My daddy ain’t the devil. My other dad could be though…

Yes, I’ve always hated Christmas, but my daddy ain’t the devil… My other dad could be though…

Okay, I know you may be thinking, “Risper Risper Risper, what is this now? From hating Christmas, to the devil, and devil not being your daddy, to “my other daddy could be though” … Girl, take me slow! It’s still “season greetings” season, my brain ain’t ready for all this … And it’s the new year for God’s sake! Haha, happy new year!

Yes, I have two dads. One is my biological dad, and the other is the father who raised me, my real dad, I guess? Oh God, our obsession with labels has me in trouble here, because I do not see my dad as a step-dad, but in light of the fact that I have a biological dad, I need to find some other label for my real dad… you know what? I give up, haha. I cannot handle all these labels and still communicate… so let’s get into it.

My real dad, the one who raised me, is still my dad, and though we have had our fair share of drama… haha, who am I kidding! We have had life time worth of drama. He is my father nonetheless, and I wouldn’t be here without him.

Okay, now you may be thinking, “Cool, you have two dads, thank you for clearing that up… what are talking about though? And what’s the devil got to do with it?”

Relax, I am about to tell you all about it.

Around Christmas day, I published this article on how I have always hated Christmas, and why that has been the case. I recommend you go check it out. But a quick recap is: for most of my life, we never spent Christmas at home. Or any other holidays really, at least not the entire school holiday season. This is because my real dad- the one who raised me- has been a drunkard from the very first time I interacted with him, and he frequently got violent when he drunk, and would throw me and my mom out of the house, or we would leave home for our safety when he got into his verbally abusive and physically violent episodes. Christmas holidays were the very worst; my dad would get uncontrollably violent, and it was in our best interest to be out of home, if he didn’t throw us out first… You are all caught up now…

Onto the devil…

See, when you read that “I’ve always hated Christmas” article, or this summary above, it’s that you may relate because you have had your fair share of experience with an alcoholic parent, or you have experienced domestic violence first hand in your own home, or you have seen it in other people’s homes… or you do not relate at all because you had a very different experience- in which case, go you! I hope you are grateful for the experience you got as a kid…. Thing is, even if you do not relate, you low may be low key mad at my dad, or sympathizing with me and wishing me “love and light”, haha, in which case thank you, but you need not worry about me, I am much better now…

Or you may be thinking my real dad might be the devil for real. Because, how could one man, a father nonetheless, treat his own family like that? If I tell you of all the raw emotions I felt all those times; the pain I felt, the confusion I felt, the anger I felt, the exhaustion of going through this over and over and over again…. the shame and humiliation and anger I felt the next day or next time we went back home and all the neighbors were talking behind our backs and especially ridiculing my mother and our entire family as a joke … if I tell you of those feelings then you may just see my father as the devil, or conclude my aim was to get back at my dad through my writing and paint him as the devil…

Please note that the violence I experienced wasn’t limited to holidays… It’s just that it’s Christmas season so I limited the experiences I wrote about to the holiday seasons. Being a full-on alcohol addict, my real dad has been violent and verbally abusive for all my life(as is often the case with full on alcoholics)… It’s just that going to a boarding school in high school limited my interaction with his theatrics to the holiday seasons. Otherwise, it is not once or twice that I reported to my classes in primary school after spending the night outside or at a neighbor's home. Don’t even get me started on the question of “why did your mother stay if it was this toxic?” … That I shall write on some other time, stay tuned.

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Back to my two dads and the devil… My biological dad. The very first time I met my biological dad was in 2018, when I had just turned 21 or was about to. I do not remember the exact day and time, but I vividly remember how I met him.

Over the 2017 Christmas holidays, I visited this old village town where I grew up called Kiamwathi. I needed to replace my ID card, and for that I need to visit Kiamwathi town for the Chief’s signature. This old town had changed in some ways, but in other ways had remained the same. An example of what had not changed was the fact that the restaurant I used to get chicken soup and mandazi after each Sunday school session was still there. On this Christmas holiday, a few days to the new year, I decided to roam the village town as I waited for the chief’s office to open for the afternoon session, and unconsciously landed outside this old restaurant I was so fond of as a kid.

Okay, first and foremost, all you people with the idea of Hilton as the restaurant, haha, please come back to earth. As I said, Kiamwathi is the village I grew up in till I was five, and Kiamwathi town was the shopping centre. Actually yes, shopping centre is a more accurate description, because there were shops, cybers, small hotels, bars and churches. The restaurant I am referring to was therefore also small, in the same wooden structure it was in when I was a kid. I do not believe the restaurant even has a name… it was just common knowledge that it was the best spot for Chapati, mandazi and epic chicken soup.

As I was outside this restaurant I thought to check in with the owner, “Jamu wa kwa Jamu”(This means people refer to the restaurant as “Kwa Jamu”, and Jamu is the owner). I preferred calling him Uncle Jam; and he was in a way I guess. For whatever reason, he is one of those people that seemed to always be on my side, as long as I could remember. As it happened, Uncle Jam was present, and we got talking! It was such joy catching up… you know, this is someone who I interacted with almost every Sunday after Sunday school and occasionally on weekdays as a kid… and here I was as an adult about to turn 21! I do not know what ‘full circle’ moments really are, but this one felt like it was one of those.

