A Mitsubishi Galant. That was my dad’s first car. KVP something-something. I grew up knowing it had my name on it. See, he’d told me that the KVP stood for Ken, Victoria, and Pripri. I’m pretty sure he did this to remind me that my government name wasn’t the name he called me: Stim. Interesting choice, really, considering it came from the character from Sarafina who was eaten by dogs.
And he gave us a whole new surname to go with it: the Kings. Esther Nduta Kings. Olivia Kings. Victoria Kings. I think it had faded out by the time Pripri was born in ’03. I was so proud of it, I would gloat over it incessantly. If only I could sneak a bed sheet out without Ma’ noticing, I would’ve made a sigil and mounted a banner right outside our house or his office, downstairs.
I’d go visit his office when I was feeling low even if, ironically, he was the reason I was blue. My feet hang way above the ground when I sat but it made me feel important because old people with serious faces sat there and that meant I was old enough and serious enough to sit there. Then, he’d give me a sharpened pencil and paper, and I’d draw on it or write. And before we left for home, he’d take my “stunning” artistic/literary oeuvres and grade them. Excellent. Smiley face. Star. Regardless of whether I had made a replica of Monet’s White Lilies or a triangle.
Pops has a plain black band that’s never taken off. And when he’d come up from the office, I’d throw my eyes to his wrist for peace of mind. As if I wouldn’t trust him if he came one day and he didn’t have it on. He got me one just like that one day and it made the happiest girl you ever saw. ‘Course I lost it though. And every day, he’d come home with a pack of groundnuts and throw one to each of us. (My hand-eye coordination has always been disastrous). Sitting on his lap and telling him about school while trying really hard to open them, was honestly my favorite part of the day.
Unless of course, I messed up during the day. You know how in Game of Thrones when the Night King shows up, there’s a chill and the snow starts to whirl? My dad used to be like that, except he doesn’t snow-bend, he just swirled his keys before he got to the door and you knew. You just knew. It was like that bell that goes off before a wrestling match.
Then I went to high school and wilded out. So, he was called again and again. Like when I “started” a food fight because my house was #4 in House Drama (lol), and there was that other time where I was in trouble for co-writing some letter (smh). By Form 2, Pa’ was really tired of coming to school because “she’s looking at teachers badly as they teach” or “I asked her how many As we had in Physics and she had no clue”. No matter how stupid the offence was, he still came.
Thing is, though, he didn’t only show up for the stupid offences – he always showed up. That’s his love language. He was where I needed him to be, whenever I needed him. He was always the earliest parent and he’d ask all the questions. Of course, to an 11-year-old who wants to run home and watch Papyrus take down Seth on Channel 2, “extra work” was torture. Looking back, however, it just shows how much he was looking out for his scrawny lil kid.
And the letters. He’d write me letters when he was really worried about me. Most of them, if they’re still in my upper cupboards, are probably tear-stained. The way he’d beg me to do the right thing and tell me in paragraphs how much he loves me always broke my heart. But well, teenage fever is a forcefield so I never really listened.
And he always gets me art supplies, or books when I want them. He never reads my blog – thank God, lol – but he’s supportive. He’ll take me to my uncles to say hi and borrow books. And always remind me to return the ones that are overdue so I can be trusted with more. I don’t get a Smiley Face or a Star but that goofy smile after I show him a painting is all the validation I need.
I know that smile, the one that precedes his laugh. His laugh sounds like static, it’s the greatest. And the only people who’ve been able to bring it out time and time again is Ma’ and Uncle Mungai. I pride myself on having hacked it a couple of times, though.
When we were kids and the lights went out, Dad would go to his room and take his old vintage Panasonic radio and he’d put it on top of the cupboard. He’d turn it on and then turn on the blanched kerosene lamps. Then he’d sit down and make shadow puppets as Zilizopendwa strung by song after song.
Christmas was for cookies and having fashion runways for Ma’ and Dad. Nowadays, we’re all too grown, so he grills some chicken and some beef for us and we sit outside and talk. You know, if I was to summon a patronus, this is probably the thought I would consider my happiest. Especially when he sits down and flies little Alex around. I only wish he could go back to doing that dance he used to do when we were little.
That’s literally one of the 5 times my dad sits down to kick it back. My dad’s work ethic is…incredible. He has this invisible infinite drive force that can’t be extinguished by the idea of a public holiday or anything that doesn’t need his direct attention. If I had half of that, I’d have figured out the vaccine for Malaria or a Pulitzer for my 7th book by now.
But if/when I do eventually, it’ll be because of all the work he put into me getting there and I’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget all the love he’s shown me even if he stopped vocally acknowledging it, I never doubt it.
You’re the best, Dad. Here’s to you.