On Thursday night, three days to Fathers’ Day, I informed my father-in-law’s daughter I was going to visit my dad. With her mouth widely opened, she shouted “What?”
“You heard me” I retorted sharply. Deep within, I knew my wife had every reason to disbelieve the cock and bull story I just gave her.
Let me give you some background. I’m going to tell you something that will make you want to hurt, insult or think very ill of me. But what I have to say has got to be said. If you plan on making sense of my visit then please pay attention.
For starters, my dad and I are not good friends. Delete it; we are not friends and blood-related (I sometimes doubt owing to the neglect). We never agreed on any issue in the past (our faces did not meet—a Ghana man will understand this). I had never mentioned his name in any conversation I had with my wife, neither had I encouraged questions regarding my dad’s welfare.
Back to the scene with my Father-in-law’s daughter. She frowned at me and sank into the chair, as if to say ‘carry your troubles go’. I sat in my car, sped off and in about twenty minutes, I was at old man’s house.
The place was dark, isolated and very off. It could easily pass for an abandoned school project due to a change of government. I turned off the ignition and sat in the car waiting for only God knows what; honestly, I didn’t have a reason to step out. “What was I going to say to him”, “what brought me here”, I thought to myself. My driving there didn’t make sense.
Moments later, I saw shadows of a man and woman approaching from paapa’s room. It was indeed the old man himself. He approached me by the car and quietly introduced the lady to me as Elizje, his wife. There was no oversentimental “I’ve seen a ghost today”, “hello”, “see who came visiting”, or a simple “good evening”. I didn’t mind though. Abi we naar we are not friends!
“I see”, the unimpressed me said after I shook hands with her briefly. She was not polite but not rude too. The three of us stood right by the street talking “non-sylla” for over ten minutes. The dialogue was fake and forced. Our lady excused herself swiftly, leaving dad and I by the street.
My dad begun asking of the family, work, my mum and plans I had for the future. I ignored the questions and played around with my phone seriously as if looking for something important. There was a long pause. The place was pretty heavy for the both of us.
“For over five years, I know for a fact you all live in this community. I’ve noticed neither you nor your siblings visit me. In fact I’m shocked you even came to me today. Ah well, I understand that what happened in the past marred our relationship” he said softly. His tone was receding. The man was getting all emotional with me.
“Where’s he going with this?” I asked myself. “He’s lucky paaa that he mentioned the marred relationship part. Like he’ll hear.”
“I’m a good man, Nana. Taking care of a family is not a small thing. Given the circumstance, I did the best I could. My best may not have been good enough for you but I tried, my boy.”
I hesitated a response and let his words sink in. My soul was a bit sober now, at least. I pressed a button, unlocked the car doors and waved at the front seat. He opened it and sat in quietly like a good boy. He was winning me back; at least so he thought.
He continued, “I lost my job; I was broke and couldn’t support you guys any longer. I’m sorry for how my actions affected you. I’m really sorry for everything”.
I thought of a dozen smart retorts, but I let it pass. I simply braced myself to do all the listening now and wait my turn.
We sat in silence again for a minute or two, each thinking of the next question and answer (I guess). The old man finally asked if I had forgiven him.
“I didn’t come here for forgiveness. If you had indeed wronged me, you would have looked for me to apologise”, I snapped. “I don’t want to complicate our already complicated relationship.”
The old man made no effort to hide his anxiety. “Hmmmmmmmm” was all he said repeatedly.
I had to hatch a nice plan to take leave of him but the excuse refused to pop up.
“Would you like to leave?” my dad asked awkwardly. I nodded heavily and repeatedly. I said goodbye and taxied away in my alatsa car.
Weeks later, I heard the old man was found dead in his room. Poor soul! I was glad I went to see him but hurt I didn’t man up to tell him how I felt about him. I asked God to forgive me for bottling up my emotions and for my unforgiveness. A line from The Lord’s Prayer — “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” —kept flashing in my memory. I felt guilty for being selective with forgiveness. Hmmmmmmmmm.
Family is everything. That rule never changes regardless of the hurt or joyous moments we share with family. Its cast in concrete, carved in granite, and etched in stone.
By: Paa Kwesi Forson
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