Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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Harrisburg, PA, USA

hen I was growing up, before youthful exuberance kicked in as it does for almost every young person, my father was my role model and hero. Yes, he was strict and many a time it was uncomfortable, but inwardly, I wanted to be as tough as I perceived him to be. I wanted to be the rock in my own family like I felt he was in our family. Like him, I wanted to be the fortress that my own children would go to in times of distress. But that “disciplinarian” part of him and the youthful exuberant part of me, many a time, brought us on a collision course. As a young man, more interested in getting around with my friends, socializing and having my way and having a good time, I was blinded to the fact that all the restrictions and boundaries he tried to place, as a guide for us, was for our own good.

When I eventually became a father myself, it dawned on me that his unflinching love for his children informed every single action he took towards my siblings and I, even when it may not feel pleasant. After he passed away, his counseling voice remained ever present in my head, helping to guide me whenever uncertainties stand in my way. Those phrases he constantly used to counsel us, as we grew up, have morphed into the partial moral compass that guides every fabric of my being till date. For that I will remain eternally grateful to my father.

Clearly, fathers do not always display their affections in the family as mothers do. They may not always show their emotions in time of family distress as should. They may not always provide, in the traditional mothers way, the tender loving shoulder for children to cry on in times of trouble and uncertainty. But I have come to realize that to remain the source of strength and the rock in the family, Fathers have to continually put their emotions in check. They must always be seen as in control even when the walls may seemingly be crumbling around them.

The reason why children love and are attracted to certain movies, like Superman, is that they see the actors as heroes. In the same vein, they want heroes in their own lives in the person of their fathers for protection and assurance. Fathers fill this role, even if unrecognized. Their presence helps to inject stoicism in children as they grow and gives them the confidence that help them face down adversity in life.

Fathers may not always say things in the cuddly ways that mothers are legendary for. When children go wrong, fathers may not always correct them in the gentlest and diplomatic ways that mothers are gifted with. Fathers may not always shower children with praise when they excel and may even seem to push too hard for excellence. I know my father pushed me. When all is said and done, though, fathers inwardly maintain a deep sense of pride in their children and constantly seek the best for them. This is why they push, push, and push.

A father’s love is sometimes characterized as “tough love” and hence they rarely get the credit they deserve in the family circles for what they do. But because they do what they do out of love, fathers have come to accept their place in the family with equanimity.

My father loved to write as well as give formal or informal public speeches in addition to his profession as a principal social welfare officer. He was also a lay leader in our church and hence read the scriptures in church and delivered sermons. I adored that immensely. To me then, he was the epitome of strength. Many times, I watched him hold his head high in times of crisis and adversity, never betraying his emotions. He was using examples to teach us, his children, that one does not have to fall to pieces in time of adversity. He would always seem to be saying, “in times of adversity, put your emotions in check so that you can maintain the clear and sound mind needed to make the right decisions”. He urged us to continually use excellence to conquer adversity and oppression but never look down on anyone. He would counsel, “ steer away from anything that could bring disrepute to you or our family.

To him, education was very crucial in life. He always said he wished he was more educated than he was. He would say that since he was not as educated as he wanted, it was his duty to ensure that his children got the very best education. So, he pushed, pushed and pushed us unrelentlessly to get the best of education. His mantra was: “education will make you dine with kings and queens”. I did not quite understand what he fully meant then but as time has gone by, it has become clear to me and I have equally tried, at every turn, to bequeath the same legacy to my own children. I hope they recognize and appreciate it.

The reader should permit me to go down memory lane a little here. Growing up, during mothers’ day celebrations in our church, mothers were given the liberty to hold the church service, sing and direct the affairs of the church for the day. In spite of the fact that it was a day for mothers, they always felt the need to honor fathers too. They would sing some songs in honor and praise for fathers. One goes like this: “Ndi bu nna, nwelu olu fa, odogwu zuloke, ka nna mu bu, ndi bu nna,nwelolu fa. Unu afunugo, fa zulu umu, fa kpalego, fa lulu uno, ndi bu nna, nwelu olu fa. It means - Fathers play their role in the family, my father is an accomplished hero, do you know that they train the kids, they make the money, they build the house, fathers play their part in the house. Yes, in this day and age, the song could be modified to add mothers as playing their roles too, but it was the right sentiment then and remains valid today.

On this Father’s Day, June 16, 2024, I remember my father, Late Mr Sylvanus Chukwukadibia Uzokwe. I honor him for all he did for us even when some went unnoticed and unacknowledged and taken for granted by some young brats like me! I pray for him to continue to rest in the bosom of the Lord.

And for all fathers out there, doing their very best to give their children the very best, holding down the family in good times and in adversity, offering themselves as the first line of defense for the family, I say, happy Fathers’ Day and may your days be long in the land that thy Lord thy God has given thee.

Happy Father’s Day All