My Dad used to have this a poster on the wall in front of his desk. The poster read ‘Desiderata’ it was a poem by Max Ehmann. Time and time I again I would walk past it, read it but didn’t understand it.
In his thick Zimbabwean accent, he would say, “Ruvimbo you need to read,” and I would say, “I did but I don’t get it.” He used to get so frustrated that I couldn’t understand it, he’d try to explain it to me hoping to elicit some sort of a reaction from me, something other than confusion. But he received no such thing. I was 8 at the time, I dunno what he was expecting.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I happened upon the poem and I remembered where I’d seen that word. I read the poem, this time I understood it. I finally understood him. He wanted me to speak my truth and to be on good terms with the world and it’s inhabitants.
I read the poem,’Desiderata’ and all I could do was smile. Images of all the books and poems he had recommended to me came to mind. I remembered how he’d often talk about Ngugi, Chinua Achebe and Thomas Sankara. He even named my little sister’s Baby Annabelle doll “Che” after Che Guevara. From a young age, he opened our minds up to different ways of thinking, he encouraged us to be analytic and to always seek knowledge.
I’d always wondered where my love for literature stemmed from, I thought it was just because I had good English teachers or maybe because I had excelled in English from a young age. But that wasn’t it, I realised that the majority of the lessons I learnt from my Dad came from works literature. Literature was neutral ground for us. I guess was more willing to accept things if they were coming from somewhere.
I remember once he gave me a book to read about a young woman who was selling herself for money, she was intelligent but she found an easy way to live. I cringed as I read it thinking why would he give me this book? I cringed even more thinking he had read it too, but I now understand why. He could never have sat me down and told me not to sell myself or to think of my self as a ‘phenomenal woman’ so he had Maya Angelou do it. He could never have said, “Ruvimbo here is a guide by which to live your life” so he had Max Ehrmann do it.
You see, my Dad is not one to be easily comprehended, his words are complex, his lectures are lengthy and the passion he has when telling me things gives him a slight stammer. From afar I’m sure it looks like we are in the middle of a game of charades. The gestures are always exaggerated and hilarious. Trust me, I’ve had to sit through a plethora of lectures from that man.
I am eternally grateful for my Dad in playing a part in making me the young woman I am today. For always supporting me, catching me when I fall and for telling me to go find pleasure in books and for always reminding me that “room for improvement is the biggest room in the world.” Love you big guy!
Happy Father’s Day to all the good fathers in the world.