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Daddy Lessons

by Gal Mux about a month ago in fact or fiction

8 Lessons my father taught me

Book cover/ Art by author

I don't know about you, but fathers are supposed to be heroes for their sons. That's how it is I guess. 

And my father is my hero. Not in the way fathers are for their sons but in his own way. My father taught me many lessons. Also, not in the way that many fathers teach their sons. But in his own way. He didn't teach me by being there, he taught me by not being there. My father didn't teach me how to. He taught me how not to. 

I remember my father... I try to remember who he was as a person but those memories are clouded by my last image of him. Him hanging there tongue sticking out, thick and drooping, almost touching the floor. Fists clenched, his neck stiff and bending to the left, a worn-out sisal rope around it tightly digging in his muddy skin. 

When I first saw him hanging from that roof, I remember thinking to myself, damn! how did he do it? He was such a short man. 5'2. Had he been just two inches taller, he could not have managed to hang himself. His feet would have touched the ground. 

I also remember blaming myself. We had built the goat shed in which he hang himself together. I was the one that had suggested that we raise its height to allow me to comfortably enter it in the future. Of course I was taller than him. I had taken after my mother on that front. Why did I insist on raising the roof? Had I agreed to the height he had initially wanted, he would not have been able to successfully hang himself in it. His feet would have touched the ground had he attempted. 

But did he hang himself? Could a drunk and staggering man have had the physical strength or the mental capacity to pick a rope in darkness, tie a knot tight enough to hold his weight and strangle his neck to the point of death? That goat shed wasn't even strong enough to withstand the last kicks of a dying man, to begin with. I had built it myself. So I know that for sure. 

By Mae Mu on Unsplash

There were whispers around that my mother had killed him together with my elder sister in the dead of the night then staged the hanging.  

Could they have been able to do that? They are both taller than me. The activity could have made it very uncomfortable for both of them because of the shed's height. Also, how could they have connived to do this? Could a mother sit down with her daughter to plan on how they will kill her husband, her father? Could they join hands to commit such a merciless act? 

It's been five years but whenever I see them seated together, even today, I wonder what it is that they could be planning. Who is next? Or did the poison from the whispers of the villagers make me suspicious of the people I should trust the most? 

Other stories went that they had paid a bunch of low lives to do it. I have even heard that my mother's lover did it and my mother helped cover up the crime by faking the suicide in the goat shed. 

I try to brush these thoughts off from time to time. And I try to think of my father and the lessons his life taught me flood my mind from time to time. 

Stand by your convictions even in the face of pressure 

My father was convinced that the goat shed in which he hang himself would be best at 5'3. But as we were building it, I managed to convince him that we raise it to 6 feet. He had vehemently rejected my proposal citing added expenses and more work to be done but he eventually gave in to my suggestions. Had he stood by his convictions, he would never have been able to successfully hang himself in that shed. The roof would have been too low. 

Every time someone attempts to convince me about something that I strongly feel about, I usually go back to this daddy lesson. Whoever tough it gets, I stand by my convictions. 

Alcohol is the devil's mouthwash 

If at all my mother and my sister managed to hang my father and blamed it on suicide, it's because he was drunk. And drunkenness makes you weak. 

My father was a strong man. He was not tall, but he was very strong. He lifted heavy objects from time to time. And as a manual labourer, he was famed for digging the deepest pit latrines. His height made it easy for him to creep through narrow spaces. And that required a lot of physical strength and stamina.

For these reasons, I'd never say that my father was a weak man. But even in his strength, he had one weakness. Alcohol. 

Oh! my father loved alcohol. He would go drinking every day after work and come back home happy and singing. Usually, when he got home, he got into fights with my mother because he had drunk all his daily wages. He even treated some of his drunkard friends at the bar with rounds and came home empty-handed demanding food because he was the man of the house!

Had my mother reached her elastic limit regarding my father's drunk shenanigans and decided to take matters into her own hands? That I might never know…

But what I do know for sure, is that had my father been sober, considering his physical strength, no one would have been able to hang him. Second, it would have minimised the reasons anyone would have wanted to hang him in the first place. 

