She had handed me the white-paged paper. It was printed in black ink. It looked like a formal letter addressed by a firm of some sort. I struggle to remember some of the details of the letter. However, there were flashes of a signature that I recognized a lot from my school report books-my father’s at the bottom left of the page in sad blue ink. It didn’t go hand-in-hand with what the previous statement had said. The last statement of the letter before his signature broke my heart. No. It shredded my heart. It said, it said, it said…I am even finding it hard to write it down but for this article I will. It said, will never be a good enough mother for my daughter.” I wondered what a good enough mother did. I have forced myself to forget a lot of things from my childhood but somehow, I haven’t been able to erase this memory. I do not know what my aunt’s intention had been in showing me that letter addressed to my mother. The seven year old me had been able to comprehend a few things but most of it was some technical law jargon which could not be explained by my grade 2 English. I wonder what she had been thinking! But it happened. It stuck with me.
Even at 28, I still remember it. I remember going back into my mother’s drawers to look for that form again a couple times when I had grown older to see if it really made sense. The words had never changed. The legal practitioners who had signed the letter off were there too. The other things which I hadn’t been able to comprehend before were crystal clear. The letter had been written when my mother had gotten custody of me after my parents’ bumpy divorce. I even envisioned my father signing that letter which made me wonder how someone so loving had gotten the willpower to sign off such a letter. My mother had won custody, but I had wished that my father was still a part of my life- but he never wanted to assume that role. It was as if only marriage had bound him to the role of being a father and now he was free. I imagined how many memories we would have made if he had seen me grow. I wondered if I would have turned out differently and better if he had been there to help my mother raise me.
You ever heard of those girls whose hearts were broken by their fathers before any guy had that chance? I would like to believe that I am part of the crew. The only memory I had of my father was full of hatred. I loathed my father for leaving us. He gave up on us. He didn’t even say goodbye to me his daughter. He just took off like a dog which had been hold captive. I loathed my father not because I hadn’t seen him for the past twenty-one years but because he discredited someone I valued so much-my mother. I loved my father yes. But then, he had been wrong. I wonder how my mother had felt when she got that letter. She never told me. I never asked her because she never knew I saw that letter. But I did. I expected my father to come back, but he never did. I expected him to call and check how many prizes I had received in school-but he never did. I expected to hear how he had made sure I had food on the table since he was the “good enough father”. But guess what, he never did! I tried forgiving him. I believed I forgave him.
Until today. Today is my day.(ululating) This is the cultural marriage in Zimbabwe where my boyfriend pays respects to my family, as a way of appreciation. My dad showed up last week by the way! He was really happy and hoped that I could “keep a man” unlike my mother. I really wondered where he got the nerve to enter the house he had never stepped foot in for more than a decade. How he could just walk up to the family he deserted that long ago? I honestly felt like slapping him,but then hey, he is my father!
‘You have really grown to be a Queen my child. You have my genes of beauty and brains. Your mother told me that you now have a Masters degree in Economics and you are considering a PhD. Where will you have the time for your husband neh? You know my son is so handsome, he makes me so proud…..’ He kept going on showing me pictures of his son Craig who had graduated from Oxford and his beautiful family on his iPhone. Maybe I was the daughter who was supposed to be a son- carrying a burden I hadn’t wanted to have. Everything seemed so right to him till I cut him short.
“I waited for you dad. I waited for you to come back. I waited for you to call me or even just show up on any of my birthdays. I grew up. Its been a long twenty-one years. There was a time mum didn’t have any money for me to go to school. She struggled to raise me on her own. Some days she starved herself for me to have food. At times I felt like she was giving up. Things worked out however. I got scholarships to go to school if you didn’t know. She only gave me the resolve to work harder. Maybe you even encouraged me to do that as well even when you were not there. I wanted to work so hard for you to see me prosper. I wanted you to see how well I had succeeded without you. I worked so that I could put a smile on my mother’s face. She might be smiling right now, but she isn’t happy to see you here. She is broken inside because of what you did. I just wish you were not here so that she would be completely happy. What happened to that man I knew so well? Don’t answer that, I already know. I saw everything. You said my mother will never be good enough and yet I turned out just damn fine! She was good enough but I guess we were never good enough for you. We will never be good enough.”
Recently, Zimbabweans thought that lobola had been scrapped off before people could get married. It turned out it wasn’t. Some raised the argument that it had cultural value and it’s complete removal would take away the cultural aspect of lobola which most Zimbabweans were not happy with. I just wished it had been scrapped off altogether. I wonder why culture requires the father to oversee everything for when a girl is about to have her bride price paid. Does culture think about fathers like mine? My biological father who was never there for me? He would get the credit for bringing up a woman he never took care of. F*** culture and everything that comes with it. Doesn’t culture say a man protects and takes care of his family? Where was the culture when this man left? Where was the culture when my mother became both the father and mother of the house? Where was this culture when our fathers broke our hearts? Where was this culture when my own father came back into my life only to walk away again before I could even catch my breath? The father whose only memory I had brought misery and emptiness-a void that only a father’s love could fill. The love which we were deprived by our fathers but only got from our mothers took care of that and tried to fill that void. They tried their best to love us. Maybe culture was not meant to protect some of us. When we fail to trust the men in our lives, don’t blame us. We learnt to not trust men the hard way.
Shout out to all the mothers who have raised us on their own. Shout out to the strength. Shout out to the grandparents, aunts, uncles and other people who chipped for us to get to where we are today. We treasure and honor your courage and strength to raise us to be phenomenal women and men!
*This story was written by Shandukurai Chiuswa based on a true-life story. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the contributor of the story.
Originally published at http://shandukuraichiuswa.wordpress.com on June 21, 2020.