On loving a parent I never knew

It’s funny how many people tell me, “you’re just like your dad,” or some other variation, (which just goes to show he was also a total nutcase for the most part). Sadly, that’s something I will never be able to confirm for myself.

My father died when I was on the verge of three years old. Most people tell me they have memories from when they were that young. Not me though, I can’t remember jack. This means I have no recollection- concrete or fuzzy- of who my father ever was. And yet why is there a part of me- no matter how small- that misses a man I never consciously met?

Beloved, it’s strange loving someone you do not know, because you tend to love them in the way you would a fictional character.

I love my dad from pictures and stories captured by other people: People who got to know him; who got to experience the person he was; who formed actual bonds and memories with and of him. The fact that all I know of my father are the thoughts of other people passed down to me is a strange sort of affairs. And because I am so keenly aware of this, I find myself constantly wondering if I have the right to grieve him? To miss him? To even love him?

As much as I try to ignore it, I can’t deny that this really irks me to my bones. But, regardless of the ickiness I experience because of having emotions towards my actual biological father, I still find myself feeling all those things, and sometimes all at once. Even after all this time, it’s still something I’m learning to live with.


My father was by no means the perfect man. He was human after all. He made a few mistakes that on some nights leave me wondering if indeed I would feel this same saudade fondness for him if he was still here. The answer is probably not. But he is not here and so I do. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it?

I have come to terms that a part of me will always feel a tiny bit of disappointment over the man he was. But it’s insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Everyone who has spared the time and grace to share with me stories about my father has described him as a good man and I believe for now and ever I just have to hold on to that. They say he was wonderful, sharp as a whip and the very embodiment of a great time. So despite all his shortcomings, I still wish I had been given the chance of getting to know him.

In a perfect life he and I would have probably been a formidable duo. From what I gather we like the same things; writing, reading, chess, perverse jokes and giving my sweet mother grief. I imagine on a day like this- which also happens to be his birthday- we would be planning some gathering of sorts. I am not very social but I do get on with people quite well, and I’ve been told so did he.

I bet we would have had a whole shabang. We would stew in our pretentiousness, sparking discussion with both our long-time acquaintances and proverbial strangers on socio-politics only to deliver out of pocket jokes that would make everybody except us uncomfortable. I bet I would keep his beer coming. I bet he would try to get me to have some alcohol just for his birthday. I bet we would laugh obnoxiously. I bet we would talk too loud. Heck beloved, I bet we would dance on top of tables.

But this is far from a perfect life, so I will not be spending his day doing any father-daughter-dancing-with-the-stars-on-furniture. Instead I will make up scenarios just like the one above about what it would have probably been like if he was still alive. I will sift through stories and photo albums and try to pick out the parts which I think are just as much his as they are mine. I will experience all the ickiness of being fully aware that what’s left of him has to be carried in the blood and marrow of me, my brother and my sister, and in the memories of every soul he touched.

This is not the perfect life, beloved, so all I can hope for is that maybe in another one I get to play at least one game of chess with him. Maybe in that one I get to say, “Hey Dad, people keep telling me I took a lot after you.” And maybe he will look at me and see all his little bits and pieces and say, “Well, you do have my smile Tam-Tam.”


In memory of

For Hazwell Kanjaye : 1964 – 2002

12 thoughts on “On loving a parent I never knew”

  1. Kisa Kumwenda

    What an inspiring story. It’s awesome how God allows people to leave an impression whether positive or negative on people’s lives… I pray that we will leave good memories like that of Hazwell Kanjaye. Happy Birthday Dad dearest.

  2. This makes me think of my late grandma whom i also only hear of particular similarities i take after her. Whenever i look at her pictures, i wonder how it would have been like if i knew her. Hearing stories about her makes me only imagine.

    1. It’s always strange loving people you only heat about. Especially when you are told how similar you both are to each other.
      You’re always stuck when it comes to how you think you should feel💙

      Sending you all the love💙

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