I was eight years old when I learnt that evil did not wait to be stumbled upon; it was restless and hardworking and it mattered not who deserved it.
That night, Mr Sperry and his wife came for dinner. My mother did not know how to cook continental dishes; she was adept in making local food but not British food. My aunt had lived in Britain for years so naturally she came to help my mother make a three course meal for them. It was exciting for us kids, we snuck in and out of the kitchen like scavengers and were sometimes rewarded with bits and pieces of what they were cooking. I only remember two things that were made, bread rolls and jelly. I remember looking at the jelly wobbling and how my mouth watered at the thought of eating it… it turned out to be such a disappointment but knifing it was not.
The door leading to the dining room was locked and we were not allowed to come in after welcoming The Sperrys. We peeped through the keyhole throughout the evening. Eventually they left and my mother decided the tidying up would be done the next morning.
Evil came in the early hours of the morning with a loud bang. I heard the bang, it woke me up. Then I heard the door to my parents’ room open and my father’s footsteps. His footsteps were the most assuring sound of my childhood. They were measured, confident and unhurried. I began to drift back to sleep when I heard the scream. It was unrecognizable. I jumped up from the bed but was too afraid to go out of the room. Next thing I heard were shouts.
“Barawo, Barawo. Thief Thief.”
My mother came into the room and ushered us into their room. My father was opening the windows and shouting.
He was wearing only his briefs and had blood gushing out of his chest, right where his heart was. I knew that was where the heart was. We had been made to hold our fists over the left side of our chests to indicate the position of the heart in school.
Evil had come but while it left without anything material, it took something from me.
The day began to break. We ventured round the house, still shouting to gather people. The heavy huge box TV was on the floor in the sitting room, they had left in a hurry and couldn’t carry it. They did not take a single thing. But they left fear in my tiny heart.
When we were sure they had gone, we came out of the house. A huge crowd was gathered at our gate and they were trying to shake it open. Curious thing was the ‘Mai Gadi’ was safely locked up in his room. It took a lot of banging on his door for him to come out. He claimed he hadn’t heard a thing. Since we knew he wasn’t deaf, he had to have hidden himself from any possible danger where he stayed till he was was convinced he was out of harm’s way before opening his door.
My father was taken to the hospital. Before then I heard my mother asking him to wear trousers, I guess since he did not seem worse for wear, she was embarrassed by the amount of people seeing him in his underpants. He didn’t care. He was stitched up and we were told how lucky his was. It was a deep cut but nothing vital had been touched.
It was later, I heard my parents repeat the story over and over again to people who came to greet my dad. He had heard the bang and decided to check it out. One of the men had waited behind the door to the kitchen and had jumped out and stabbed him.
Fear became my constant companion. I could not believe someone had broken into our safe haven and hurt my dad. It became worse when I went to school and Segun in Primary 5 told me categorically that they were coming back.
“When thieves come to steal and they don’t get anything, they always come a second time. When they come, they will even kill someone.”
I could not sleep again.
They seemed to have forgotten their unfinished mission and years rolled by. I had a deep rooted fear of losing my father and I never fell asleep till he was home and I could hear his footsteps echoing in the corridor.
They came when I was a teenager. It was my younger sister that saw them in our room and screamed. I woke up to see a bottom and legs clad in grey trousers and bare feet struggling to wiggle out of the window.
My father, who now always slept with a cutlass and a sword in his room, ran into our room. He then ran to the sitting room, I could see him as I was standing in the corridor. He used the cutlass the slam both sides of the door post and then he jumped into the sitting room looking round for an intruder.
He looked fierce and ready to murder.
The petty thieves got away.
The fear I had held onto for years left with them.
My father became superhuman in my eyes.
How do you experience an injury from robbers and still fearlessly rise to defend your family?
So long as my father was alive, I knew there was one person that would fight for us with his life.
He was a man. He was our protector and our provider.
I never heard my father say that he was the ‘head of the home’. Never.
He did not need to say it. He was walking it. He was calm and resolute in the face of whatever happened. I never saw my father lose his temper, his footsteps were a reflection of who he was. Calm, unhurried, measured and confident.
My mother was a housewife so my father took care of all the bills. I never heard him complain and I never saw him talk down to my mother. She was treated as the partner she was. But my mother always treated him as the head of the home. He had special plates and his food was cooked with care. If for any reason he called home to say he would eat out. My mother would drop her cooking spoon, sprawl on her bed and ask us, “What will you guys eat?”
I realise as an adult that I was completely blind to whatever faults he may have had. I was surprised when my mother mentioned after his death that he did not like working with women in the office. He complained that they brought too much drama. I felt irked by that, as I was a working woman. If any man had told that to me, it would have been the first battle to trigger World War 3. The interesting thing was that he never treated us kids (6girls and 2 boys) as though anyone had less potential because of their gender. So that he did not like working with women took me aback. This knowledge cautioned me from idolizing him.
He only cried once and I did not see him do it. It was when his last surviving sister died.
He remains in my heart the ideal of what a man should be. A superhero that provides, protects and cares for his family. The couch potato is an aberration of manhood to me. I don’t understand how men flap their hands in resignation and go watch football. I don’t get how they give excuses and watch their women hustle. I don’t get how a man can confidently wag his penis over a toilet bowl and smile at how manly he is while plotting how to marry a rich banker wife so as to ‘hammer’.
I do not even like the ‘today’ couple that splits the bills as they would a hair strand so as to be happy that no one is cheated or exploited. I realise that this makes me traditional and downright backward to some people, but hey, that is fine.
I want my man to be like my father was. A symbol of strength, responsibility and reliability. I want chivalry and delicateness in how I am considered and treated.
I dislike the growing breed of half men (strictly my definition). That are mean and calculating and if care is not taken will jump behind a woman in fear of a mouse. The ones that think women are dispensable and treat them with no regard. The men that punch women with full fists and whine all day about being the “head of the home” and yet still wait for the woman to pay the rent.
To be a ‘man’ meant a lot. It was not a title that encapsulated male privilege, it symbolised strength, character, and risk bearing (would put himself in harm ’s way to protect), it also meant wisdom…
I want men to be all that, like my father.
I remember the last time I saw him. It will be seven years in September but I can still remember the look in his eyes. I did not want to admit it then, but it was the eyes of a man that knew he was going to die. I hugged him and prayed with him as he entered the car to go to the airport.
At the hospital he sounded ok and then he was no more.
I am adjusting to life without him.
I am trying to adjust to the fact that men like him are a dying breed.
Change is after all the only constant thing in life.