Thursday 23 September 2021

Thought Picnic: The whip that stole a father's confidence

Differentiating the import

Until the time I realised that my father’s word was not an order, a command, an instruction, or even advice that I was duty-bound to follow to the letter with all submissive obedience along with fear and loathing, our relationship was defined by what I saw him do to others and how he treated them.

Today, I consider his views an opinion limited by his perspective of things to which I have the full volition to entertain or discard, albeit respectfully and with a clear understanding that the decisions I make are my own responsibility and no one else’s.

Big brother and little sister

No relationship with another was more impactful to how I saw my father than the one he had with his youngest sister who came to live with us in Jos in the early 1970s. Obviously, my father was the king of his entire, his word was law, and there were standards of behaviour and conduct expected of his wards, the breach of which attracted the severest sanctions.

My aunt had an independent, if not adventurously wayward streak, and one day she tattooed her thigh using the alkaline sap of a fresh cashew nut. When my father saw this indelible adornment, he unleashed his fury on her with such a fiery vehemence in his room. Having her lie forward at an angle, feet on the dresser and hands on the floor, he horsewhipped her mercilessly. I hope I have been a better big brother and I have had some regrettable failings.

A matter of consequence

Her cries and howling could not be assuaged as he locked his door that no one could entreat him to have any leniency. Whilst I did not see her bruised body after that ordeal, there was no imagining what happened in that room and that crystallised my view as a 7-year-old that my father could be implacably cruel at the meting out punishment. In essence, he was unapproachable, and I could not have him in confidence about anything, even the things that mattered. I rarely faced that wrath, but what we had as father and son, into my twenties, was full of the foreboding of wrath.

Invariably, anything I could do to escape his ambit of influence, I probably did, until I left Nigeria. Now, we do not have that fearful relationship, but that lasting effect of that event is I engage on my own terms and at my own convenience. I probably will be quite sorry and regretful if he predeceases me, I guess we unwittingly laid the ground for the fraught because we lacked the anticipation of consequence.

Do well to all

Then by extension, much as I love to be treated with courtesy, respect, and dignity, I also watch how those who make allowances for me deal with others because it is not a singular thing but a broader expression of character and integrity that regardless of status, position, means, ability, standing, or representation, everyone deserves to be treated respectfully, fairly and justly.

I do observe how people interact with others and if they deal badly with others, there is the possibility that a confluence of events might create the opportunity to do the same to you. If you cannot call them out for correction, you want to give them a wide berth before their odium becomes the perfume you are forced to sniff.

We should be anything be character schizophrenics, having many faces to different people, allowing a sense of superciliousness or superiority to get the better of us, because there might just be someone thereabouts ready to give you your just deserts when you need them most. If you can’t be nice, be good, or just hold your peace in neutrality that your offence is not reckoned in the book of Karma.

Blog - Childhood: My aunts saw red

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