DAD STORIES: My father’s ugali symbolised his devotion

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By CAROLINE NJUNG’E
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When my mother passed away, I was yet to start school. Suddenly, it was just my dad, my elder brother and me.

I imagine that it must have been a tough situation for a young man to find himself in, but my dad was determined to raise us the best way that he could. He said a big ‘No’ to suggestions that we go live with this relative or another – as long as he was alive, he said, he would raise us, and we would live with him, after all, we were his children, and therefore his responsibility.

RAISED US THE BEST WAY HE KNEW

And so he embarked on raising us the best way that he knew, including cooking for us before he finally hired help.

I still remember (and taste) the food he would often cook for us – mainly ugali, cabbage and meat. The ugali was never cooked – there was always maize flour falling off it, but I guess it is the thought that counts.

As for the cabbage, it wasn’t the slim, elegant slices that my brother remembers mum cooked. In fact, they could not be described as slices as they  were shapeless, clumsy-looking things that were always overcooked and too watery.

As for the meat, the pieces were humongous, a sweaty torturous challenge for a child with tiny teeth, a child yet to join nursery school. Again, it is the thought that counts, so thank you dad, for ensuring that we always had a balanced diet, and enough to eat.

There was no question that my dad loved us (and still does), was kind to us and never raised his voice with us, nor spanked us.

But we were disciplined. Dad was big on discipline; even the word “kwenda!” (get lost) was a big sin in our small household, he did not tolerate any kind of abusive words, and because of this, many years later, I too don’t tolerate the use of abusive language in my home.

My children can whine all they want, but they know better than to use abusive language.

We grew up in the village, but dad took us to schools in the towns, giving us an opportunity to see what lay out there, beyond our live fence, and to interact with people from all walks of life.

Dad is the one that nurtured my love for books. There was always something to read lying around the house – novels, magazines, comics…

He never said no whenever I asked for a storybook.

The other day, I was in a bookshop buying exercise books for my children when I spotted a storybook that my dad bought me ages ago, a book that had captured my imagination so much.

Decades later, I could still recall every single story therein: Alibaba and the Forty Thieves. I just had to buy it for my seven-year-old son, who already shows a love for books.

HELPED ME ACHIEVE MY DREAM

When I told my dad that I wanted to become a journalist after I completed high school, he did not nudge me to try something else. Instead, he helped me to achieve my dream. He accompanied me to the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, KIMC, and kept making visits there until I was enrolled.

He got me my first attachment, and my first internship, and has never stopped applauding me as my career progresses.

Dad, if I am half the parent you were to me, then I will have fulfilled my parental obligations to my children.

You are the best parent a child can have. 

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