Split Eight Ways

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When I wrote about this story, I said that my mentee’s girlfriend was called Nincy. Eddy told me that she took offense at me misspelling her name; she’s not Nincy but Nincie. They sound the same but they aren’t the same. So Eddy must have had a hard time convincing her, “He isn’t a malicious person, I swear. Just old.” And that might be the problem; I’m not used to posh names. I’m used to names like Janet, Lucy, Linda, Olivia, Ruth, Maureen…such like names. Names you can’t possibly misspell even if you really wanted to.
I’m sorry, Nincie, for butchering your name, for lowering its value. How I have sinned. Please, pardon me.
I normally write this blog on Sundays but last Sunday was Father’s Day and I figured you guys would have loved nothing better than for me to put my feet up and exhale. Like a holiday. So I took a break. Thank you very much.
However, I asked our resident cool kid, Eddy Ashioya, to fill in for me. I asked him to write a letter to his father.
So, here goes, Eddy Ashioya…

***
Hi Baba,
I know this will come as a surprise because of all your children, I am the most emotionally aloof. It’s funny because, in a sense, I have grown up to be just like you – only taller, handsomer and with more hair. Despite your protests, the only day I’m shaving is on my wedding day. But I don’t see that happening, the shaving, not the wedding. Remember what you told me once? If you have to change for someone, then you can’t be anyone. So yeah, I think whoever I marry will have to accept me and my shaggy hair.
I’d like to tell you that I am writing this with a heavy heart. Unlike my brother, who supports Man City (kids these days, huh?), I inherited your love for Arsenal. We have just suffered our second loss. Everyone is laughing at me. Should I switch teams? I really like winning and Arsenal is going to send me to an early grave. When Jesus said die for what you love, this is not what He meant. That is not a good epitaph.
You’d be happy to note that I am listening to 2Pac, the original gangster. He is rapping about mama. Ironical right? Writing a letter to baba while listening to mama? That sort of explains our relationships. To get to you, I always had to use an intermediary; Mama. God bless that woman. The amount of money you wired to my pocket through her. I am no different than those ‘tuma kwa hii number’ Kamiti cons. Okay you get the point.
I have never told you I am proud of you. I have never been one to brag to other boys about how strong my dad is, or how cool my dad is, or remember that time my dad speared a living lion? I have always wanted our relationship to be private, to cherish the little moments that turned memories I have with you, to have something to call my own.
On your last Facebook picture – which reminds me, how did we become friends on Facebook again? – I saw you have started spotting white hair. I blame this on my seven siblings, who I know can be a pain in the ass. Kwanza Johnnie. Anyway. I feel bad because I feel like I have missed out on your best years. Like my siblings got the best of you, they are reaping the rewards of your trial-and-error parenting tricks on me.
Remember that time you beat me with a belt? Imagine since then I have not worn a belt again. Yes, nowadays I wear made-to-measure. Some people fear snakes. Others fear cockroaches. Me? Belts.
In a sense, I wanted you to teach me how to ride a bike. I taught myself. I wanted you to teach me things like how to fix a sink, drive a car, drive a woman crazy…
My siblings will enjoy that sacrifice, having unfettered access to you, 24/7. The older you’ve grown, the gentler you’ve become, a firm hand with a gentle touch. Sometimes I get really jealous having to split your love eight ways. That’s why I am going to have only three children because my heart has four compartments, and one of those compartments is for my wife. Haha. Just kidding. It’s for Arsenal, and my wife.
I don’t know how you feel about Father’s Day knowing your disdain for manufactured sentiments of emotionally inept anniversaries. I wrestle with the obligation of calling you up, just because society deems it appropriate.
I have always been phobic about Father’s Day, because I don’t know how to relate. We are friendly but are not really friends. I think I have written about you only once, in a composition class by Tr Jerusha entitled ‘My Father.’ Trust me, you don’t want to know what was in there. But it was funny. What I do remember is ending the composition with, ‘…out of all the rest, my father is the best.’ Little white lies?
I could remind you how you used to come to my school with a gazeti in your hands, and hellos in your wallet, but that would be meh. That is the Husbandry School of Kenya guide to being a father. I could count the number of times we’ve had a conversation with you, baba. Every time I would land in Kakamega and my siblings would jump on me, begging me to tell them stories of how I have been surviving in Nairobi, alone. You could say I have come home. But that is not how I felt.
You are a closed man baba, and asking you to open up is akin to asking the Queen for her bra size. But I have always drawn up excuses for you. Maybe you believe in ‘doing-as-I-do-not-as-I-say’ but sometimes I really want you to just talk. To feel the warmth and wisdom of a crackling Luhya voice, to be assured that everything is fine.
You see, I am an introvert, just like you, emotionally self-quarantined and really a loner. Ours, baba, has been a functional relationship. I volunteered information on a need-to-know basis. This is a transactional world anyway – and our relationship is like a bank account. Check in. Check out.
