,” will be my line.

I’ve been considering and worrying about fatherhood, about how you do it, how he did it. When I go through our photo album—yes, we still have photo albums—I see him stood there, with his half a dozen or so kids. A fun guy who knows what time it is and smells nice. A responsible man. Okay, maybe not—he got my younger brother 13 years after me. Argh! Spacing people! Spacing!

Fatherhood is not cool. But is important. It’s work. Because of the commitment and the obligation and the worry. She may be carrying your child but the expectant dad carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. There’s nothing cool, wannabe, or enviable about becoming a dad. It’s not like winning the premier league unbeaten. Or peeing in a straight line, uninterrupted.

When you are young, your father is your hero. Childhood’s greatest pleasure might be the illusion that our parents have some idea what they’re doing. But life’s needles and thorns prick you as a reminder that, of course, no one does. Parents fight, they quit their jobs, they move to the village, they take jobs they don’t like, they get another child 13 years after they had you. In other words, they are human.

But I am thankful that my father if he did not give us wings, at least did not cage us. It was fine to be what you wanted. As long as it’s not a DJ. What do we owe our parents? Do we owe them more than what they gave us? If we’ve given them a thousand chances to be better for us, do we give them one more? It’s not all global kumbaya and moments of shared humanity, of course. A core memory I have of him is when he gently exchanged words after someone had disrespected him. And by words, I mean blows. And by gently, I mean he beat them up. Go dad. He taught me that you cannot negotiate for your humanity, that sometimes you gotta fight when you are a man.

My father will never make prime time news, unless he becomes a DJ in Roysambu. He lives in the shadows, the working class who makes this woebegone nation work. He institutionalized his outsiderdom. He will never be recognized for making such a fine handsome son (me) although he should. He will, hopefully, not become a politician with friends who can “hire” him a jet. He won’t make headlines for breaking out, or breaking in. His story gets lost in the mire of absent fathers, because that is what sells. I compare him to Enoch, a humble man whose story is barely captured in the scriptures. We learn simply in Genesis 5:22 and 5:24 that “Enoch walked with God.”

So, like most among us, he remains unseen. He loves his wife. He showed up for his family. He set an example. He does his part in making sure this country does not produce more DJs. And he is present. He is a walking sermon. Maybe this is your father, too. Just an ordinary man. A few good men. But that’s okay. Because Enoch was an ordinary man too. But he had an extraordinary epitaph. Happy Father’s Day to all the men here. Because even if you are not a father, you’re still a son.

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