Is one ever too old for a father?

By Masese Bonface Ong'era | Thursday, Oct 24th 2019 at 12:21
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One could be forgiven to assume that one needs their father for as long as they are young; and that the need somewhat dissipates as one gets into adulthood.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth if *Stark’s* story is anything to go by. Stark is presently an employee of the Teachers Service Commission, working in northern Kenya. He teaches English and Literature in English, having graduated from Moi university barely three years ago. Ironically, he took to the calling simply because his adoptive father was a teacher too- now retired.

“I admired the respect that my old man commanded-and still does- by his work. Maybe I wanted a taste of that too,” he muses, flashing a sad smile.

To say that Stark missed the presence of a father figure would be a blatant lie, and so would be claiming that he has been brought up in a loveless family. Far from it- his step-family is well to do. He might not have had everything he wanted as a child, but his mother and by extension, his step-father, always saw to it that he had all that he needed to at least have a fighting chance in the otherwise ruthless adult world.

“I always had family around me to play with, laugh with, cry with, argue with, play with…” his train of thought seemingly loops in his nostalgic recount. “I may even have had a relatively better childhood that most people I know, who have been brought up by both their biological parents,” he adds before nosediving into reminiscence.

Was he ever made to feel different from his other siblings? How did he come to learn of the missing piece in the puzzle that he considers his life to be? What fuels his desire to find his father after literally an entire lifetime without him?

“My parents always tried to treat me the same as everyone else, but it never escaped me during my childhood that I tended to be let off the hook easily compared to my siblings,” he says. “I usually got away with punishable behavior that others would never have. “I enjoyed the preferential treatment until it eventually dawned on me that my father may have been taking it easy on me for fear of upsetting my mother. He didn’t want her thinking or saying that he was picking on me because I wasn’t ‘his.’

So, punishment for me, albeit infrequent as I wasn’t such a naughty child, was solely left to my mother as a matter of principle. Stark also took note of the different abilities and talents he had from his siblings.

Once, a teammate in his school team wondered how he came to be so talented in soccer when no one else in his family was. Most of his friends were too polite to mention it; however, at least not in his presence. But word always found its way to him somehow, and he once asked his aunt. She confided in him that his fears were justified, but suggested he and his mother should talk about it. “I regretted the moment I popped the question to my mother. She was so distraught that she broke into tears,” he recalls, fighting back his own.

“She did not speak to me for several days. I shelved my curiosity for fear of breaking her heart again. Stark doesn’t understand what might have upset his mother so much, or if her reaction was even fair, to begin with. He pondered, bringing it up with his father, but figured that would be akin to questioning his parenting capabilities. He has since been oscillating between his fear and his desire.

 

“Most times, I tell myself that I should be contented with what I have…that he is dead to me, and it should remain so out of respect for my old man. But I experience a fleeting sense of loneliness from time to time, at some point, I even sought solace in alcohol, but it was never a long-term solution.

Stark says he has been procrastinating his marital obligations, wishing his father would pop up for the most important moment of his life. Ironically, he doesn’t even know whether he’d understand his reasons for leaving; or whether he’d be even sad if he learned his biological father was no longer alive.

“Perhaps he is the reason I am still unmarried. I fear I might end up like him,” he concludes with a flicker in his determined gaze. He flashes his sad smile again. No one is too old for a father, after all.

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