I have few solemn memories of us, baba. I remember us, hurdled together, you crying, me watching, as we lay your mother, and my grandmother to rest. I remember seeing a tear stroll down your face, and I was overtaken by a rush of emotions. You were still a mother’s boy. I also remember you taking me to hospital after I broke my leg, resulting in my try-hard Vince McMahon walk.
I also remember you leaving. You liked leaving. You were always too footloose. I never had enough time with you. I have never spent a full day with you. Maybe that is why I carry a passport picture of you in my wallet, just to keep you close. So close, yet so far.
Maybe distance keeps us close. Maybe if we spent too much time together, the hero image of you in my mind will be slowly diluted. I would have to face up to the fact that you are just a man, a man with weaknesses, fallible and prone to error. But I still want you to be my superman.
I feel robbed of a relationship with you. Maybe not so much as a father figure but more of a friend. I can’t keep blaming you for my mistakes, I can’t keep looking for a father in everyone I meet, I can try and make it work with you. I can. I can…but will I?
Sometimes I envy your relationship between you and your father. How he calls you ‘Petero’, and how you still look down when he is talking to you. Did I tell you I look down too when people are talking to me? In a way I want to reflect you, maybe I’ll feel a little closer. Maybe if I act like you more, I can be you. What is it those celebrities say? Fake him till you become him?
You are at the edge of your early forties now. I don’t know what midlife crisis will look for you. The other day I called you, during Father’s Day, and I could hear in the far off, that tinge of pride in your crackling laughter, your deep bass voice muffled by overwhelming shyness. This was our own language.
Maybe on this Father’s Day, I ought to have said what I should have said a long time ago: I am proud of you.
When you are tipsy, you turn from Uncle Mutahi to Otieno Kajwang’. You are so full of life. I would see you open up, and I would turn down the news bulletin – because what else is there – and hear you recount tales of your youth, conquests of the past. It felt special for me to be in your presence, near my father, drinking from the pool of slightly inebriated, but profound wisdom, allowing me to enter your life.
I often don’t know how to behave around you. Sometimes our eyes would meet in that awkward gaze, as you watch me prepare to go back to Nairobi, not knowing how to say our goodbyes. Sometimes, you would reach out to shake my hand 2020 BC (Before COVID), when I really needed a hug. When you did, I would always pull away. I didn’t know what you were to me, and more importantly, what I was to you.
One of the things I have learnt from you are principles. You refused a job offer. You built your home alone, with your own hands. You still support Arsenal, despite years of heartache. I admire the fact that you are proud of what you have, that you make an honest shilling and that you keep your children close. My sisters are lucky to have you. A father who is in shape? I mean. They better not bring someone who doesn’t work out…because that relationship won’t work out…(dad joke level 1?)
You’ve never pressured me to be a white-collar kind of guy, although someone mentioned to me that you don’t even know what I do in Nairobi. Is it true, baba? You don’t know what your firstborn son is doing in the concrete jungle? Call me. But before you do, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I met another man. His name is Biko. You two look alike, but he has more facial follicles. He doesn’t know this, but I look up to him as a father too. It’s an added responsibility, but he let me in, knowing I was needy. He’s obviously good with words and also emotionally shy, but when I know he has taken time to read my work, I feel proud. It’s like a pat on my back, from you, through him. You have no reason to be jealous because he’s pops but you are baba. If you can have eight children, I, at least, deserve two fathers…He’s going to teach me how to drink whisky one day. I think it’s time. I have washed my hands, now I’m ready to dine with the men.
To be honest, it’s not all that bad, baba. Because every time you read my posts on Facebook and respond with the laughing emoji – your silent reactions online would tell me what your words wouldn’t tell me offline. There’s pain there that I understand. A longing for more. That is something we share.
Baba, it’s been a struggle between the man I expected you to be and the man you are. Reconciling the two is no easy feat, as just like when I was 10 when every little boy believes that his father is the best out of all the rest. Asking you to be the man I envisioned when I hardly know the man you are is like inviting the Pope to a strip club.
When I look at you, I see so much of myself—your desire to be alone, and your need to generate.
As you grow older, nay, mature-r, I am slowly piecing the picture of a familiar stranger. I understand why things are the way they are. Why our relationship is not unique, but special. As I grow up, and meet at the crossroad of responsibilities harassing me, on the cusp of being my own man, I know why it is important to always know that although you may never say it, you’ll always be there for me. I understood, a long time back, that people don’t always have to understand our relationship. It’s tough love.
I’m learning to properly mourn my childhood so that I may make the most of my adulthood. And don’t worry about it. I forgive you for you were on a free trial version of fatherhood.
Baba, maybe you’ll get to read this letter. I hope you do. You’ve always encouraged us to face a book rather than Facebook. Ha-ha. Maybe this is the only way I can pour out my heart without facing you. Or maybe the reason I am afraid of facing you is because I am afraid I am turning into you.
Your son,
Eddy.