Stay away from alcohol is a lesson my father taught me. It might bring you some short-lived moments of joy and happiness. Take you to cloud nine even, but in the long run, all you will get will be misery and pain. 

Provide! Provide! Provide!

Well, my father drank all his money. At least most of it. It is my mother who fed, clothed and took us to school. It is also she who borrowed some funds from my grandfather -her father and bought the small plot of land we lived in. 

My father was not a provider. In that household, he was a consumer. Not just of the material things, but the others too. He consumed my mother's peace and sanity and ours by extension. 

Many times I had to go drag him inside after he had blacked out on the road on his way home. Sometimes he'd reach outside our door and he would be unable to move requiring me to drag him in too. Many times I had to do this in the pouring rain. Of course he would be covered in mud. Sometimes vomit and pee even. 

Had my mother decided to take matters into her own hands because my father was basically useless? That I'll never know. But from him, I learnt to be a provider for those around you. 

Provide something so that people will find reason to want you around. Provide love, peace, comfort, sanity, joy or laughter… Whatever you do, even if you are also taking, ensure that you are also giving. Be useful and provide! 

Work hard but for a good reason

My father might have been a drunkard, but he was not a lazy man. That man worked hard! He would rise up early and gulp the tea my mother had prepared then go to his planned job for the day. 

Never would you catch him aimlessly laying around during the day. He also did the most difficult manual work. He dug pit latrines by hand. All alone in narrow steep and deep holes. Not even the rocks down below could stop him from achieving the depth he intended for the pits. For all these reasons, I'd never call my father a lazy man. 

There was just one problem. He drank all his hard-earned money every single day! 

My father worked hard yes, but for the wrong reasons. It is his desire to enjoy liquor later that woke him up in the morning to go to work. It is the same desire that fuelled his relentlessness at work. He was really good at his job. And maybe he enjoyed it and wanted to be good at it. I never got around to ask him this and too bad I'll never truly know. 

What I do know for sure is that all his hard work and enthusiasm was channelled to the wrong thing. From him, I learnt to focus my hard work on the right motivations. Because he worked so hard in his life. Did back-breaking work all his life, and in the end, had nothing to show for it. 

Well, of course the pits he dug are testaments that he was here and lived. I have on several occasions visited a few people and they showed me pits he'd dug for them. But they had something while he had nothing to show for it in the end. 

As matter of fact, to me, these pits are remainders of the misery he brought to our family in his drunk episodes day in day out. Because the money he earned from digging them became the catalyst of the sad state of life he brought to himself and us. 

Work hard, but let it for the right reasons. 

Take care of your teeth

Yeah, my father was toothless. Decades of consuming cheap liquor and getting them knocked out in fights did not help. Maybe he had inherited bad teeth genes, or in his almost always drunken state, he didn't have the personal motivation to take care of them through the years. 

His toothlessness annoyed my mother. She would always mock the way he spoke. She despised the way he laughed. She called him old lazy toothless grandpa. 

Mother also on most occasions had to cook special and softer food for him to eat since he didn't have the teeth to chew hard food. This was an additional burden to her considering my father's behaviour. 

Well, I don't think an ugly toothless smile would be a reason that would drive a person to hang another, but I know from my father to take good care of my teeth. I never want to look like that. Especially when with a little effort from time to time, I can avoid the predicament. 

Respect other people's property

My father drank all his income. 

Sometimes my mother would manage to convince my father's employers to give her a portion of his wages so that he could raise us, but that's from the casual jobs she managed to get for my father from her friends and acquaintances. 

Of course hell would break loose when my father would go for his wages and find some of it missing. He would throw insults that stretched from Cairo to Capetown. He would also threaten to undo the work already done, never to work there again and to spread bad reports in the whole village about that employer. 

Because he never put any money aside, he never managed to buy property or a home for us. My mother had to speak nicely with her father for us to have a home. 

