The Hidden Diaries

The high school life might have been the hardest of all experiences, a real nightmare to me. I live to curse most of the days I spent in high school, a life that seemed the most academically insincere to me. Probably the only thing that ever made me happy about being in high school is playing handball and a few female teachers who would throw some cheeky smiles on adolescent boys like us. 2007 was here and I was just a young skinny village boy who had done very well at the village level, ranked the best in my primary school and got a chance in this great school in Rachuonyo. Agoro Sare High School was a family clinic, my two elder brothers had been treated here and achieved university grades. Ask me why I was going to high school and I would answer you that I was going there to go to University. My dream was to be a pilot or doctor, either or both could do, but wait until you meet your physics teacher that’s when you realise you are better off being a veterinary officer.

My father was a happy man; I guessed he always enjoyed this part of admission. I was the last of the three of us from the family to be admitted that February… Don’t get lost; I’m born of a generous father, I’m blessed with three beautiful mothers and 15 siblings. That previous year, my sister, brother and I all sat for our KCPE, we are all age mates. When it came to admission of his kids to school, our mothers were expected to take a back seat, Jaduong would take charge. But my admission would start with troubles. We would enter a KCB banking mall in Oyugis, but since my father had his left leg amputated two years earlier, he would pass the long queue at the bank straight to some counter 2. A beautiful brown lady smiled towards my father, probably a sign that he had recognised his presence and would serve him shortly, but wait… Did I just see my father wink at her? No I didn’t see that.  I’m just not allowed to see that, not at this young age. But the cashier couldn’t stop herself from rewarding Jaduong with a wider smile, a smile you only see on a woman’s face after glorifying her morning with Kamasutra moves.

That notwithstanding, my father would count some money and give me to confirm if the amount was right. What a chance! In my mind I was like… Did my father just change his mind that I was now going to be a banker and not a doctor anymore? Whatever! I was very much aware that the amount that was to be paid for my admission was 13,600 shillings, so I dipped my fingers in my tongue to catch some saliva, or do you call it kissing my finger? Bad manners, that wasn’t in my vocabulary. I counted 13,700 shillings and handed the money back to my father. There was a 100 shillings extra but that wasn’t anything to worry about, at least I thought so. All this time the cashier is still waiting for this father-son chemistry of money counting and confirmations to end before she can begin the transaction for us. I tell my father we are good to go and he hands the money to the cashier, probably happy that his son did the counting right and that the cashier wouldn’t find an extra 500 shillings note in between and throw it below the chair. But as the cashier counts the money, I’m a worried man. A lot of questions are haunting me. What’s that extra a hundred for? Maybe it could be the bank charges, I convince myself and wait. This is not a normal father though. He’s not the kind of father who forgives on ignorance. I silently pray he doesn’t embarrass me like he had done a month earlier at Travellers Hotel in Homabay. We had just taken some lunch that Monday, and he had sent me to make the payment but this lady collecting money at the counter seemed to be too generous with her balances that day and gave me an extra 200 shillings. I would run to my father who had already walked out of the hotel and smile sheepishly at him giving him the big news of how we had an extra 200 shillings. His response would however leave me cursing I would have even kept the money and kanyagiad all that stuff. He would end up asking me, “Should I clap for you?” what? I mean, ‘Dad, you are so ungrateful!’ Don’t start imagining I told him that, not by mouth. I said it from inside. I felt unappreciated. I would never be a messenger again, I would be the beneficiary.

So this particular day I was praying for none-harm, none- embarrassment from this unpredictable guy. The cashier would eventually count the money and shove a hundred shillings note to my father, a gesture my father didn’t take lightly. To him, that would look like he was just taking a cow who couldn’t even count 13 one thousand shillings notes and 6 hundreds to school.   He plainly asked me in front of everybody to explain the difference between me and the goats we had left at home. I was no better. I accepted and moved on. I was in the mood to get over with this. I was convinced Mzee and I would part ways shortly whether he liked it or not. He would have to go back home and leave me at the mercies of the cruel semi-cooked beans at long last, but just not yet.

We would head to school and find a long queue of about two hundred adolescents waiting to be admitted but apparently I was a special case, my father’s amputated leg was an express pass to skip all formalities. So we would proceed straight ahead, passing everyone on the queue, I was happy. You remember the feeling you always had when you were a kid in a bus and watching the bus go past trees by the roadside, I was feeling that good. I remember one of the parents who seemed to know my father would look at my father not with sympathy you’d expect one to give a person walking on prosthesis, but with jealousy. In my mind, I was thinking this guy must be feeling so bad we going past them all, my father seemed to have noticed the frustrated guys on the queue staring at us with suspicion. He would turn to them and ask them not to be jealous of a disabled man, that if they wanted to avoid the queue in future they would need to cut off their legs like his first. At least that joke cooled some temperatures between us, you know my father wasn’t one of those guys who forgets easily, especially when you had just proven to be no better than Ngilu, one of our seven goats we kept at home, by failing to count money correctly.

Having lived with my father my entire life till high school, trust me anyone from our family would celebrate one day without him but miss him on the third day. You wouldn’t want him around because he was a disciplinarian, a police officer as he was; he never gave us any chance to differentiate between fear and respect. Trust me, I can define the difference between fear and respect but I can’t do the same with respect to my father; he looked for mistakes, he never missed them. Every mistake had a reward, being whipped was as normal as quenching thirst on a hot day. When my father was in the house, he was to be the centre of attention to everyone around. One of the funny things is that he considered us nameless when it came to serving him. If he called Cavine to bring him a cup of water then at that very moment, anyone becomes Cavine and brings the cup of water, even my sister Maureen would assume my name when my father called me and I took longer to respond, sometimes deliberately. It was the rule. Don’t start imagining that I’m spoiling some grammar; allow me to use what we had. We used cups to drink water, not glasses, let me be fair to memories of the past.

It was at the final stage of admission where my father realised I had stolen his name without his knowledge. I had taken Osano to be my first name, though it was my father’s. We had some argument about the middle name… my mother had told me that my middle name was Odiwuor, in Luo that means I was born in the middle of the night, every Luo Native name has a meaning and probably time behind it. But my father would hear none of the Odiwuor stuff, he wanted me to take the name of his father, my grandfather Otira; I felt that was a boring name for an adolescent like me. How would I even introduce myself to the nice ladies I had been informed I’ll meet when I get to High School? I told him I’d retain his name as my first name. I’d be Osano Cavine; a better version or correct version of him.This would end up being the longest meaningful moment I spent with my father in his last six months of life. He had brought me to the college of life, I had to learn and live. Adapting was not an option, it was a necessity. I was ready.

I did this special article as my first in this blog in memory of a father I loved too late. He hid his love for me in discipline, I would never see it till I lost him. He inspired me with his writings, hundreds of letters he wrote to organisations, friends, family, presidents... The last born of peasant family who would drop out of school to go fishing in Tanganyika to take his older siblings to school. A father who would defend his children against anything and anybody in public and reinforce unforgettable punishment in private. I'm proud to have had 14 of the 54 years you lived as my father and mentor, thanks for showing me direction and exposing me to my strengths. Thanks for giving me good education both at home and school, you were my best teacher. Long Live Your Name, Tom Osano Kotira Sirikal.

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