Anyways we got chatting, and catching up… I got a free bowl of epic chicken soup and these ridiculously large but soft mandazis … The whole time I felt it was a bit weird the way he was talking to me, almost delicately …. And then he had this look on his face that just felt different to me… I concluded its probably because we hadn’t been in touch for too long, then out of nowhere, very calmly he says, “Do actually you know I am your uncle? Like your real uncle?”

Mmhhh! Ever had a momentous, shocking, out-of-this-world kind of moment until you do not actually feel anything, but you are logically fully aware of what is happening and understand what has been said?… That was exactly the experience I had. I was fully present, completely capable of understanding what he was saying, it just couldn’t fully register in my heart or mind what he was saying. “What do you mean you are my uncle?” I had to ask… then he answered, “Yes, I am your uncle. Your real uncle. Your dad and I are brothers. Blood brothers… That’s why you were always my favorite Sunday school kid.” OH, side note, the full gospel church my mom and I attended was just a few minutes from this restaurant, and so conveniently so because it was along the way to church. This made it so easy to see him every Sunday, or each time I went to the shopping centre, which was often.

Back to uncle Jam of ‘Jamu wa Kwa Jamu”…. He says he is my uncle, one hundred percent, and I am in shock! “This whole time! I had interacted with this person my entire life, my mom knew him, my aunties and grand moms knew him… Uncle Jam clearly knew me… and you’re telling me this entire time I was his niece?! One hundred percent his niece, like his actual niece, and I didn’t know?! How is that even possible!” I thought to myself. I had been been referring to this person as Uncle Jam my entire life as an endearment and expression of respect, and this entire time he was actually my uncle?!

How was I supposed to process this? How was I supposed to process the fact that Uncle Jam therefore knew my biological dad? I literally must have asked him, “ So this means you know my dad dad? My biological dad?”… You know, I was just trying to understand him. He just answered, “ Of course. I know your dad. I have always known your dad. He is my brother. You haven’t met him? He is actually in Nairobi just like you … Your mom never told you?”

Ooh, folks, you simply cannot understand how this entire encounter shook my brains! “Uncle Jam of “Jamu wa Kwa Jamu” is actually my uncle? And that means I may actually finally meet my dad?!” The questions just weren’t ending in my mind. “You mean this entire time, after all the few stories I had heard about what my dad was, every question I had had in my soul, all the imagining I had done around what my dad could be like, what he looked like, what his name was, what did he do for a living, where he lived … You mean the answers to everything were always literally within my reach, right in front of me, and I never saw it?”

Uweeh! Bottom line is, Uncle Jam, now no longer “Jamu wa Kwa Jamu” but now my actual uncle, gave me my biological dad’s phone number, told me his name, told me where he worked, and suggested I do whatever I wanted with the information, but strongly suggested I should meet him… So, my day went from a simply lazy Christmas holiday day where I just wanted our local chief to sign my ID replacement papers, to being a day I met the same person I have always met but now in their capacity as my relative… to potentially having found my biological dad! I mean, how much more interesting could my life be! And this incidence can count as the first time I ever met my dad.

I do not remember much detail around how we separated with Uncle Jam, but I know my papers got signed, I got home, and my entire world had forever changed! Now I had a dad, for real, even if I hadn’t met them. At least I now knew their name!

Yes folks, I did not know my biological dad’s name until that day, a few months to my 21st birthday. I still didn’t know what he looked like or what his skin color was … (haha, in Africa we are all black but we still have different skin colors) … I still did not know what he sounded like, or what motivates him, or what his habits were… or if we looked alike, or if I resembled him… Did he have another family? … I still had so many questions, but I had a dad y’all! And I knew his name, finally.

I finally knew my dad’s name, my biological dad’s name… he wasn’t a story anymore, he wasn’t a myth anymore … he was still faceless and formless and colorless and without a physical identity to me… but at least he had a name.

I did not even tell my mom about that encounter with Uncle Jam, or that I now knew I had another dad for real, and that I now knew his name and how to reach him… but that was a completely different day. A day that changed the course of my life for good…

So, did I meet my dad? How did it go? Was it awkward? How did he react to seeing me? Could he recognize me? Did he look familiar to me? How are we right now? And how come this whole time I had not known him? Good questions, dear reader, excellent questions … it’s a new year, I shall be answering each of these questions in detail in subsequent articles.

A final thought for now… So, who is the devil? Is it the real dad I was dealt by life who may or may not have really messed me up? Or is it my biological dad who had the option of raising me, first as duty, and secondly, because he is a decent human being who takes responsibility of his actions, but chose not to? Thus, leaving me in the hands of a dad who only parented me as was within his power to parent?

So, who really is the devil between the two? And must either be the devil? And must there even be a devil? Once again, this is why you and I, dear reader, get along so well… You ask all the fun questions, which I shall endeavor to answer, one by one until the story is complete. For now, who really is the devil?

Happy new year!

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Risper Wanja Njagi

I writing about re-finding ourselves, and everything in between; trauma, rejection, acceptance, healing, mental health