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129 Comments
    1. Please tell me y’all are paid for this. I fail to understand the enthusiasm that motivates it

      Also, great work Eddy for another remarkable story, “we will watch your career with great interest”✨

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      1. I hear you Tepi-something…I too have never understood the rush; it’s akin to the rush to board a plane when your seat is assured and you will not arrive earlier. But to each his own.

        And great writing Eddy, your Pa must be a proud soul (ok, both Pa’s…Biko and the KK one..).

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      2. I’ve also always wondered why it’s becoming a “thing” to be the 1st to comment and then what……. and it’s usually even before one has read the story. It’s really really such weird and unusual behavior

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  1. -collar kind of guy, although someone mentioned to me that you don’t even know what I do in Nairobi. Is it true, baba? You don’t know what your firstborn son is doing in the concrete jungle? Call me. But before you do, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I met another man. His name is Biko. You two look alike, but he has more facial follicles.

    @laban Njoroge I can never thank you enough for introducing Me to Bikos blog.Remember us sitting under a tree and you reading me his articles until I fell in love with them,Happy upcoming father’s day….

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  2. -collar kind of guy, although someone mentioned to me that you don’t even know what I do in Nairobi. Is it true, baba? You don’t know what your firstborn son is doing in the concrete jungle? Call me. But before you do, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I confess that I met another man. His name is Biko. You two look alike, but he has more facial follicles.

    @laban Njoroge I can never thank you enough for introducing Me to Bikos blog.Remember us sitting under a tree and you reading me his articles until I fell in love with them,Happy upcoming father’s day….

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  3. Wow! Such an amazing piece.

    For those of us who’ve never had a relationship with our fathers, I hope we make amends with our own kids.

    P.S. As an Arsenal fan, I feel you. We’re hurting badly!

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  4. Inviting Pope into a strip club. You never know Eddy he would come to hold mass for the people to know the way of the cross. Never say never

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  5. Heh!
    Why are my eyes watery?
    I think it’s because I call my dad baba too..
    And the part where you described your relationship with Biko.

    To be honest, when I read the first part of this post and Biko said that he had not written it, I was tempted to not read the rest of the post.
    But I decided to read because Biko said you’re a brilliant writer and everything Biko says is gospel truth, well, some things.

