The first time I was there to live for a while, between ages 19 and 22, I hardly saw him. I found his condition, the squallor he lived in and alcoholism too much to deal with at that age. So I stayed away from him.
When my aunt (my mother's sister) died in October of 1996, I left Trinidad, and although I went to see him before I left, he was not there, and so I left Trinidad without saying goodbye.
I went back a few times after that. When my oldest girlfriend's Eze's mother died, I think was when a hesitant rebuilding of this lost relationship between my father and I began to rebuild.
I was only there for Auntie Betty's funeral, so a couple of days at most. Eze and I went out to a fete the night before I left... something about reaffirming life... and I was getting on the plane at 5am. It's 1997, my father is in his mid 50s, I am in my mid 20s, we have spent a lifetime apart and suffered and struggled with the missing of each other.
I knock on his door, something like 3am to tell him I am leaving. He tells me to come in and sit down, and for the first time ever, he apologises to me for the mistakes he made and the hurt he caused me.
He tells me for the first time, of the pain he went through in losing me, his only daughter among four boys. He tells me of the darkness of his days after we parted, his depression and how he let it get the better of him.
He tells me about the struggle to define himself and the pain of his own childhood, and how he would be forever sorry for all the pain he had caused.
I was shocked. And my heart melted in my chest. With minutes to go before I left the island to return to Barbados, he gave me one of the biggest books I had ever seen... a beautiful, yet moth and bookworm eaten picture book of Africa, two by three feet long and high. One of the most beautiful books I've ever owned.
In fact, that night began a tradition of him thrusting books in my hand. Always some gem, a book of Rumi's poetry, the works of Khalil Gibran, treatise of African history, a book on editing newspapers.
I left Trinidad that time, thinking how amazing it was that just when you have made peace with your parents being wounded beyond repair, and accept that you must accept them for the selfish assholes they can be, they can surprise you.
Mind you, all did not forever go well with us. I went back a few times, after, he always pushed a book in my hands and offered me a little chat here and there, but after that our relatonship stalled again... found a comfort level and stayed there.
We accepted that there was love and regard between us, but in my father's case I scared him, because I was no longer a little girl and saw with the eyes of a woman, saw all his faults and errings; I was mistrustful because at this point my father was still drinking heavily and although he was intellectually brilliant, and spiritually powerful, he chose to live like a pauper and he was unpredicatable when he drank. We were wary with each other, although by now I realised I was his favourite child, the one he adored and my brothers all knew it. I was in awe of his intellectual grasp of the world and things, and even in this state, I could glimpse the power he had as a young man when he was vigorous, and the power still in him.
What broke this kind of emotional impasse between us was my journey towards Orisa as a way of life.
In June of 2002, he took me meet Big Mama K, who in turn, managed along with her cronies and the woman I eventually began to call Iya (mother) to pull me slowly away from my father.
So when my practise in in Orisa should have been guided by him, they took over and charlatans that they were, put themselves forward as being more knowledgeable and honourable than my father, and that my father was lost. Maybe I was wrong, but I believed them with my eyes, instead of listening to my heart.
Baba Erin--long time readers will have heard the name before--paid my father the great disrespect of directing me to place a shrine for my ancestors in the yard of my father's house with absolutely no input or approval from my father.
One day, some months later, after I gave my father some hard words because he had come in drunk from some lime, and afer I left the house with my brother (my mother's son and the one I cuss the most about) my father destroyed that shrine.
He shattered the cup I fed the Egun with, shattered all the candles in their glasses... irrevocable destroyed it.
When I went the next morning to feed my Ancestors, I was horrified by the destruction, and only my father could understand how much it hurt me. Unfortunately, it did what the Charlatans wanted, and within a few weeks, I had moved out of my father's house and moved quite a distance away and during the year I was living away from him, I saw my father maybe once or twice, in stiff discomfort, while these people attempted to firm up their grip on me.
As we all know how the story went, by October of last year, my doubts about these people began to grow and by the end of January this year, I left the ile and entered a period of spiritual crisis. It was, as I have written in here before, through Eze's contact with a friend who led me to Mother Joan, and my own contacts who facilitated my visit to Astra in Barbados, that I began to make the long road towards healing.
By June of this year, when I had to give up my apartment and prepare to leave Trinidad, it is right there to my father's house that I returned.
He took me to see Uncle Henry, one of the offical 'Bad Men' in the Orisa tradition in Trinidad. He and my father have been friends for about 40 years, and grew in the Orisa traditon together, drummed for Orisa together and most improtantly share a shrine together. They are two of the men (among a few as I understand it), elders in the tradition, who spurn the Orisa community that's developing in Trinidad.
They are both scornful of the reasons why people like Baba Erin are doing the things they are doing, and wary of these 'priests' and 'priestesses' who are springing up here and there and claiming to be about spiritual work, when the lining of their own pockets is truly what is more important to them.
It was then that I truly began to understand, that spiritual wealth is not measured in house and land, but by the motivation of the spirit. To do something for someone and keep them in your mind, to resent having to do anything for anyone and be put out by their need, is not truly giving. Better to say no in front, and keep your spirit whole. To do it and hold resentment against the person you help, is not truly giving. God sees all, sees everything and does not sleep.
Between my father and Uncle Henry, this is how the last of the spiritual work I needed to do to free myself from the negativity that had been dogging my steps since arriving in Trinidad took place. I owe my release to them and Mother Joan.
Most importantly, this is how my father and I healed the breach: We put down a new, sturdy, beautiful shrine for Egun in almost the same spot the last one was.
