Days before the date I sat for the Common Entrance Examinations-the equivalent of the WASSE in West Africa, my father made a declaration to me. He stated, “ I am ready to sell my coat so you can have quality education!” My silent response was my determination to study so hard it would be unnecessary for him to sell anything to provide for my schooling.
Mpapa as my siblings and I called him, reminded me of this verse from the Bible, “ You fathers- if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not!” -Luke 11:11-12 New Living Translation.
He always wrote under his name “ Minister of the Gospel”. He served the Methodist Church as priest for 70+ years of his life. He was among the youngest persons to become priest of the Methodist Church in Ghana.
He was 49 years old when I was born. I therefore earned this nickname from my siblings, “ Old Man Pikin” meaning the child of an old man. That did not bother me at all.
My father taught me to sweep and wash dishes. He also combed and parted my hair perfectly until I stopped going to him for that assistance. I was worried about going to school late because he took so much care to get my hair looking good! Those days everyone in small towns in my country walked to school!
My dad also made the best “ Mashed Kenkey” in the world!! This is now called Iced Kenkey and made from cooked fermented maize mashed or blended with water and to which sugar and milk are added.
My first day at school was in the company of my dad. Each time he was transferred to another town, he accompanied me to my new school on my first day. Mpapa went along with me on my first day in secondary school – now called senior high school. He visited me whenever his travels brought him near the school. And he often brought food from home. His visits became fewer while I was in university because I could go home almost every weekend.
Though his salary was not high, my father ensured all my needs were provided. This went on until my siblings started working and took over that responsibility from him. When I graduated from university and started working, I became an independent person.
I knew I deserved the occasions my father corrected me for wrongdoing. For me he fully lived the biblical warning to fathers, “ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord-Ephesians 6:4 New Living Translation.
To the best of my ability, I also lived by this instruction, “ Honour your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you – Exodus 20:12 New Living Translation.
It is interesting that some of my friends warned me I would not find a husband if I was looking for a man like my father!! I was determined to avoid marrying any man my dad believed would not be a suitable husband for me! This would have happened even if his objection was close to the day of my marriage! People would understand me when I tell them this:I knew a few examples when he correctly judged the unfavorable character of some people.
In his old age, Mpapa enjoyed my combing and parting his hair because his sight was failing. Reading to him and making his tea gave him much pleasure. He had however learnt to go everywhere in his home and so was a fairly independent person there.
Despite his old age and the fact that I am a Christian, his death hit me quite hard. I needed my faith, the support of the extended family and friends to recover from my situation.
I relearned to trust in the Word of God and still do. “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or his children begging for bread”– Psalm 37:25 New Living Translation. I believed the Lord would continue to be with me, my siblings and our families.
On this Fathers Day, I am proud to honour my father, my hero and definitely the first man in my life.