When I was 7 years old, Mah (my mother) divorced and had been dating UncleTisa for a couple years. At this point Mah and I were living with him in his house in Makeni. I thought he was perfect. He basically treated me like a princess yet gave me some sense of discipline (at least I thought so). He was a nerd, and because of him, I knew about Friends, Buffy and other shows. More importantly he introduced me to The Lion King and the original Star Wars trilogy. He had those four movies on laser disc and I watched them on repeat. He was a huge Star Wars fan.
I remember one particular day when he was trying to get Mah into the fanboy fold, and had sat her to watch the trilogy. As we watched the movie, he sat right next to her, explaining pieces of information as we watched Empire Strikes Back. Just before the iconic scene in Cloud City, UncleTisa eagerly looks over to Mah to watch her face as Darth Vader says
“Luke, I’m your father.”
I don’t recall how Mah reacted. I was too consumed with my own thoughts.
“So!” I thought.
My biological father is the villan of my story and you don’t see me dramatically screaming no. TheSpermDonor was the dark (quite literally) force lurking, trying to get me. When we lived in flats in Lusaka, I was taught to scream and all the neighbours were notified of my situation.
When I was 10, I lived in Kitwe and our primary class had a field trip to the Lusaka mosque. I was not allowed to go. Not because I was sick, but because that was the mosque he went to. I was literally the only child who didn’t go. I missed a fun trip bonding with people, talking smack on the bus there and back. Stories about something funny that happened and I wasn’t there to witness.
You may well think that that was all a bit extreme. Why such measures?
Well, you see. My father is Senegalese and at any point he could take his children from their mother, never to see them again. And he was not the only one. Around the time I was born, women who had children with Senegalese and Malian men were warned by the Zambian government that if their [the women] children were taken away by their fathers, there was nothing the government could do to retrieve them. The women would never see or hear from their children again. They would be gone forever
By the time I had turned 4, TheSpermDonor had attempted to smuggle me through the DRC three times. And three times he had failed. Had he been successful, I would be a child bride somewhere in the rurals of West Africa.
Undoubtedly I was sheltered, there wasn’t an unknown “they” who other mothers worried about. The big bad guy had a face, a name, and he was my biological father. There are so many horrors he bestowed on my family and I but the worst for me was that he took away my freedom and he was the reason I was locked away in my own home for my own good.
Because of that, for many years Father’s day was tainted. A painful reminder, that while other children got a dad, I got him.
There was this particular day in Lusaka, all my friends had gone home to hang out with their fathers (I’m guessing it was Father’s day). I was seated on the porch, looking at an empty playground feeling extra sad that I didn’t have a dad. Mah came out and sat next to me, sensing something was wrong and she asked me what was bothering me.
This was my opportunity. I quietly thought this was the time to tell her she should marry UncleTisa. Then I would have a dad, and one that I actually wanted. But I second guessed myself. I thought that would be a bit too forward. Mah was (and still is) fragile and I didn’t know how she would react. So instead, I asked her
“Why don’t I have a dad?”
Again I don’t recall her answer but whatever she said I shook my head in agreement thinking she would somehow end up marrying UncleTisa. At that time they had broken up but I didn’t believe it. I thought they were on a break and they would get back together like Ross and Rachel. But it never happened.
In 2000, I moved back to Kitwe with my sister, MyTribe, and a couple of years later Mah surprised us with a father, TheSpermDonor. My heart skipped a beat, pounding so loudly. There he was telling me “I’m your father”
And I finally understood Luke.
To be continued….
Edited by Aunty Cousin
* Pictures from Google search