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Finding a Father

The definition of a father.

According to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, these are the definitions of father:

Father noun: a male parent of a child or an animal; a person who is acting as the father to a child.

Father verb: father somebody to become the father of a child by making a woman pregnant.

Well, Ly-Ang’s papa fulfils them partially; he misses the part of acting as the father to a child. At least for this particular child.

A black man listening to the kicks of his child while in the mother's womb.
The connection should be there from the begining.

A handsome middle-aged man.

A tall, dark-complexioned Nigerian Hausa with a white smile like the snow and big hands with extremely long fingers. A strong and charming man who had many women giggling when passing by. They might have met at a party at Club Fernandino, or a party at a friend’s house, or passing by each other in the street. He might have been struck by her curves; they could not pass unnoticed. In her late thirties, her body distillated exuberance still, despite having mothered many children. She moved with a grace such as Marilyn's walk but in slow motion, letting every step undulate her hips left and right as waves bathed the shore of a beach.

A black man and a black woman smiling at each-other while cheering in a party.
Just one look to spark the fire.

At that time, he had already fathered at least four children. He has no known committed relationship and was a free spirit. One knew when he was leaving and never when he was coming back if he was coming back.

One humid and hot February summer night, she invited him over for dinner. He was welcomed by a well-dressed table, topped with succulent dishes, refreshing palm wine, and beers. They enjoyed the meal and may be engaged in a trivial conversation about life, the political situation in a country under a dictatorship, his work as a truck driver, or her work as a nurse and midwife. She was intriguing, interesting, a self-sufficient, independent, and determined woman. She felt tempted by his attractive and overwhelming presence with his almost two-meter height. He was eager to walk over every curve of her voluptuous body. She had already decided that she would retain him by her side as long as no other had before. After the dinner, she might have invited him to her bedroom, the designated space to express physical emotions.

Did they kiss? Who kissed whom first? Who unbuttoned the first button? Did she allow her dress to rest on the floor while he covered her with his body? Did he stay over? In that moment, a man became a father, and a woman became a mom. The moment his sperm reached her ovum, their lives took a 360° turn. They did not plan to create a life, but they did. That is how Ly-Ang might have been conceived, or at least that is what she imagines.

Little did they know what life would turn into. Life will make him leave, and she stayed hoping he would come back, but remembering that one knew when he was leaving but not when or if he was coming back. He never came back.

He was a father still, without putting in all the work and effort. His surname was passed to every child he fathered. Ly-Ang was not the first and will not be the last. He is still her father.

The father figure

The toll some men pay for becoming a father back then and now is way lower than what it takes for many women to become a mother. Birthing a child brings much more than just the responsibility to raise them. A woman goes through a physical and mental transformation that will mark her life forever. Add to this having to raise the child of a man who has broken your heart, walked away, and tried showing them love and kindness.

Ly-Ang grew up calling strangers “papa”, longing to have someone more than a “mama”. Questions were not answered, and words were whispered. Names were never named, and siblings were discovered alongside lies, excuses, blaming games, and untold stories.

A black little girl hugs a black man. Both smiling. They might be father and daughter.
To be visible and part of their life matters.

When the father wanted to become a father, it was too late. The heart of a little girl was broken, and her innocence was gone. Intoxicated by the resentment of a woman who believed she would retain a man who was not retainable, Ly-Ang distrusted every man who looked, sounded, breathed, resembled that father she never had. She had clung to an idealized image of a man who would not only conceive but would protect her, care for her, provide for her, fulfil his promises, and stay, stay, stay forever.

Many people in this world grow up without a father figure. They feel handicapped because they lack a vital part of their life, a male reference for some, a provider for others. Some had one and lost him under painful and sad circumstances. Some never heard of one nor knew their name or whereabouts. Some like Ly-Ang knew enough to dream about them but got disappointed the moment they had the chance to learn the true story.

A father should be a person who is there for you no matter what. Who teaches you how to be strong when you feel weak? How to be wise when you are stupid. How to get up when you fall. How to dream big when you are expected to dream little. How to protect yourself from other men or how to let yourself be loved by another man.

A black family with matching clothing in purple colors holding hand while standing.
To keep the balance you need support on both sides.

A father should be more than “a male parent of a child or an animal; a person who is acting as the father to a child,” more than “somebody to become the father of a child by making a woman pregnant.”

Ly-Ang’s definition of a father is the person who holds your other hand together with your mother to keep you balanced from your first steps until you can run miles all by yourself and is always there to catch you when you fall.

Would you like to share your experience? What about your father? How do you define a father? Are you a father? Or A fater*?

Share about your father in the comments, to make this journey ours and not only Ly-Ang’s.


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