What Makes a Dad?

A painting of a man braiding a girl's hair.

"Daddy chololo, daddy chololo," I sing for Chimamanda when her daddy gets home.

She smiles, half flying, half jumping to reach the love of my life, her amazing daddy.

It never occurred to me that through him I would experience the love of a father for his daughter. I am always amazed. With watery eyes, my heart full to the brim, I wonder how it ever got here. It's such a sweet life because of these two.

With endless smooches he asks her playfully, "Baby girl, umeshindaje? Umesumbua mamy?" ( How are you? Did you disturb mamy?)

She responds with hearty laughs and giggles.

They look so cute together then I remember, it's just the other day she was in my tummy and the journey was one heck of a ride.

She first kicked when I was four months pregnant with her and had been at my mom's place, my first home, for a whole month because I was bedridden the entire first trimester with morning sickness, that was out of this world. Her daddy had come to see me and at the touch of my belly she kicked. So sweet and so tiny it was. In that moment I knew she was going to be a daddy's girl for life.

I kid you not, I was puking to the day I gave birth to her. I would ponder on how easy it was for someone like my grandma to have twelve children, cursing on why it had to be this hard for me with just one. He never grew tired though. He would cook for me and serve me. Feed me for I would not imagine the pain that came after vomiting all that I ate. I used to eat next to a bucket for the speed it came with, I would never get to the toilet in time. Nothing seemed to settle in my stomach, not even water. He would force me like a baby saying each time that was the last spoon. Looks romantic but I hated eating.

If eating was hard, I won’t lie and say a shower was any better. I could if he let me go for a week without a bath. Even walking to the bathroom was torture. He would bathe me while I sat on the toilet seat. Then dress me and carry me back to bed, somehow I was always hot even in the middle of July when it is so cold. So I needed nothing more than a single sheet. All these things he would provide without a single groan or restlessness.

I lost many friends.

They would call and I would switch off my phone after ignoring the calls, the text messages. I deactivated my Facebook account and stopped blogging. The days were very very very long and the nights were sleepless. With bouts of hauling even if I had not eaten anything. I never saw the end of this. In it all, he was patient; he was encouraging; he was motivating. After work, he would ensure that the house was spotless as well as food ready all the time. I would wish to help but everything stunk, the soaps, the scented body gels and lotions. Death in all its mystery sounded better, but thank God it never came.

Five months into the pregnancy, at least I could leave the bed and the house and start nesting. I could help around the house but not for long. Then finally she came to the world. The first time she opened her eyes thirty minutes after birth was because she heard her daddy calling her.


Not mamy who had been there, it was daddy.

I long to hear stories as such about my coming to the world and the bond between my father and I.

There are none, but thank God my mom was there.

I long for the special connection Chimamanda has with her dad that even if she is asleep she wakes when her daddy is almost home, how that happens I can't tell you.

I cherish moments she baby talks him to sleep and wakes him with her small hands or tiny slaps and at times painful scratches.

Beauty is when she already knows how to give him dolls eye to get away with the mistakes she makes.

Joy is to hear the plans he has for her, so big, so full of love, so full of hope.

I might have talked of my stepdad as the greatest man in my life for taking up responsibilities he did not have to. Or the journey to finding my biological father and realizing I was in love with the idea of him, not him, because love is more than just blood, it is a connection. But no!

Baba Chimamanda is the true embodiment of what makes a father, what makes a dad. He has shown me that you can choose to be an amazing father and love from the heart without any conditions. I ride on the love he has for his daughter and I imagine that is what it would have been for me too. And that is the best feeling that we both, Chimamanda and I, have a dad to celebrate this Father's Day, and it is not sugar coated or imagined, it is as open as a day and as true as life.