This month we honor all fathers. Ironically, in my male-controlled Nigeria, Father’s Day is not hyped up or accorded the same level of celebration as Mother’s Day, or I must not have remembered hearing secular men celebrated on any given special day.
In America, we honor fathers on the third Sunday in June, which falls on the 19th, to be exact. I borrow this American concept to share my Nigerian father, Chief Martin K. Ohanenye. To etch his absence into me and to make Father’s Day’s importance even more relevant, our father passed away during that week in 1996 in Nigeria, on the 22nd of June.
My father was a very religious man, a Christian father, a cosmopolitan human being, an exemplary philanthropist, and the most brilliant and renowned business man. I want to thank my father posthumously and share my appreciation for his prominence in our lives. I want to share my most profound love for my father. While he lived, he was the epitome of the Christian father. I will borrow Mark Merrill’s “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad” criteria to examine my father’s qualities.
- Love Your Children’s Mother: That he did and showed it in his care of her and atten-
tion to her needs. My mother had a free reign of our homes and her businesses. My father showered her with love and much more. Nothing is more gratifying to a woman than to know that she is loved, that all her needs are important, and that she could have the audacity to ask for and to get whatever she needed or wanted for herself and for her children. In return, my mother showered our father with the most unparalleled devotion, attention to his needs, and with boundless love.
- Spend Time With Your Children: Even though there were nine of us, and as busy as he was, our father
made each one of us his priority. We could reach our father any time, knew where he was at any given time, and knew that he would be available to each of us. I felt especially close to him as the middle child and as the last girl. In a place where mothers were solely responsible for raising the children, it comforts me that my father featured in a huge part in raising us. He knew what we were up to and where.
- Earn The Right to Be Heard: There was no question that my father was heard. The right belonged to him without any doubt. He hardly spoke, but when he did, people listened more attentively than they did to F. Horton. My father’s words have been my atlas and compass.
- Discipline with a Gentle Spirit: I was disciplined with “The Look.” Once that look was directed at me, I checked myself and corrected; we did not need words. Our father molded and corrected without much exertion, and we learned just how much he loved us through that method of discipline.
- Be a Role Model: My father was my first, best, and last role model. I compared men who courted me to him, and they fell short drastically. My father had to ask me to stop comparing my suitors to him; different times, different people, he said. “You keep doing that, you will never get married.”
- Teach the Lessons of Life: I learned so much from my father, lessons of Christian life and love, lessons of endurance and ambition, lessons of the heart and mind, of charity and tolerance, exemplary conduct, humility, walking in the faith, and many other lessons. These instructions have helped me make good choices and helped me to avoid the very terrible and costly ones. He never did anyone any wrong, never spoke harshly, and was the quintessence of Christianity.
- Eat Together As a Family: Regardless of the extent of the intrusion of business matters, my father always came home for lunch. My favorite part was preparing our lunches, especially his. He ate all three meals at home except when we all traveled to the village. Even at that, he ate all his meals at that home. My father always made us fruit cocktails/salads with the abundant fruits from trees that populated our home in the village. As unheard of as it was for a man of his status to do anything culinary, his humility knew no bounds. He always made us popcorn and later bought us a huge popcorn machine.
- Read to Your Children: My parents always read, read aloud within earshot of anyone who would listen, and were grateful to anyone who would share in their love of reading. When business slackened in her grocery store, my mother would pick up a book and would read it aloud. Growing up, I never realized that our parents did not attend high school. They both were so much wiser and more knowledgeable than university graduates. I never realized their academic level. I devoured books so much that my father built me my own library and gave me the key.
- Show Affection: My father showed love in many ways and quite often, not effusively. As closed to open display of affection as Nigeria was back then, my parents touched quite frequently and caused brows to go up. My father and my mother would banter, and I would dream of marrying a man who knew what it meant to be playful with such rare looks and other non-verbal and verbal ways. I knew I was loved. I would say that both parents loved me equally, even as it was evident that I was a daddy’s girl.
- Realize a Father’s Job Is Never Done: It was unheard of for a father to allow his unmarried daughter to dash out of Nigeria to “wild” America alone and hustle and bustle after a university degree. Despite advice to the contrary, my father allowed me to speed off to these United States, a most self-sacrificing gesture for which I have been eternally grateful to him. He gave us the wings to direct our own lives trusting that he and our mother raised us well. My father’s “encouragement and discernment” left us with a fulfilling legacy. He knew his job was not finished. We lost him too soon.
On this Father’s Day and every day since 1996, my heart breaks anew. I am consoled that he lived to see me obtain my Master’s in Journalism, lived to give my daughter her Ibo name, and to speak to her on the phone several times.
On this Father’s Day, I went to Mass at 7:30 A.M. in honor of my father, cooked up a medley of dishes for brunch, and sat down with my daughter, brother, and son-in-law to honor our fathers and all fathers everywhere.
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in heaven and on earth. Thanks be to God for all of them.
Merrill, Mark. “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.” Family First. 12 June 2001. Web. June 19, 2016.
Tuttle, Brad. “5 Awesome Old-School TV Ads for Financial Service Companies.” Time. 20 March 2015. Web. June 19, 2016.