I knew it already, son. I think I was six year old then. But I knew. My step siblings were much older, much much older, son. But I also knew they weren’t my real siblings. You see, son, there is something about knowing….
Some things, once you know them, you can never unknow them. Never, son.
So, I knew. But daddy was an awesome man. In all honesty, I still feel he is a very model man. You know like someone you can emulate some of his traits (some, son. Some!). You see, through the six of the best strokes of the cane, the guy taught us that small boys do not sit around, blow balloons, and kite them about. He made us understand that boys should take sisal, grind the leaves against sharp stones, create strings and weave slings and head to the bushes to hunt rabbits and birds. He taught us that no man should ever wake up after the sun has woken up. You see, son. This is the man who would wake up at wee hours of the morning. When that ka cold is starting to penetrate even the thickest of blankets. He would arrange the four bulls behind the yokes and produce an explosive sound using the sisal-stringed whip. If the explosive sound did not wake you, son, then his singing would. Let me put this into perspective, son, you see the home was big. It housed four wives, each of which had a big house and a large compound. But you see, when daddy sang his song, his voice bellowed to every tiny crevice in every house, Even the rats began to squeal and run around aimlessly. The song wasn’t a nice one, the voice wasn’t sweeter than a frog’s croak. But it was something, son.
You see, son, to date, I still remember the sound of the song. I can sing it without knowing the slightest meaning of every syllable (like I do Rhumba music). I can never forget the song, son. It is rare for people to forget the sound of their morning alarm. We would wake up real quick. We would run along and take our positions by the heavily breathing bulls. We would go and plough the soil, chanting slogans to psyche the strong cows: showing them the way. By sunrise, we would be back to the homestead, huge calabashes of porridge in hand. Gobbling up sorghum-cassava flour porridge. Son, I Kinda fit it in. I kinda got used to the ways of the village. I kinda loved these people. You see, the older brothers sometimes thought I was funny. They used to make me say things in English and they would burst out laughing. Well, I really did not understand the cause of their laughter (truly speaking, son) but it was all for good fun. We would fight among ourselves and, at such times, the illegitimacy of my existence in that home would come up. And, well! It was just that. And daddy would cane us thoroughly. Equally. Six of the best. For everyone who fought. You see, son, he loved us, as children, equally. He hated us with the same measure. It didn’t matter who gave their first cry in that home or who came with their 9038398288th cry into the home! It didn’t matter, son. We were equal before daddy! Then, I learnt that, it is easy to love children, son. After all, they are so adorable when young.
But this was not the case for the wives. Son, for the purposes of this letter, I will concentrate on what is important. I will not dwell on the love of wives. I will not claim to know how the love between a man and his wife looks like. I don’t know, man. But I know that, if you have more than one woman as a wife, you will love them differently. So, son, I began by saying that I knew. And I couldn’t unknow. The other problem about knowing is that you use the knowledge to compare things. Like a control or, you know, scale. So, I observed, daddy used to treat his women differently. For some reason, I thought second wives are usually the noisiest and the most troublesome lot. Our second mother was something else. She would make so much noise in the home. When she was angry, she would wrestle all the wives combined. She had big words! Words that made the ancestors to twitch on their dump graves. The good thing is that the fights between mothers remained just that. Between mothers. But if you were on the wrong side of the second mother, you would definitely know where you belonged.
Legend had it that she was possessed by one of the dreaded nyawawa because she refused to pound on the debes as they were passing by (you see, son, she was defiant like that). She was a very good person though. Very kind when in good spirits. But I still feel second wives are trouble. Its like they haven’t accepted the obvious fact that they are second, and they spend their whole lives fighting to be first. But, here too, I could be wrong. You see, daddy used to discipline all the wives. Except…! (please make a guess). But mother number two got the lion’s share of the beatings. Daddy often said that’s the only way to tame the rogue. But, son, every moment of violence in the home was scary as hell. It left us, young kids scampering for a hiding place beneath the beds. Hell, I even created my hiding place just behind the house! But the first wife was never beaten. When food was brought from the four wives, hers was the first to be opened and flung into the belly of daddy. This pissed mother 2. Made her crazy. But it happened and never changed for a day. Son, when there was trouble in the home (like you know, all wives ganged up against daddy), he would seek refuge at mummy one’s place. When a big decision had to be made in the home, like selling my mother’s cow, mummy one had the very last say. And I realized one thing, son, love is for two people. And daddy always went where he was loved
They say 1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 issavery difficult mothermatics.
