Kedu thought about how, in the Bible, Absalom hated David, and wondered whether his hatred for his father, Sampson, equaled that of Absalom. He knew how Absalom noticed that David was getting old and wanted to take by force that which belonged to David – the kingdom. In that epic father and son confrontation, Absalom drew a spear to slay David, but the wrinkly old man proved to be stronger than he looked.
As Kedu thought about the David and Absalom saga, his heart shook a little. Would his hatred for his father end in the same manner, he wondered? Sometimes Kedu was thankful that his contempt for his father did not rise to that of Absalom. At other times he wished his hatred for his father surpassed that of Absalom.
At age thirty, when Kedu looked back, he wondered why he hated his father so much. Unlike David, his father was not a king, and he did not stand to take over a kingdom. So what could account for this contempt? Time and again, Kedu searched the events of his upbringing. Memories of his childhood were blurred, like the village fog where he grew up. For countless nights, he visited the events of the past. Suddenly they appeared more visible and believable.
One particular moment stood out. He remembered that it was just after the rooster had crowed, and a man had yelled in his right ear. “No one has swept the front yard! Get off the bed, walk your lazy bones downstairs, pick up a broom and sweep the yard, wall to wall. To be a useful man in the future,” the voice continued, “a boy must be up early to begin chores. That was how I grew up to acquire success, to build ten four-story buildings in Lagos and Ibadan, as well as gain respect among the men and women of the village.”
Sampson wanted to teach Kedu the same life lesson that his father had taught him when he was a boy. Without these early life drills, he would not have been able to afford to marry Agnes, also called “the beautiful bracelet one wears over the wrist,” he told his children. Life lessons have to be taught early, especially to the first son, who would step in his father’s shoes to maintain family legacy.
Meanwhile, Kedu had a different interpretation of that early-morning encounter. Jolted from sleep by his father, Kedu, who had turned six years a couple of days earlier, took the side stair next to his room down to the ground floor. Leaning against a corner wall were two tied-up dry palm fronds (Akpata). He retrieved them, walked out into the front yard and began to sweep left and right. From that day on, Kedu hated Sampson more than Absalom hated David.
As he swept, the image of his father came in and out of his mind. “So mean of him to jolt me awake,” Kedu thought. That couldn’t be love. “Father hated me since I was a baby,” Kedu said silently. It pained him that Sampson did not also wake up his little sister, Ngozi, who was five, or his younger brothers Dave and Dan (twins), four years of age. They could hold palm fronds and sweep as well. He had seen them use the palm fronds when playing at cleaning the compound.
Kedu would rather begin his morning chores by playing soccer, alone or with the early birds if none of the other village boys cared to join him. Soccer was what he loved to do, and he believed, despite his father’s disapproval, that soccer held the key to his future. With time, Kedu hoped to prove his father wrong.
“All I am trying to do,” the father swore in his heart, “is to teach the young man the true life’s lessons of hard work.” Every time Sampson wanted to sit Kedu down and explain his intention, he had changed his mind at the last minute. Who in their senses would explain such things to a child? An explanation would confuse him more. “A future will come someday,” said Sampson to Kedu in his mind, “when you will look back and thank me for waking you up early to sweep the compound with a dry palm frond.”
Many years went by, and as father and son continued to suspect and analyze each other’s past intentions, their relationship broke one strand at a time. Hidden emotions inside their hearts continued to expand like a balloon. Their mental health began to suffer, resulting in a sickness traceable to a misunderstanding which happened early in childhood (Stern, 1998).
At a visit to a medical practitioner, the psychoanalyst helped Kedu remember his presumed traumatic childhood experiences and encouraged him to talk openly about them. After he had unburdened his memory he felt better. The hatred he had for Sampson began to disappear.
Stern, D. N. (1998). Diary of a Baby: What Your Child Sees, Feels, and Experiences. Basic Books.