Before I became a father myself I couldn't imagine the difficulty in making certain decisions, especially when the welfare of the whole family is involved. Sometimes you have to make a difficult choice among priorities. Take for example when one of the boys has a swollen hand due to an infection, while you have a whole farm of vegetables to tend to, and farm animals to feed. And you’re shorthanded due to the dry season and the vegetables needed extra water to keep them from drying out. And it is especially during the dry season that vegetables grow exceptionally well and that means more work than you can handle. To take the boy to town to see a doctor would take off at least 3 hours of your time, during which the vegetables would bake under the hot sun.
Such was the dilemma my father had to face. And I was that child. My right hand was infected with a painful lump filled with pus. I was suffering for several days and the hand kept getting more swollen each day. To put to risk a sizeable plot of vegetables (we didn’t have the luxury of water pumps or sprinklers back in those days) which could perish and lose the income, which could mean hardship for the whole family, or let the boy suffer a few more days until the occurrence of a more favourable weather, which might not happen.
Meanwhile I couldn’t write with my swollen hand and my schoolwork suffered. The farm was short-handed because I couldn’t contribute my share. Mother could only do her part of the workload which also included most of the housework. My two elder brothers were then studying in the afternoon session. Father relented and took me to a doctor. Waiting for the doctor took longer than expected and sure enough, the vegetables suffered.
It was only when I became a father myself and faced with similar situations, that I understood the reason that caused my father’s indecision. Today, I can still see and feel the little scar on my palm. It serves to remind me of a father’s responsibility and care for the whole family and also for each child individually. It reminded me that all character building, leadership training and decision making has to begin at home.
My father did not complete even 1 year of education, but his advice for living were sound enough for us write in our hearts and remember for life and hopefully to be passed on to the next generations. What he couldn’t get from his limited schooling, he learned from observing the successes and failures of others. His favourite sermon: If you want to do good deeds to society or treat your friends well, you must first learn to love your brothers and sisters and treat them equally well. Otherwise you are only a hypocrite and whatever good that you do for society is meaningless. He has never heard of the saying, ‘Charity begins at home’. He just practiced it.
To all fathers out there, Happy Father’s Day.