Father says I am older now and that I have grown into a beautiful responsible woman. I want to believe him and maybe I do, but that’s just what fathers say. He says he is proud of me and that he wouldn’t trade me for the world if the chance was given to him. I know he means it. I have seen him rip mountains apart just to hide me from the cold hard world. While everyone is terrified of him and can’t approach him without trembling, he warms up a little when I come to greet him. He says no matter how old I get, I will always be his baby girl. You probably don’t know yet but he holds a gentle soul, a beautiful soul. Of course he has got to be tough; it’s what cages are for. To hold the most wanted things.
When I was little, he couldn’t bear to let me out of his sight even for a second after mother passed. So I became his best friend. He took me to work sometimes and we made a habit of daily. We were so close him and I. Nothing could come between us, at least until I hit puberty. We sat together when he ate and shared his meal no matter how little it was. His goal was to fatten me up, I know it. But I never wanted to be fat; I wanted to be as bony as those women I watched on television that could strut their stuff on the runways. Yes the way their collar bones stood out, oh wow! That was absolute beauty.
He still laughs at me whenever he finds me struggling with some new diet. He says and, “No man fights for the bony piece of meat. They all want something to chew on.” Of course that always offended me and I would hold a grudge for a few days until I could no longer to be mad at him.
I never grew into one of the models I envied; my thick genes would not allow it. But even so, father still tells me I am the most beautiful woman and would bulldoze through anyone who dares to tell me different. He is my knight in plaid pants and occasionally shorts. I’ve long since outgrown my slimming phase and grown into myself, or the version of myself I have come to understand right now. A version that is openly detached from him but internally longs for the open affection we once had.
I am much older now and I have grown into the strong woman father meant for me to be, perhaps wiser but it doesn’t take away the need to have father as my rock whenever something goes wrong or to have him tease me lovingly. He is a force my father, there is just something about him. It could be the sharp angles of his face and the constant determination he wears on it. Oh maybe the strength that oozes from him even from a mile away. He never shows his weakness and pretends to be tireless. But I know the truth, I see how life wears him out, it’s etched into the creases on his face. It reflects in his slow movements. It’s a tired breath that comes out labored and raspy. It’s everything that causes him to sigh repeatedly before gets up from his seat.
And yet… none of that has affected the fight in him for family, for me. He is ever protective, always a comfort. He is tender with old age and yet he still manages to carry the weight of the world so that I don’t have to. I am in awe of how much strength is in him.
He is the pillar for everyone who needs to draw strength, everyone who needs stable grounding. Without him, the monsters under my bed would become real. Without him the cold world would have crushed me. Without, I wouldn’t have learned to see a beautiful world through the destruction everywhere. Without him, I can’t imagine who I would have been.
Father speaks about me with pride; I can see his chest swell up every time someone asks him about me. Yesterday as he addressed the family, he told them that I was his source of joy. He said, “She started working when she was still in school and now that she is done, she is fully employed. My baby doesn’t need me anymore.” After which he smiled at me lovingly. It saddens me when he talks like that because If only he knew, I need him now more than ever. The world is moving out from under me and I don’t know how to maintain my balance.
But father still says I am stronger than I know and that nothing can bring me down. He says he has never seen so much fight in any other Ugandan girl. What he doesn’t know is his love is the fire that fuels me, his kind words are ever soothing balm for my broken heart and his undying belief in me empowers each day and with every breath I take. I know I will take shaky steps until I am at the top of the world; I know he won’t leave me. Father says that even if he isn’t there with me in person, he is with me in spirit and in my heart, forever.
And if father says it, then I believe him…