Drinks from my father
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Tomorrow is Father’s Day.
And I wanted to share a few woeful tales about my Dad and I in my childhood. Woeful tales, that with the years, have assumed a sepia-toned edge of hysterical hilarity.
He passed away a dozen years ago, not quite yet 60, because his liver could no longer handle the river of hard liquor that ran through it ( ‘A River of Liquor Runs Through It: The Autobiography of a Drunk’s Liver’ lol).
And here I am tempted, in the spirit of black humour, to crack a joke about how the only things some kids will inherit from their fathers ... is their drinking habits. My old man was a hoot, and here are some of his crazy stories.
My dad trained as an accountant, complete with CPAs and a management degree from Makerere University.
But he simply couldn’t hold down a job for long, to mom’s eternal despair. There was the time he was working for this mzungu called Williamson. Williamson’s old mother died, and the colonialist decided to have her privately interred.
But my old man, after a little drinking on the material day, decided that a true African mourns with his master - and stormed the mzungu’s Karen home with two of my uncles in tow, wailing and screaming ‘obe, obe,’ by way of dirge. His job with Williamson was buried that day alongside the corpse of the mzungu woman.
My dad considered his true talent, the one he never explored, was as an architect, contractor and constructor, all rolled into one. He built his ‘retirement’ house in Ngong’ across the years, all by his lonesome self (and did not like that I, his first born son, preferred building castles in the air in my mind than real brick-and-mortar stuff). Once he was arrested at dawn for crooking ‘kogoto’ (gravel) from the railway line to continue construction.
When we were in middle primary, our father moved my kid sister into our boys’ bedroom in Nairobi West.
So he could rear sixty ‘kukus’ in my sister’s room! Our house stank of chicken shit, a neighbour gave me the weedy nickname ‘Chicken Feed’ (and it stuck) and after the flock of poultry was wiped out by a mysterious disease, we ate a chicken a day for the next two months, the stiffs of the diseased and deceased ‘kukus’ stuffed and frozen in the refrigerator. My dad was cuckoos.
Stressed out during one of his many periods of unemployment, the old man one day decided he was going to be a liquor distiller. And made a changaa-making contraption in the backyard that to my untrained eye, mostly seemed to be made of lead pipes, rope and randomly assembled dustbin. I was too young to now authoritatively comment on the quality of Mr Ontita’s liquor, but I am sure its slogan could have been ‘now you know why birds drop dead from the sky.’
Enemy of my Foes
And I will never forget the day my dad came, a little tipsy (or a lot) to my primary school to confront our carpentry teacher who had beaten me up bad with a T-joint or something for saying out loud in class, ‘even Jesus gave up carpentry for preaching.’ My old man locked himself in at the carpentry workshop with Mr Edward, the Meru carpenter/teacher, vowing to teach him a lesson. There were bangs and thuds.
Then my old man’s voice thundered from within: ‘Thonyyyy, call the police. Mr Edward is killing me!’