Many times in my father's drunk episodes, he would threaten to find the deed for the plot we lived in, sell it and drink all the money. This would infuriate my mother to her core. 

On two separate occasions, he had even found it from my mother's secret hiding place. He bragged about knowing where it was the first time. The second time, my mother had to steal it back from him after he had already gone with it to the bar and bragged to his liquor buddies about how he was going to cash it and buy them an endless stream of alcohol. 

My parents fought about my mother's plot of land a lot. My father complained about its location and from time to time insisted that my mother had been conned during the purchase. He never forgot to mention that she was foolish for falling for it. 

I hated those arguments. My father had no right as my mother had done it all on her own. And my mother didn't have to answer him when he started these arguments as she was well aware it came from a place of jealousy and helplessness. 

Had my mother been fed up by all these and taken my father's life? That I will never know. But from my father, I learnt to respect other people's property.

Work hard to obtain your own property and leave other people's properties alone! 

Never trust anyone!

You'd think that I am for my mother all this time right? Hell no! 

I do love my mother. I truly love her. But I do not fully trust her. Where there is smoke, there is fire. 

For this reason, there might be some truth in the gossips from the villagers. I do understand her and her alleged actions though. I many times while dragging my drunken father in had the thoughts of physically hurting him because he was emotionally hurting us. Had she while dragging him in that night snapped in a moment of weakness and decided to end his life? That I'll never know. But having lived through it and felt what she might have felt, I understand my mother.

But I know not to cross her! Because I have an idea of what she is allegedly capable of. And by always keeping this in mind, I know how to deal with her and my sister. 

From my father's alleged predicament, I learnt that you can never truly trust anyone. Take charge of your life and cover all corners. Never rely on anyone to pull you up especially in weakness that you have brought upon yourself. 

We, humans, are designed to choose ourselves. Self-preservation is ingrained in us. And you must always make sure to be in control of your life and leaving little room for someone else to change its course because you can never truly trust anyone. They will always choose themselves over you. 

Leave behind reasons to be missed

Yes, I do think about my father from time to time. Even though there were some good memories there, I do not miss him for one second. None of us do.

It was sad when he was alive. And it was sad when he died.

His death not only left us sadder because it was a mystery in itself, but it was a sad relief. Well, my mother and sister were branded murders by the villagers and I am seen as an innocent victim in all the madness, but I wouldn't want my father back.

My mother is never complaining all the time, I never have to drag a filthy drunk grown man inside while it's pouring and my sister doesn't have to deal with the emotional toils of all that.

Maybe there are people who miss my father. Maybe the drunkard friends who occasionally enjoyed an extra round of the cheap liquor that my father offered them. Maybe they miss the short-lived joy and laughter of drunkenness that they enjoyed together. I even hear they dedicated a special chair at their cheap den in his memory. I don't know, maybe his childhood friends could miss him and the reckless activities of youth that they engaged in.

But we his family do not miss him. He left no reasons to be missed. And all the good ones that may exist are clouded by the misery and pain of the bad ones.

Now that I am older, I have a better understanding of him. I know he was suffering, was in pain, probably dealing with his own traumas and his alcohol addiction could have been a coping mechanism. Coming to this realisation is what helped me loathe him less in his death.

But I still feel that he could have found better ways to deal with his traumas than to pass them around especially to his innocent children. It is because of him that I have my own demons that I deal with on occasion.

I never want to pass my demons to anyone and I'd hope to live a life that builds and does not destroy others. 

Make sure you live a life that gives out reasons to be missed when you are gone. Especially by the people that matter. That's a lesson I learnt from my father.

You know how I see it? That my father was all these things so that I would never be them. That was his chosen path. His fate even. Through his example, he taught me to never be him. He saved me from all that. And that is why he is my hero.

fact or fiction

Gal Mux

Lover of all things reading and writing, mango 🥭

and pineapple 🍍salsas, strawberry and vanilla ice cream, MJ, and Beyoncé.

Nothing you learn is ever wasted. So learn everything you can.

Reach: [email protected]

Read next: A Letter to My Father

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