    Now I’m fighting tears because I call my dad baba too and our relationship is kinda strained but I still love him with everything in me. He calls me sis when he is tipsy because I’m named after his sister.

    Please excuse me as I go compose myself because I’m not crying today.

    Thankyou Eddy

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    1. I kinda identify with this kid and deeply understand him… some of us have a past with our fathers that we wish never happened. And we struggle to the best fathers we can be, not because we had a role model in our fathers but because we had terrible fathers; who we detest what they were as fathers as we grew up and struggle not to be them by being better fathers.

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  6. Hahahaha sounds like typical African dad.
    Well put.
    I wonder if his dad will read it. And what would be his reaction? Maybe no reaction…..

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  7. This is a very relatable piece. I don’t know why it’s normally hard to express ourselves to our dads face to face. I hope my relationship with my kids will be different.

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  8. @bikozulu..I hope the day comes when you have to quote someone’s girlfriend called La’Quesha..utajua hujui..*laughter emoji.*

    Such a touching letter from Eddy to his pops. So many beautiful words revealing a son’s longing for the vacuum in their relationship to be filled. I pray his dad reads this letter and reaches out to his son. It is never too late to build the closeness and warmth he desires.

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  9. This guy can write. I think biko teaches them how to insert those jokes in there so they sound like him hahhaha. I read the jokes in biko’s voice

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  10. If you invite pope to a strip club he should come. It’s always important to have a report of the kinds of sins his flock are partaking in. And why are all popes male?

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  11. You have done a good job with this boy Biko congratulations to both of you, am glad he sees you as a father. Happy fathers day to you and baba Eddy. Eddy keep up young man this is good stuff

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  12. I am emotionally shy to guess it’s natural to some of us
    I’m learning to properly mourn my childhood so that I may make the most of my adulthood.
    It has always been a tough love for me and my dad.

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  13. A great piece.

    Most mothers are the intermediaries to getting that money out of Dads pockets hehe,,

    It’s about time you switch teams

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  14. Good read. Touching. Totally relate. Well done Eddy. You’re going places. May you be a better Baba one day. And like the gang is saying, its never too late to salvage the relationship.

    1
  15. ‘… which reminds me, how did we become friends on Facebook again?’… Story of my life . An amazing piece Eddy, true depiction of dad-son tough love. Working in silence like secret service agents, it’s there and not there at the same time. As a first born, I feel you bro. And Biko while you are at it, you know that self-proclaimed ‘holiday’, Happy Fathers’ Day.

  16. Ati 2020 BC, very funny!
    Eddy, I love your humor, walking in the footsteps of Biko {he’s doing a great job with you}
    This letter to your Baba, speaks volumes, I sure hope he’s reading it too.
    Cheers!

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  17. It is beautiful Eddy. Healing the wounds of your childhood is the only way to thriving in adulthood. You are already on the right path to healing and to mending your relationship with baba. I wish I did that with my own dad while he was still alive but then I didn’t know better, I was busy swimming in the sea of bitterness. Now, I know a thing or two and I working on having closure in his absentia.

    P.S. Salute to the men, the likes of Biko, who have played the role of a father and revealed the depths of a father’s heart to wanderers like myself.

    8
  18. I didn’t imagine that somebody of Eddy’s age had an upbringing mirroring that of someone his own baba’s or Pops’ (Biko’s) age! And here I am thinking millenials (or what are folk Eddy’s age referred to again? Generation Z or Y? W
    whichever?) might have had it better, not complicated as Eddy’s letter implies. And you wonder what ails the boy-child!
    Excellent Father’s Day piece! Kudos Eddy!
    PS: I don’t remember Jesus saying ‘die for what you love’, He said no such thing!

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  19. Well written Eddy! Beautiful! Keep it up n kudos to you Biko-pops, you inspire many, me included(smily face)

    This piece made me miss my dad soo much.

