It is the fourth of February 2008. A month and a half has passed since my girlfriend and I told our families that are going to be parents. She is about 3 months pregnant. It’s 2:30am on a Monday morning and my phone rings, it’s my brother. “It’s bad news”, he says. With those three words, I found out my father had just died. “Ok”, I said, and I dropped the phone.
My father had suffered a stroke and had been in a coma for two days. After the call I remember standing on my balcony watching grey clouds running across a black. I wasn’t really thinking about anything, didn’t feel much either, just numb. I watched the sunrise from the window of a plane from Cape Town to Jozi. A new dawn, I suppose.
I’m not sure how it happened but I ended up being the one who had to identify my father’s body at the mortuary. Either way, here I was in the a cold, damp, orange room with built-in wall to wall, floor to ceiling fridges. I’ve always been scared of mortuaries, too many horror movies, but at that moment I had forgotten that fear. Two guys who worked there came in with me. One of them opened one of the fridge doors and rolled a steel table-drawer effort. There he was. My father. He looked like he was sleeping. Like he was just about to open his eyes on some, “Wat kyk jy? Jou bliksem!”. A strange, slight smile stretched across my face. He had lived, it was his time.
The funeral came with it’s usual family drama. For the first time in my life I saw my mother cry. Yes, till then I had never seen anyone in my family. I gave a speech. The speed at which people clear out of funeral after the food and alcohol is finished can contend for a place in the Guinness Book of Records. But yeah, everyone was gone. Now what? What do I do now? Who’s going to show me how to be a father now? The story about my dad’s passing actually has relevance to this series. You see fam, out of the entire population of my family, my father and I were the only two with our surname. Now he was gone and here I was, the last of my kind. My father was the head of the whole clan. Add to that the generations of men in my family suffering from Black Father Syndrome the future of the Ngxande family now rested solely with me. Being the only legitimate son, at 25 years old I was to take on all my father’s duties as the families’ only Uncle. No pressure.
The prospect of being a father forces you to come to terms with your own father. Be it his presence or his absence. With my father’s death and my own child on an inbound ‘plane’ (wink), life had given me an exam on fatherhood. I looked at the question paper and I was bleak:
FATHERHOOD – EXAM QUESTIONS.
1. Draw a diagram of your identity.
2. Multiple Choice – Child Discipline.
3. Write an essay on Culture and Traditional practices.
4. Calculate the importance of family.
5. Look at the Empty Space below (fig. 1) and identify what it means to a Good Father.
6. Draw a diagram of God. In the diagram use the Religion formula and solve for x(you).
7. Draw the circumference of the Meaning of Life.
8. Which one of the equations amount to Manhood:
(a) Strength x Force + Strictness
(b) Caring + Providing (alcohol) x Shouting
(c) Warm + Humour + Understanding x Abuse
I had bunked the Identity class. I chased girls during Tradition and Culture. I slept through Good Father tuts and I swear that lecturer in Religion hated me. I was in the dog.