DAD STORIES: Questions I'll ask my father next time we meet

Thursday June 14 2018

Elvis Ondieki (right) with his father James Mogere (left) during his graduation from Moi University in December 2011. PHOTO | COURTESY

Elvis Ondieki (right) with his father James Mogere (left) during his graduation from Moi University in December 2011. PHOTO | COURTESY 

By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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Next time I sit with dad on the breakfast table, I will not be the shy, fidgeting boy looking at my phone every three seconds and discussing the weather as I count down to the time we will finally go our separate ways.

It will be a completely different breakfast from the one we had when he visited the city early this year. I promise there will be no awkward silences. No searching for topics to discuss. No mention of the Wanjigis and Railas and Rutos of this world. It will be me and my dad, discussing us.

Next time I am taking tea with dad, I will want to tap into his experience. I will ask the probing questions I ask other people in my line of duty. “Dad, am I your favourite son?” I will ask him.

I can see him smiling, looking hard at the table and mumbling something. I know he will not give a straight answer. I can even see him borrowing the cliché answer by musicians who say their songs are like their children and they cannot choose a particular one. “But dad, there are five of us. You must have a favourite one,” I will ask. Stay tuned for updates.

Speaking of musicians, I will ask why he had such a big fascination with Abba. Who of the two Abba ladies did he like more? Which is his favourite Abba song? I can predict Super Trooper but you can never be sure with these fathers born in the early 20th century.

Next time I sit on the table with dad, when the waiter has gone to fry my eggs and to butter his bread, I will not use that opportunity to whip out my phone and input the code to check if someone has “aaawed” on my new Facebook profile photo.

The phone will be kept on silent mode as I take up the persona of an inquisitive child. I will ask things, like what he thinks about my wife and whether he sees a future in us.

I know he will be philosophical about this. At first he will be surprised that I can dare ask that. See, I grew up in a set-up where there was always a distance of at least two metres when we spoke. He had his place in the sitting room and we, the children, had ours a few metres away. Our dialogues used to happen through that distance and one could call it comfort.

DIFFERENT APPROACH

Even when asking for fees or something else, we would talk from that distance or use mum as the intermediary. Mum is always the go-between; the Holy Mary of sorts.

Now I hate that arrangement. I call it primitive separation. It is the barrier put in place by the traditions of our people to make fathers alien beings, almost with a godly status. I would want it replaced with fathers playing football with their children. Fathers goofing around when kids are in the house. Fathers taking their older children on trips to discuss all manner of things under the sun. I would want to banish the notion of fathers being breadwinners and disciplinarians who cannot discuss ordinary issues. With fathers, I now say, there is nothing like “too close for com-fort”.

Well, what will my dad say about my wife? I’m sure that with his decades-old wisdom, he has an opinion about her kept somewhere. He might be having a 32-page single-spaced verdict about her from the first day he saw her but has kept it somewhere in the depths of his cranium. And because we cannot find a way of starting that dialogue, I may not get that opinion.

How about my career path? My financial choices? My parenting skills? Next time I sit with dad at a café on a cold morning in Nairobi, I will ask him all those. I will resist the urge to deviate into banalities like whether the maize at our plantations is mature enough for roasting. That is for the birds. I will not start conversations about how big our cattle have grown and which bull has grown horns too big for it to continue being domesticated.

Rather, I will ask things sons should talk with fathers when the veil of too much respect is removed. I will ask if he has any regrets in his long career; whether he would have married mum if he were to live all over again.

Next time I sit with dad for breakfast, I will have stopped merely posting about him on Father’s Day and waxing lyrical about how good a father he is. For he is neither on Facebook nor Instagram nor Twitter. I will summon all the courage and look him in the eye and say he is my hero. That should throw him off balance. I think he will be lost for words, like someone rudely awakened from a reverie.

Whatever the case, the next time I sit down for breakfast with papa, I’ll be sure to come out with more than just a selfie.

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What would you like your dad to know this Father’s Day? Can you say it in 800 words? Email: [email protected]