By Amarachukwu Okpunobi

The ball flew across the road and landed on a car parking by the roadside.

“Guy kee udi ukwu inwelu ihe a? Every kick from you sends the ball across the road.  Jiri ya nwayo biko”

I quickly apologised and dashed out to pick the ball. The owner of the car was just opening the door to come out when I got to the other side of the road.

“Oga sorry. Biko ewena iwe……”

The next words got stuck in my throat when I looked up at his face. Ball tucked in my underarm, I was looking at the man who should have been my father. Should have been!!!

My whole life flashed before my eyes immediately. All the bad memories and challenging moments! The times I needed my father but he was nowhere to be seen.

The fact that I call all my uncles ‘daddy’ because I needed the closure but it never came. The fact that I had to be a husband and son to my mom. The fact that I was too conscious not to misbehave, lest I be tagged an ill-raised child because I was raised by one parent.

The times I needed to talk to a man, who would reason like me, who would see things from my perspective. The times I needed my father!! The sick moments, the puberty stage, the times I felt my mom was too hard on me because she wanted to prove to everyone that she’s capable of raising me on her own.

The times I needed directions, the times I needed a second opinion, the times I heard my mom cry because I did something she thinks I wouldn’t have done if there was a male presence in my house.

The fact that my mom is married yet unmarried, that she has been hanging on a thin line of hope that he would come back someday. The times I felt she was crumbling down emotionally and I would excuse her under the guise of going to hang out with my friends. I would come back to meet her eyes swollen and she will be trying so hard not to show her sadness. What she doesn’t know is that I go out to cry too.

The fact that I would rather visit my mom’s family during the festive seasons than go to my village because it always hurts each time I’m introduced to someone as his son and the person would shake his head, look at me with pity and tell me to look after my mother.

The times I had to settle for less because my mom alone can’t afford some of the things I needed. The times I can’t tell his whereabouts because we honestly don’t know. The times I stayed up all night, wondering if he’s still alive, if he’s fine, if he ever thinks about us.

I didn’t know I was staring at him. A lone tear dropped on my cheek and I wiped it off angrily. How can I cry before him? Why let him see that he hurt me?

I turned to walk away but he held me.

“Buzor, abialum icho unu but I didn’t know where to start from”

I got so angry and the only thing I could do was to laugh. Laugh at the man who, maybe, still thinks I’m the kid he left years ago. Laugh because he thinks I’m stupid. Laugh because he may never change. Laugh because just like everyone said, he’s a terrible liar. Laugh because the only memory I have of him is blurry and inconsistent; I really don’t know my father and his first attempt at damage control was a huge lie. Laugh because even till this day, he isn’t planning to reunite with us. Laugh because life is cruel to me.

“If you want to lie, at least usegodi isi gi. Mom still works there and anyi ka bi na yard ahu. Where exactly ka isi na-icholu anyi?”

I think my stay here has come to an end. It was fun while it lasted. I need to go home and hug my mom even though I won’t tell her why. This city is hosting him and I don’t want to stay here any longer.

Throwing the ball to my friends across the road, I turned to look at him again. For the first time, I was grateful that save for his height, I got all my features from my mother. I hope I got her heart and strength too.

The story above is a fiction but it’s not too fictitious. It’s a story I can relate to. I had to twist the end while hoping that the family reunite in a better way. It’s not a new story to us; one parent leaving the family or being less significant in the family. This menace is slowly taking over the family system. Some leave because the spouse doesn’t treat them right, some because they couldn’t handle a family. Either way, the root is selfishness.

I was chatting with a friend sometime ago and she told me that the reason she is not married yet is because she still wants to be selfish. I didn’t understand it initially but as I observed some family settings, I saw the logic behind the reason. Putting every member of the family and their welfare before yours is a great display of selflessness. Imagine quitting your job, rejecting the opportunity you have been praying for, cutting off the people you used to associate with, dropping the habits you cultivated all because of the demands of running a family. Many find it difficult to do these. The truth is that these sacrifices have to be made. Selfishness is an unwelcome guest in families.

What hurts me most is that we are raising a generation of selfish people. When this age before us, who still have a bit of selflessness in them, are gone,  what becomes of us and the generation after?

Dear young person, you can do better!!!

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