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  20. If you can have eight children, I, at least, deserve two fathers…He’s going to teach me how to drink whisky one day. I think it’s time. I have washed my hands, now I’m ready to dine with the men. Great piece

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  21. Ooh Biko,the way you make us your gossip mates!Say hi to Eddy’s gal,i wonder how we will be pronouncing her name when we’re old church members. Margaret becomes Magarita and Jackline changes to Jakarine

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  22. Asking you to be the man I envisioned when I hardly know the man you are is like inviting the Pope to a strip club…..
    Love the analogy it’s an honest letter from the heart from a son to a father …. The wordplay was great…… Eddy seems you are growing up to be the next chocolate man…. Cheers

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  23. I can’t imagine dad’s in their 40s have problems relating with their children,
    It was what dad’s of 60s and above had.
    Vicious cycle of dysfunctional relationships

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  24. Eddy you write well and this story is close to home. I also call my father baba. No relationship whatsoever. He left when I was 12. He was in and out of our lives, and I mean like seeing us twice a year, haha. I don’t remember the last time I saw him. Now I only meet him when there is a cultural thing like ruracio, which he must be involved whether you saw him a decade ago or not and no one has gotten married of late. I struggled with his absence and “don’t care attitude” for many years. It’s like we never existed (there is 9 of us, hard to ignore right?) But when we meet, we do small talk about life for a minute and barely make eye contact. It’s like no one cares to fill the void anymore.

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  25. Wow! So many quotable quotes… fathers are difficult beings to understand, “as is where is”… sooner or later we become what we face.

  26. The father-son relationship is quite typical of a number of existing relationships.

    The tipsy bit reminds me of my dad; he always got the courage to say he loved me during such moments…may he continue resting well.

    Overall, quite an interesting piece!

    1
  27. Beautiful writing. I could see your father in your life and your pops (who calls the other pops! Children these days!) in your writing. I have LOL several times. About the wedding and the 4th chamber of your heart!!! Keep it up! Looking forward to read more.

  28. Interesting read, thanks Eddy. Alot of similarities to some of us who grew in the 90s when dads were tough and wne to visit you with a newspaper on one hand and hallos in the pocket……. kudos.

    Thanks Biko for being a pop to Eddy and the mentoring Eddy……..legacy loading

  29. Eddy Ashioya! A budding writer backin the days at Moi University. This is the next Biko! Watch this space!

    Congrats Comrade.

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  30. Beautiful letter. However, I will never understand Kenyans obsession with supporting football teams in Europe, like why? Arsenal? Man City?

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  31. Nice read the similes got me grinning like an idiot … asking the queen for her bra size … inviting the pope to a strip club lawd

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  32. When you said he comments on your FB with an emoji I knew you were of the snowflake generation and your pops is mine and Bikos age. Lol. Different times man, growing up we didn’t even expect to be loved by our dads, it was weird. We just loved them and were not allowed to show it. Only when they started hitting 65+ did they start showing some vulnerability and it was odd but felt good. Your pops just was never taught how to love his pops openly and that is what he is suffering him. Teach him to love you and to love his siblings and he won’t believe how much love he will cultivate in his soul.

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  33. I envy the love,the relationship you had,the bond with your father. On my side of relationship,cant describe anything.im just left thinking,had my father been around,what would have changed?

  34. Damn it Eddy good work man. This clearly paints a picture in my heart, never had a great rlshp with my papa, but yeah Biko has had that impact in me too. Happy fathers pops.

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  35. ‘Baba, its been a struggle between the man I expected you to be and the man that you are.’

    This line perfectly embodies the struggle in my heart in terms of the relationship with my father. Loving someone who is there and not there at the same time. I love how this piece flows and connects bits and pieces of your father’s character to your own in the ending. This was a simple and beautiful piece, that just……………. No words.

