This piece may be about lessons from my father and I would be doing a great injustice to my roots if I failed to mention some lessons from my father’s father. I am the first grandchild on my dad’s side of the family and my grandfather and I had a really deep connection. We got along great. As a little 10 year old, I had just started getting interested in american movies and little sponge that I was, I picked up everything including their poor pronunciation of words. My grandfather suddenly became hard of hearing when I used words such as ‘I dunno’, ‘I wanna’ and drummed it into me that a person who cannot pronounce right should not bother with the language. As a result, my language skills improved.
More recently, I heard a lesson from my friend’s dad that echoed my grandfather’s; he said that a person who could not speak a language properly was just plain lazy. He said it so categorically that it shocked me, but on reflection, I saw his point. If I want to communicate in a language I have an obligation to learn it correctly.
Back to my own father… I also learnt from his mistakes. I saw him hang on to life in the city long after we could no longer afford to live there. As a result, we got broke fast and faced some really tough times. I know the importance of living within your means. I also learnt that all those things that we believe are a ‘must-have’ are only ‘good-to-haves’; we survived on very little for a very long time. I have no hang-ups, I can live in a mud hut and eat ugali every day if necessary.
My dad loved music and I learned how to appreciate music from him. I can appreciate music from all manner of genres: reggae, rock, blues, country, afro and others whose names I don’t know. I listen to songs about fathers and daughters and remember my own father fondly, flaws and all… I especially love Dance with my father by Luther Vandross – for anyone who has lost your father, lie to me and tell me that this song does not bring tears to your eyes.
I loved my dad dearly. He may be gone, but his lessons are here with me and he lives on as I impart them to my children (biological or otherwise).