Papa

You all probably hold special places in your hearts for your fathers, dads, daddies, babas, or papas. Some dads still live while others have sadly passed away to a world unknown to us, but today we honor them all.

My beautiful dad (in the chair) and his older brother Lokelim

My dad was a very special man indeed!

My dad did not exactly know when he was born. This is not uncommon when you are born to illiterate parents in some deep village that had no access to hospitals, schools, or any other meaningful infrastructure for that matter. The only way a parent knew when a child was born was to think of an event that might have occurred during the time of birth. For instance, parents remembered a good harvest, a famine, a flood, a drought, a bloody tribal raid that claimed a loved one, or an invasion of locusts. It could be a sensational event like an eclipse!  Oh yes, “that moment when darkness abruptly takes over daylight,” my mum once told me. With that knowledge in mind, a parent then notes such a year and records it as a child’s birthday. (No one paid much attention to months – too much to remember, I suppose.)

My dad’s birthday was recorded as the year 1948, which would have made him 72 years old today, although my guess is that he was probably born around the year 1944 – 45, making him 75years old. (Still close.) Dad was the third of three brothers: Kapel Lokelim, Kapel Ngiro Gabriel, and Kapel Dedeng Paul. All the three brothers were so tall, with my dad at roughly 6.2ft, while his brothers at 6.4ft or more. Lokelim and Ngiro were not only tall, they were gigantic with more muscle on them than my slim dad.

I am sorry for the blurriness and low quality picture, it is the only one I have. On the left is Lokelim, middle is Dedeng, (dad) center is my older sister Jacqueline, second right is Ngiro, and far right is my aunty Betty. Aren’t the brothers so tall?

Dad’s family like many other families at the time were pastaralists who although had a permanent homestead, the men, husbands, and sons seasonally moved from place to place in search of grass and water for their cows, goats, and sheep. Being the youngest son, dad’s brothers made him look after the herd most of the time, while they took care of some other unknown errand, or simply napped under a tree. (This is a common sight in Karamoja.)

When he was left alone with the animals, my young dad would curiously venture into the only “school” in the village. School was a large compound under a big tree where a teacher gave lessons to his little naked boy pupils. Girls were never allowed to go to school, their place was home to help their mothers with chores such as grinding grain (sorghum) on a stone for dinner, fetching water from the well, hiking mountains in search of thorny bushes used to fence the homestead, weeding the gardens, looking after the little ones, and brewing alcohol for sale and home consumption. From a young age, a girl had to learn from her mother all the important chores that would make her a worthy wife and mother when she was of age. Even the boys who went to school at all were very few, reason being that they had to take care of cattle to support their families. Animals were essential and are still vital to my tribe. Everything depends on it: clothing, bedding, food, (milk, meat, and blood) and money. Money was used to buy medicine if the cows got sick, or it was used to pay the traditional doctor who treated everything from malaria, pregnancy complications, small pox, measles, you name it. These “doctors” made their patients drink herbs from select plants, (which worked most times, believe me) or the “doctor” made the patient wear some animal part, a bird’s claw, or a special bird feather to caste off evil spirits. (Not sure this worked, but it didn’t stop the doctor from administering it, or the patient from obliging.) In most cases though, the doctor preferred payment in form of a chicken, a goat, or better yet, a cow, depending on how sick one was.

If dad was lucky on one of those days he sneaked into school, he got served a cup of porridge – a tactic used by the school to lure children to “class.” But if luck had deserted him like it did on most occasions, his older brother Lokelim would come looking for him at school and drag my dad away, whipping him for neglecting the animals to wander off into somebody’s garden, or to get lost all together. Dad told my siblings and I a couple times that looking after cows was a miserable business; it meant he leave home at sunrise and return at sunset worn-out and starved. That when days were hot, he searched for a tree with good shade, but as soon as he made himself comfortable, the animals would have quickly gone a good distance. Goats especially were burdensome; unlike cows that took their time grazing, goats always seemed to be in a rush, racing away into the vast open land. In the rainy season which was usually characterized with blinding lightening, maddening thunderstorms, and torrential downpours, my dad sought shelter under a cow. Yes he did!

