Tag: dad

300: A Man, a Horse, and a Missionary Woman

 

The events related here took place a little over seventy years ago. They tell the story of a man and his horse. Together. Alone in the bush. The man, very ill. And afraid. The horse, very tired. He was probably afraid, too. And they tell the story of the extraordinarily brave woman who saved them both.

Some of you will recognize it as the récit d’enfance of Gagara Yasin, at the time a 29-year-old newly-minted colonial officer, the “lowest form of animal life” in the British administration of Sokoto Province in Northern Nigeria. He’d arrived in country the previous Spring, and had spent several months learning the ropes while his resolve, and his ability to think on his feet, were tested on a few small assignments (collecting the cattle tax from the nomadic Fulani farmers, investigating a case of witchcraft in Giro, delivering a baby in Bakin Turu). Finally, he was set (somewhat) free on his own, as a “Touring Officer,” a sort of roving junior Justice of the Peace, in and around Yelwa.

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Quote of the Day: Fear God. Honor the King.

 

When my father, who was quite a colorful character, died in 2007, he was the subject of several obituaries in the UK. This one, from the local newspaper, is my favorite because it’s the most personal and tells the most stories. Most of them referred to a verse from 1 Peter 2:17, which Dad, who considered himself an old-fashioned High Tory, was fond of quoting: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the King.”

Dad had a vast reservoir of sayings and quotations that could serve as a road map to his life. When one apposite to a particular occasion didn’t spring into his mind, I have a strong suspicion he simply made one up (you couldn’t tell). And over the source of an eventful life, he even became the subject of a few himself. A great many of Dad’s favorite touchstones are not suitable for rendition here, but all of them–including his regimental motto, Loyauté M’Oblige and the mock-Latin “illegitimi non carborundum”–speak to his sense of honor, his sense of self, his sense of purpose, his determination, and his sense that he was put on this earth to serve others besides himself.

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Carpe Diem!

 

I was very lucky for my first 54 years to find myself in the orbit of a man who lived life with more zeal than anyone I’ve ever known. Those of you who’ve read some of my posts will probably guess I’m speaking of my Dad, and you’re right! Please bear with me while I recount, in short form, some stories, a few of which I’ve told here before, that explain what I mean:

He was born on March 6, 1919, the fifth of six boisterous and energetic children, in Birmingham, England. Although not considered “intellectually gifted,” he was very bright and threw himself into his studies (the ones that interested him, at least) with gusto. One of his interests was play-acting, and he memorized yards and yards of Shakespeare, as he appeared at first in bit-roles, and then as major characters in school productions. But his pièce de résistance was his role as the Pirate King in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. At some point during his “I am a Pirate King” song, he flung his cloak open with great abandon, knocking all the footlights into the orchestra pit, injuring several musicians, and bringing down the curtain for the performance.

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But Always As Friends

 

My Nigeria, the one that died on January 15, 1966, celebrated its independence from British rule 58 years ago today, on October 1, 1960. I was six years old. We stayed in country for another three years, with Dad working for the Nigerian government, charged with cleaning up tribal rivalries and corruption in the ancient Emirate of Kano.

You may never have heard of the ancient walled city of Kano. If it’s at all familiar to you, it’s probably because it was featured in one of the first news stories in which the use of underage and intellectually compromised female suicide bombers came to the attention of the Western world, as they blew themselves, and dozens of others, up in Kano Market.

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The King’s Shilling

 

The events recounted below are true, and took place in Sokoto, Northern Nigeria, in the Summer of 1947. The author was a young, newly arrived, civil servant in the British Colonial Service, recently separated from active duty in Italy and North Africa as a Major in the British Army. The gentleman in the photo to the right is a former slave, and the iron rings he is holding were his manacles. The term “The King’s Shilling” is used facetiously in this story: it is generally used to refer to the payment of one shilling to military recruits (and sometimes reluctant ones) in the United Kingdom between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries.

One morning Mallam Muhammadu Azare presented himself and announced that a girl was outside urgently asking to see me, as she was anxious to be officially manumitted from slavery. I must confess that at first I thought he was pulling my leg! Recourse to the legal books on the office shelf and a somewhat more careful inquiry of my mentor, convinced me, however, that this was not the case.

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To Dad on Father’s Day

 

Every Father’s Day for the last 40-odd years (ever since I moved out of the house) I would call my dad on Father’s Day and wish him a happy Father’s Day; even when we both still lived in Ann Arbor and I was going over later in the day to see him. Over the last few years he would try to call me first to wish me a happy Father’s Day; ater all, I had three sons, and dad thought I had done a great job raising them. We might chat a while about how things were going, especially in the 1980s and early 1990s when I was in Texas and he was in Michigan and long distance charges were a thing.

Since 2002, when I moved back to the Houston area from Palestine, TX and cell phones and national plans made long-distance charges obsolete, I called him every Saturday morning and we reviewed the events of the week. Not the big national events. The small ones in our lives and the lives of our family.

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Quote of the Day: Days to Go

 

“Four-hundred thirty-five days to go.” — My Dad

Today is my father’s birthday.

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Haven’t Got a Gift for Dad Yet? Here’s What Not to Get:

 

The Man Hanger: This is a clothes-hanger… but for men. It’s “Bent by hand from industrial-grade rebar,” and costs $25 per hanger. For those emergencies where Dad finds his “manly attire too much for wimpy regular hangers.” Yes, some regular hangers are wimpy. Others are not and will take up less space in your closet than rebar. And they don’t cost $25 a pop. If Dad is planning to hang a side of beef in the closet, he might appreciate a rebar hanger for Father’s Day. But otherwise, all this gift tells Dad is that he failed to teach you the value of a buck.

$200 Smart Socks with Matching Anklet: Yes, smart socks are a thing. The most annoying thing you’ll ever own, given the tendency of socks to file for divorce in the laundry. Many women have trouble keeping their socks from divorcing, and not to gender stereotype or anything, but men are usually worse at this than women. In all likelihood, all a gift of “smart socks” does is waste a serious chunk of change on annoying the “lucky” father who receives them. Now you’ve gone beyond, “Dad didn’t teach me the value of a buck” to “Annoying Daddy is worth at least 200 bucks to me.”

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Member Post

 

As I was growing up, my father had many sayings. I doubt many were original to him, yet they were part of my childhood. Some I am remembering off hand are: More

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Member Post

 

Updates to my previous conversations: Dad: home since mid-June, he’s doing well. I think he’s had a wake-up call, and realizes ‘cheating’ on food by mouth can’t happen anymore. We celebrated his 83rd birthday 8/2. He had cataract surgery 8/4 on his right eye, and it’s now 20/30 vision. His left eye gets done 8/18, […]

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Warning: please don’t read if you have queasy stomachs. At the hospital: Dad going to ICU after having stomach pumped out (has achalasia) and new feeding tube put in, aspirant pneumonia distinct possibility, called family, sitting in parking lot trying to face eating lunch (still diabetic), sister can’t get in touch with her husband. Fine […]

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