Son, our other mothers reclined to the hard couches of their fates. But your grandma did not. She left! And I left with her. You are my son, so I will not give you the don’t judge statement. I will try to explain. You see, back at the village, it doesn’t matter how your paternal integrity is oriented. It doesn’t matter that everybody knows you are not the son of that place of dwelling. Backstabbing eyes and disgustfully spewed saliva will follow you when you decide to follow your mother when she decided enough was enough. the man who went with his mother,they would say.I was told I had a place there. That I had my piece of land waiting for me (it was full of very ripe maize by the way). Everybody said I should not leave. But I left, son. I followed the only person I knew loved me. I have never regretted that decision, son. You see, in the same breath that I narrate to you the story of deadbeat dads and runaway fathers, I will advise you, son, to go where you are loved. Always!
I do not dare to contradict myself by saying daddy didn’t love me. On the contrary, it is with this love that he said,
I will not rebuke you, son, I know you are special. I know you know things and I feel like, young as you are, you know what you are doing. You have a very strong mind. Whether you will make it to become a great man, I don’t know. It is up to you. One thing though, always go where you are loved!
Son, this is my first truth
Just recently, I was in a very deep discourse with my old man. My maternal grandpa. Great man that one. No nonsense person. Full of life, even at his very advanced age. He has very limited time for small talk, son. So do I. Our conversation was more of a Q&A session. I ask serious questions and he answers. I ask he answers. So, this was my chance, a chance to ask the most important question of my life! Something I have been looking forward to knowing for the longest time.
And I asked.
The response was one of the most intriguing pieces of philosophies I have very heard.
Fools should die, he begins. I recoil and wonder the meaning of his statement. But I soon get his drift, Which just drove towards calling me a fool. Son, you should never be offended when someone calls you a fool. If you know what you are doing, you are not a fool. After all, everyone is entitled to a bag of limitless mistakes, which they can pick insert as events in their uneventful lives. So, unless you are making deadly and fatal mistakes, you need not to worry. You see son, some of us are born like any other animals. Some of us were born on the roadside as the bepunctured ngware bicycle failed on the way to the nearest mission dispensary. Some of us were born in the dump banana leaf walled bathroom that serves the whole locality. Some of us, the first thing we saw as we joined this hopeful world, were the dirty nails of the village midwife.
Some of us, our births were just regular events like going to the river or fetching firewood! So, we just know our place in the society as we grow up, son. But that does not mean we should not fight our ways up, you know. We fight! And we rub shoulders with more entitled lad who’s arrival to this earth marked the zenith of life to their parents and kin. The burden we have is to prove ourselves. That our births, our backgrounds, our misfortunes, do not determine how we see life. or how we live life. So, we make plenty of mistakes, we become fools. For, who is a fool if he is devoid of mistakes? Basically, we are just underdogs struggling to bark.
But I digress, son. You know when grandpa began talking, I though he was attacking and branding me a fool who’s demise should come sooner because I asked the wrong question at the every opportunity I should have asked the most important question.
You see, he says, your question is intriguing as well as disheartening. I know you ask because you have observed my life. You have seen the ups and downs and have wondered how I eventually handled it. But look at it this way, every union between two people (ideally, man and woman) has to have a reason. Long ago, during our time, the prime reason was ever so clear. And simple.
When a man got to the right age, he was expected to find a wife. And reproduce! Have children of his own. A home of his own. That was the prime reason.
And then people discovered this thing called love. Well, it is not to mean that it did not exist previously. It did. Man, you should have seen how men and women treated each other as man and wife. But the new dimension of love that people have crafted has altered the equation. Nowadays people meet. Hug. Hug tighter. Hug tightest. And bum! I love you baby! For some it is all about material things. Most importantly the concept of time, patience, and compatibility is never a serious matter. But it is a whole complicated thing that, even I, cannot claim to have a full grasp.
However, polygamy, for me, was good when it lasted. It served its purpose and significance. I think the root of this whole is based on the whole concept that there is nothing new under the sun. For instance, When polygamy was predominant, people were all over the place advocating for monogamy citing all sorts of reasons. Now, monogamy is widespread and happens to be the thing, but others are out their claiming their loyalty to the concept of celibacy. So, I would say, it is not about love. Neither was it a while back…