Lokelim

Dad was so lucky he happened to have an uncle, Lokwang Chaudry, who was miraculously not only a member of parliament (MP) for Dodoth (dad’s county), but who later became a Minister for Karamoja Affairs. I honestly still can’t fathom how a man from one of the remotest regions in the country could against all odds not only get a good education, but end up becoming a cabinet minister in the Obote I and Obote II regimes of 1962 -71. Anyway, on one of his routinely visits home, he heard of how dad had caused all sorts of problems for his family by insisting on going to school, and that no amount of whippings had deterred him. By now, dad was in his late teens when the minister who had one other sibling, Nangiro Margaret, decided to take my dad back with him. He first enrolled dad to a primary school in Moroto District, Kazimeri Primary School (which both my sister Jacqueline and I would later attend) then ultimately took him to Kampala city where he enrolled my dad in one of the most prestigious schools at the time, Kololo High School. This school was modeled on a British style curriculum; in fact, my dad was one of the very few black students amidst white and mostly Indians. Dad went on to finish high school, meet my dear mum, get a plush job as District Commissioner, Moroto District, and between them have six children.

Toper ejok papa (Goodnight dad.)

 To be continued …

Published by Msdedeng

At 41, I am still figuring out life: my place in society, my career path, a family of my own, any many others things. Heck, I am still trying to make friends in California; a place I moved to 3 years ago. I am currently in a Community College to make up for the many years I missed school while in Africa (Uganda). I intend to transfer to university next year and double major in History and English. I lead a very ordinary life; a normal day is spent doing school assignments, hiking, or reading. My favorite thing to do is walk! Short walks or long walks it does not matter. Walking allows me to think about things - anything! My love of walking comes from where I grew up, a small village in northeastern Uganda. It is still one of the most remotest areas I will ever know, and couldn't even start comparing what life is like there to say a place like California. Walking was all I did while growing up! I walked for miles to school, to church, to the shops, to the borehole to fetch water, and to the market. It was quite an adventure unlike any other - so you now understand my love for walking.

43 thoughts on “Papa

  1. Thank you Msdedeng for sharing your lovely but heart rending story in tribute to your father. Although a different country & situation I could identify with it in relation to my parent’s journey from rural Ireland.
    Today is Father’s Day here also. My lovely, kind father passed away in 1975 long before Fathers’ Day was celebrated here in U.K and we have never really celebrated it.
    Today my brother and I are repeating part of a walk we did last Sunday around the area where I was born and where we lived until I was one years old. My brother is four years older than me so never lived there.
    We will do the walk in his honour today.
    Happy Fathers’ Day 🙏❤️💁🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww, Happy Father’s Day to you and your brother. I had no idea that father’s day was a new thing in the UK. 1975 is so recent! Well, do enjoy your walk and remember him. Have a wonderful day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 45 years ago wow, a lifetime. Mum was a widow for 40 years. I am 65 years in July and was 19 years old when dad died & my brother was 14 years old .
        We had a short walk but the rain came on heavy and we came home, still it was a change. 💦💧

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No Msdedeng, mum passed away on 20th August 2015 r.i.p aged 91 years. If she had lived till 25th August she would have been 92years. Kept on knitting to the end 🙏and I miss her dearly.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes Msdedeng, just had a thought about this in relation to her own mother who passed away aged 41 years r.i.p and events in mum’s life at the same age. Thank you so much for allowing me access to that reflection. Your comments are always inspiring ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That is a great insight of how incredible he was, ordinary with extra ordinary determination to make things always look easy in his own ways. Great indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You have such good beautiful memories and history. Yes, remember when he could call you “kadindiri” someone tiny especially tiny and tall. He Loved all of us. May his soul RIP.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am so happy you found my blog as I am ecstatic to find yours. I love, love, love your story. It was how it was at those times but still we persevere. The pictures are beautiful and yes they were some tall men.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My father passed away in 2011. i miss him every day.
    When i think of him i’m sad – but i also smile because we had so many happy moments together – my dear dad, my little sister and my dear mum.
    It is wonderful to keep this beautiful memories deep in my heart.
    Angela, I love your story so much, and I love your blog.
    Great indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Rosie, I truly feel for you, so much loss you have suffered already, but I like how you hold on to them through your memories of them. Thank you for appreciating my story, writing it was a way to spend time with my dad again. Thank you for reading it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Angela, i love your loving thoughts so much. They tell me about your deep love for your father and your family.
        Yes, the family and home is a wonderful place. This is something that you keep in your heart forever. ❤ ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. What a lovely story about your father! My father was wonderful too. He had a completely different life from yours growing up in Australia but I loved him just as you love your father and miss him every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Debra, thank you for your lovely comment and telling me a little about your father. I am sure you could write a book professing your love for him, because I believe we all have lovely stories to tell of our parents. 🙂

      Like

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