It is protected from the elements, a beautiful white, made of bricks, wood and concrete. I paid for all the materials, and my father built it with his own hands. I got everything needed to decorate it, and the Friday before I left Trinidad, Daddy invited some of the most prominent Orisa drummers in Western Trinidad to our house to install it. We cooked a big pot of food, and made coffee, and did what needed to be done, amongst singing, drumming and prayers. Uncle Henry directed most of it, and Daddy guided the rest.
Se le ku,
fun wa o lu wa
Se le ku,
Fun wa o
I wa loni wa
Ma se ta wa nu
Se le ku,
Fun wa o
Tule Damare L'ase
A wa o soro
We called all out Ancestors names... going back, back, back, back...
Tutu Egun Mi
Tutu Bobo Egun Ara Orun Tiembelese Oludumare
Mojuba Olofi Ayie
Mojuba Ibae Egun Gbogbo Egun Ibae
Mojuba Gbogbo Orisa
Mojuba Baba Alagba Osin Ati Olosin Egbe Egungun Mi
Mojuba Iya Tobi Mi
Mojuba Baba Tobi Mi
Ki Nkan Ma Se
Ki Nkan Ma Se
Kosi Ko Iku Ojoji
Ase, Ase, Ase!
(this was my daily prayer for several months when I prayed in the mornings.)
and made peace between us.
Two days later I left Trinidad.
Since I've been here, like I said at the beginning of this, I've written to my father three or four times, but I hadn't heard anything back.
Well this morning, as I made my way to the kitche to make my coffee, a letter was waiting for me.
The back flap of the envelope I had sent had been ripped off and scotch taped to the front of the envolope, and my father's loping script across the top, spelling my name the right way: N'Delamiko.
Here is what he wrote:
17TH OCT. 2004
I WAS VERY PLEASED TO HEAR FROM YOU, AND KNOW THAT YOU ARE WELL. I AM AS BEST AS CAN BE EXPECTED, TRYING TO STICK WITH MY DIET TO CONTROL MY DIABETES.
I TAKE CARE OF THE STOOL [SHRINE] RELIGIOUSLY AND PLACE OFFERINGS EVERY DAY SO NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THAT.
I HOPE YOU GET SOME KIND OF JOB SOON BECAUSE WITH WINTER COMING YOU WILL NEED WINTER CLOTHES, SO I AM KEEPING MY FINGERS CROSSED AND PRAYING FOR YOUR SUCCESS IN ALL YOU ENDEAVOUR.
P.S. LOTS OF KISSES CHILD, AND ONE BIG, B I G HUG.
(So I turn over the single sheet of paper...)
PLEASE PRINT YOUR ADDRESS MORE PLAINLY WITHOUT SO MANY LOOPS AND CURLICUES. I FIND DIFFICULTY IN READING YOUR SCRIPT.
I burst into tears, because 1) all was well... he was well and the shrine was well and 2) the two dreams earlier this week, suddenly made perfect sense.
"Mojuba!" I whispered fiercely, alone in the house as my cousin has been MIA since Thursday night.
It is good for my father to take care of that shrine... he needed some deeper connection with his faith, some kind of daily ritualised practice and I'm glad he could get that through me, because it's really my shrine, he's just taking care of it for me. It's a kind fo attonment for him, and I think we both understand that.
In addition to that, his work is helping me here in England. I am certain it's why I've never gone hungry, and despite discomfort, I have not physically suffered. Also, I'm sure it's through his work that Egun is helping me to find a job.
Also, I can no longer doubt the power of my dreams. My dreams come true, speak the truth and guide me. I can no longer doubt that my dreams are prophetic, or that my Egun (Ancestors) are talking to me, showing me what is what.
I also marvel at how the relationship between myself and my father and the relationship between myself and my mother, and how could both have healed years long open breaches almost at the same time. Oludumare is GOOD! Ancestors are working in the lives of my immediate family and I am truly grateful! Mojuba! Modupe!
I had reached a point of completely giving up on both of them, not willing to fight the damage they both suffered at the hands of their families (and let me tell you now, I DISOWN BOTH MY MOTHER'S AND MY FATHER'S FAMILIES!) and yet, when I pleaded with them both to not allow that pain and hurt to pass down to my children, they heard me.
This letter this morning was the best possible message I could have gotten.
Through my father's regular work in the shrine we put down together, my shrine, his shrine, my Ancestors are taking care of me. Ase! Ase! Ase!
Those were those people in the in the courtyard of the dream, and in the dining hall.
Also, our relationship is reaching a new level, healed and healing still, that's what the singing together was about, and the little girl (me) coming in to laugh and play with him was about.
See, nothing is hopeless...
Allyuh may not have known this, but I’ve written to my father about two or three times since I’ve been in England without a reply–well, that is, until this morning.
Maybe I was worried. Worried about him, worried about the shrine for Egun we installed just days before I left Trinidad, and whether he would take care of it like he promised (my father is not known for constancy). I was worried about his health, he has diabetes now in his old age. Worried about how he was getting on.
You think this is just the normal concerns, but really it’s a little more than that.
I am a Daddy’s girl. I always was. However, my life has been mostly spent with my father absent. I don’t think I have the energy to rehash the drama of my childhood and adolescence, but let me just say that my father has been there in spirit and not there in flesh during my life.
My father and I never really went to battle with each other, but we’ve spent at least this lifetime with long silences passing between us. Some of those silences were due to my parents separation and subsequent divorce. Then when I got older, and moved back to Trinidad, I learned to mistrust my father and his behaviour.
He saw me the way I was when he saw me last, a clutching little girl who only wanted her Daddy to stay with her, and who he left behind anyway. Guilt, confusion as to who the woman was in front of him, alcoholism and drug abuse, both played a part in stiffling any real reconciliation between us once I finally went back to Trinidad as a teenager.