When my old man turned fifty, I could not figure out a perfect gift for a man of his caliber. He
was quite a strange man, almost queer. I bet the days he smiled, God saw it fit to flash the skies
with a rainbow. Being a man who knew his Scotch, I wondered whether a bottle of some
reserved whisky would do the trick. But his walls were way up. We had a father-daughter
relationship. If we were friends, our boundaries were way too pronounced for that. Anyway, he
has been away at this Peace Keeping Mission for the Kenya Defense Forces for three years in Somali. And when mummy announced he would be home, she threw my mind on a turmoil.
I have to get him something. I believe a home is not a house. Sometimes, home is another person. Well, for me my family is my element. It is where I feel safe. My heaven. My old man is aging day by day. It is my desire to add color to his life. By each sunrise and every other sunset, his head sprouts more strands of silver hair. The thing about age you have to embrace it because with age comes wisdom that is
timeless and ageless. He has risen through the ranks over the years. Leaving for peace missions every now and then. I was euphoric he would be home. We engaged each other intellectually.
Literally, he feeds my soul with his well-articulated stories and powerful reads.
This time, he came home from a mission in Israel, he had lost nine of his soldiers. As a
lieutenant, that is so disheartening. Whatever victory he had earned would not match to the loss of souls that were his family. I felt my father’s pain as if it was mine. If I could, I would pull out the pain from his heart and bear it all for him. I was concerned and so, I spent most of my time with him.
One day, he was looking outside the window in his study. He turned to me and said, ‘The thing about war, there will always be casualties. When a soldier goes to war, he goes to war. He does not have room for hope or despair. Not that these, are wasted emotions. It is because war is war. You earn scars, buttons or even so, your end. ‘I need to get this strange man a home-coming gift. I am glad he made it home.
It has been two weeks and believe me diary, I have not come across a gift that befits a man who does not fear death. I could get him a pair of those boots he loves but war changes a man. I have seen a different version of my father every time he came home from a mission. There was a time, I bought him a leather case for his Bible. Only to get home and find a black Indian in his study. I had to cook up an excuse. I could get him a bottle of classic Cognac, but maybe he shifted to Vodka or Gin and Tonic or quit drinking all together.
But of them all, the things I would never get my father are; a cooking book, grandchild and a
suit. One of the things my old man holds dear to his heart is fine dining. There is this side of him that appreciates good food. Sometimes, he seeks the services of a professional chef just to please his palate. There are strange times, he visits the kitchen and plays around with utensils and ingredients until some dish is born. But a cook book? For everything my old man is, he abhors sounding, looking or even feeling feminine. Getting him a cook book, would be likened to screaming the hell out of my lungs, ’Yes Dad. You have a feminine streak.’ It would insult all the buttons and pins he had won himself at war.
He has an estranged relationship with children. A commandeering one. I know he believes in
legacies and adores the continuation theory. No one wants to disappear. We all want to be
remembered, to be continued. But I am his only girl. Unfortunately, he still sees me as his little
girl. I remember one time, the neighbor’s son stopped by. My father was pissed. He kept pacing in his study, peering outside. As soon as he left, he ran up to me. He embraced me so tightly and stammered, ‘The-se li-ttle boys want to ruin my little flower.’ A grandchild would be a kick in the groins. Whether later on he will ease into loving it, it is the last gift I would get him until the gods of time deem so.
My father loves khaki pants and combat jackets. Making him wear a suit is the ultimate recipe for a bad disagreement. He made my brother swear the only time he will make him wear a suit would be in his funeral. I wonder what suits did to him. Maybe he once slept in his suit and dream someone was chocking him, only to realize it was his tie. I will never know. Maybe he will let me know when I will be working on his memoirs.
I hope I find him a gift worth the scars he earned in the battlefield.
In the beloved memory of the fallen soldiers during the Al Shabaab terror..