His absence brings pure delight. His presence, misery. He is never there yet, fully there. He knows very little, says very little and does very little. He is the absentee father.
He is absent through your firsts; first crawl, first step, first mumbled words, first tooth, first day at school, First Parent-Teachers’ meeting, first football match or even tease you about your first love. But, it’s amazing how readily available he was to mete out your first bruise.
You’re bruised and can’t find relief. He is present enough to inflict sores but, amply absent to make sure you have adequate time to scream, cry, writhe and wriggle in pain… alone.
You can hardly find help whilst under him—he leaves you thirsty and cuts off all sources of water; help. That is the thing with an Absentee father!
Being 13, with no man to call Daddy is hell. He’s also absent on ‘Bring your dad to school’ days, on birthdays, to tie your shoelaces, knot your ties, help you study, for Father & child sack race, for spelling bee, for math competitions, on graduation ceremonies, to watch TV shows together, have the man-man talk or eat dinner like normal families. Never.
So, you try to give more love. You make him bracelets, buy him handmade cards, try to make a framed painting of him but he destroys them all. He’d rather have you study math than draw and paint.
Now, you’re in search of love, validation, acceptance, anything that would make you feel noticed. You just want this feeling of hurt to go but it’s deeper. High school students have no chill. They acknowledge your brilliance but are also determined to ruin all that’s left of your esteem. Sad thing is, you allow them. The one who should encourage you and to make you better did not even cast a single glance at your schoolwork. Parents make prayers that their wards take after you but you mumble incoherent words under your breath. The one who should say all these, see you for who you are is blind-eyed.
So, every passing day, you pray to whichever god exists, that it be his last day. His last breath, because, better dead than absent. But, it never happened. The Supreme one daily squanders your fervour. Isn’t that why he’s called Father?
At 22, you move out of the house. With your monthly income, you get a flat in Yaba. You want to prove so hard to Daddy that you’re not stupid or careless but independent in its real sense. You think he will feel foolish for not being available. But no one ever told you that it comes with its own baggage.
The void you feel when you watch Family TV series is beyond words, reality hits you that you never experienced such. In a quest to heal the scar, to fill the void, you resort to things – sex, drugs, drinks, friends. It didn’t take long to realize that effect was temporal. So, you stop.
You’re numb and can’t love. But it’s not even you. It’s Father. In his silence, he taught you how not to love.
You now realize how much you’ve achieved. You’ve been on every magazine listicle – home and abroad. You’ve tried severally to be good, to be accepted, to be validated. Your package is suave – selfies in the finest of places and with the brightest of smiles – that no one cares to notice the underlying heartaches and loneliness. Your heart longs for home, not the building but the feel of being home. But, Daddy still won’t budge! He won’t apologize for the lifetime of pain he caused you.
You got where you are now completely by yourself. No help, no guidance. No Daddy.
But, you want purpose, you want a deeper meaning, you want life, you want to love and you want to be loved. Your search for what exactly you did wrong provides no results.
Today, you write your will and sign off your properties to the fatherless children, you realize how empty you still feel without his love. Daddy could have been there. He could have loved you, but he chose not to love. He made a choice – to be an absentee Father.
This is for you, Absentee Father – Your child misses the father that you never were.