What you need to know:
- By the time my grandfather died, many years later after my grandmother, we had stopped meeting altogether.
- Not that my grandfather was bad or didn’t love his family, I just think that unlike women, most men are generally not good at bringing people together.
When my paternal grandmother was alive, many years ago when I was still in primary school, every holiday, we (all my aunts and uncles and cousins), would gather at the home she and my grandfather had brought up our parents.
Kenyatta Day, Moi Day, Labour Day, Madaraka Day, Christmas, New Year. Every single holiday we had a standing invitation, and every single time, my grandfather, who had been a hardworking man with cattle and an enviable herd of goats until the very day he died, would slaughter a goat or two and we would make merry until late into the night.
And then my grandmother passed away and these get-togethers gradually fizzled out. By the time my grandfather died, many years later after my grandmother, we had stopped meeting altogether, and an extended family that had been close no longer was.
Not that my grandfather was bad or didn’t love his family, I just think that unlike women, most men are generally not good at bringing people together. A woman will often call her adult children to find out how they are, invite them home for a meal just because, ask for the grandchildren when schools close and generally nag until someone visits.
Hers has always been a proactive relationship with her children, a factor that keeps them visiting long after they have left home.
There is also the ‘easy’, relaxed relationship that most women forge with their children from childhood, which compels the children to make time to visit home after getting families of their own.
Many times, I’ve heard people recount how they feared their fathers while growing up, such that when their fathers returned home in the evening, they would all file out of the living room – they just couldn’t be in the same room with him because he never failed to find something to quarrel them about in his role as the harsh, unrelenting disciplinarian.
This relationship, forged on fear, never changed even when they grew up and became adults, and, today when they visit their parents, in reality, they are visiting their mother, not their father. If their mother were to die today, they would have no reason to visit that home they were raised in.
They would only do it out of a sense of duty towards their father, not out of love or affection. As I write this, I know so many people who send their elderly mother money back home in the village, but never, or rarely send their father even a cent.
I also know people that only call their mothers to find out how they are doing, never their fathers, because they have nothing to talk about with them. If you asked me, I’d say that this is the saddest situation any parent can ever find him, or herself, in.
Yes, parenting has changed a lot over the years, and today’s father is a more hands-on parent, one that is involved in much more than just his children’s education.
But this is not the case in all households, where you find that even in instances where both parents are present, the woman plays the role of both father and mother because, for whatever reason, the man has abdicated his role as a father. I bumped into an old friend the other day and we decided to catch up over ‘a cup of coffee’ (Okay, we had juice).
She now has three children, she told me, and would be clocking 17 years of marriage next year. Even though her husband has a job, and has always had one throughout their marriage, she mostly does the providing, pays school fees and attends school meetings, which her husband always finds an “excuse” to skip.
Two of her children are in boarding school, and she is the one that almost always drops and picks them on opening and closing days. She can also count the number of times her husband had accompanied her to take their children to hospital. Clearly, she had an emotional burden she had been yearning to offload.
With this story in mind, I wonder whether any of her children, in their adulthood, will make time to visit or look after their father should their mother pass away first, after all, they have no relationship with him.