  36. I feel as though the letter is written by me. I have had a similar relation with my dad. All this time I felt I was the only one..Good piece. Cheers

  37. I’m so envious of people who can write. The never ending springs of enchanting prose and impeccable grammar, don’t even mention the cracking humor. If only i could maybe then I would be able to finally exorcise the demons of my childhood by letting my heart bleed on paper. Perhaps beautiful words could cover up the ugly truth making the emotional turmoil bearable. Maybe then I’d be able to tell my father that i forgive him for being a colossal disappointment; for never showing up when it really counted… you see his love for the bottle exceeded his responsibility to our family ruining our relationship breaking us in the process. I think I’m damaged goods but that’s a story for another day, i run the risk of ruining a good piece with my sob story.
    Anyway Eddy you’re lucky to have that man in your life honor him by being a good man and an even better father. God knows we’ve got enough shitty dad’s already!

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  38. This is so touching. Ours is split 12 ways. We twelve children and I wonder how my parents managed to loved us all unconditionally

  39. ….They better not bring someone who doesn’t work out…because that relationship won’t work out…(dad joke level 1?)….

    more like dad joke level 1.5.

  40. Carries me straight into my relationship with my father……Somehow similar yet the effect is very very different.Maybe my dad never even loved me,or waanted me….Do we even relate.Gosh,am not so sure.I dont have the courage to face him.Not even through writing.I thank God for him though.He has done so many great things-my brother even named his son after him….

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  41. Good stuff. Biko did it like Nyayo. Those that followed Nyayo have done its soon well just like you have done here. Biko, Nyayo one, side social distance is a must coz of the difference.

  42. “You see, I am an introvert, just like you, emotionally self-quarantined and really a loner”.

    This is deep! I can relate.
    More grease to your elbows, Eddy

  43. Yeah ,Fathers, my father,those great but not so great fathers…bitter sweet creatures. Will I be such, will I be better? badder than most?… good a read though

  44. It’s so real and tactile…I particularly loved that you used gazeti instead of newspaper and the kwanza Johnnie bit, it feels like a conversation. It’s one thing to capture interest and allure readers but it’s a whole other thing to touch their soul.

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  45. Reading this piece has had me reflect on my relationship with my daddy. We call him daddy. I have enjoyed a fully blossomed relationship with my dad from when I can remember. He has three boys and no girl, thus I have no blood sister. Daddy (and Mommy) now have three daughters courtesy of his boys all marrying beautiful wives and giving them five grandchildren with a sixth one on the way.
    My daddy has been present in my life (and I believe for the rest of my siblings as well, being the last born, I have witnessed it) and very active in it, he has been hands on, and we have always let him in our lives always.
    Looking back, I think my dad’s qualities were enhanced as a result of being mentored in life with plenty of white folks who were a major part of his education and work life. I believe interacting with these folks had a major influence in his life and how he related with his family.
    We have received a lot of exposure and influence from the western cultures and I know the current generation of fathers will be so much present in their children’s lives, a shift from what has been the norm with our forefathers. Just like Eddy, we will yearn to be present in our children’s lives.

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  46. If I was to write a long candid letter to my own father, I don’t know how I would start, where it would end, and the stuff in between. This was a real feat Eddy, keep it up.

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  47. The reality of being an African child who has identified his place in society, but still does not know who he is in his father’s eyes… I think this is something most if not all of us graple with (of course, this is for those of us who were borne before Kibaki was president).

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  48. Wow did Eddy really write that ? If yes EDDY i want you to know you not turning into baba you are turning into pops haha.

    i loved the letter.

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  49. Beautiful piece cool kid! I love the sincerity and I’m glad you found a dad in Biko. I hope Baba reads this!

  50. Beautiful piece! The relationship with your dad got me, but the words about Biko only harder. A toast to firstborns, our fathers get free trials! And to the second fathers, you mean the world.

    Cheers Eddy!

    Thank you Biko! I hope I meet you one day.

    Ugandan!

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  51. I really enjoyed this post. It’s totally relatable. Indeed, fathers are special. Cherish every single moment you have with them. This applies to Mother’s as well.

  52. Firstborn trauma….we are test cars for our parents to do trial and error. I woulf like to think we aid our parents by doing like mandazi flour does-self raise.lol!!

  53. It’s kinda sad that I’m reading this so late but I’m glad I got to read it. I’m a first born so I can relate, I also think that my brother the second born went thro’ the same thing.