What I learnt from my father

2008-06-19 00:00

I will never forget the first time I had a beer with my dad. That dude is resilient; I had first had a lot of tension towards him for years, especially in my teens. Now the only problem I have is the fact that I am “paying for my father’s crimes”, as the saying goes, although it affords me the bragging rights for having the single most interesting life I can think of.

The main things I remember about the first six years of my life are the late-night drunken conversations with him and the Saturday morning views of his face from the air. Some nights he’d be inebriated talking to me while I sat on his lap until we both fell asleep on the couch. Saturday mornings he’d swing me around as he played vinyl records and sang along with Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye,

Caiphus Semenya and others. He had an authoritative aura and just way too much aggression. When you have that God finds a way to slow you down. I’m saying this because I see my dad when I look at Muhammad Ali, the greatest, who was slowed down by Parkinson’s disease. Thankfully, God slowed my dad down in a way that is easier to live with. I’m proud of my father and I am grateful every day that I stopped hating him.

How did I get to stop disliking him? I had to let go of why I didn’t like him because I was becoming. I have, however, never had a bicycle, so my dad owes me one before he becomes an ancestor. Otherwise, I have a legend to live up to.

My whole life, staying with Ma, I have met esteemed people who respect the man so much. All of them said the same thing and I did not really take heed of it until his late brother Bab’ omncane Mandla said it: “Ungamlahli uBaba. Don’t give up on your father.” Ironically, and sadly, it was at a cleansing ceremony at my late uncle’s home that my father asked me if I wanted the same drink he was drinking; a beer. I said yes and that was the beginning of our first adult conversation.

We spoke about the challenges of being a first born child (and specifically his) and how it impacts on everything in your life, including your wife. Basically I have learnt from the man who never says a single negative word about his ex-wife but rather says: “There are things that you will never understand that happen between a man and a woman.” I took notes that day and I still haven’t thanked my pops for that.

Children of single parents can be very volatile and sometimes my brothers and I get wild and pops must step in. My mother always tells. That is a blessing and a lesson in responsibility from the man who says: “I am available any time if you need me, despite whatever has transpired.”

It is pretty incredible that my father will fight any battle for me, but last year he watched me fight a big one by myself and told me that he would not help. That was the second time my father accepted me into manhood and I will always remember that. I am sure I am speaking for a lot of young adults when I say that we sometimes want our parents to tell us they are ready to just watch and let us live.

Why do we have to have so much in common, Mr Khoza? I used to ask that question a lot until I realised that, unlike other young men with no history, I have a map so that I may choose a direction and make informed choices. If I’m wrong it does not matter because he said he is proud of me, and this year for the first time, he called to wish me a happy birthday. That is the best call I have had all year.

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