Happy Father’s Day to all the dads around the world!
Compared to Jabu, Thabo, Simba, and Eric, his four close friends, Themba now 17 years old and a year wiser than all of them had the most troubled and challenged upbringing. For a number of years, though he lived with his father in the same house, he was emotionally and mentally absent.
Each time his friends started talking about their dads, the time spent together, the wisdom they have imparted on them, including all the other wonderful things they were doing for them, Themba would suddenly wish he lived in a hole alone, on another planet no one else could ever find him.
Because of his father’s antics at home, work, and in the community, Themba became a target of ridicule and shame both at school and in the neighborhood from other kids and lost his self-esteem. Repeatedly, they taunted him chanting, “Like father like son” “You’re a joke like your old man”.
Mandla, the man who was supposed to be a source of love, friendship, wisdom, knowledge, support, inspiration, security, and a perfect role model for living a purposeful life in Themba’s life, unfortunately, failed in fulfilling his fatherly role.
Thus, Themba has always been ashamed of his father. As far as he is concerned, everything that has gone wrong in his life is because of his uncaring father.
For years he harboured resentment, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness that at one point drove him into depression until John, his basketball coach and a father of three, seemingly became the perfect angel sent from heaven.
Since that time, John has become the father Themba thought he never had, held his hand as he sought healing from past hurts and pain, including helping him navigate this journey of life.
So, how did it all go wrong for Mandla? Folks who have known him since his days of university say he was never like this. They are in fact greatly surprised that such a promising life has been wasted at the expense of alcohol addiction.
Immediately after graduating from university, Mandla secured a role as an entry level marketing specialist at B&B Plastics, a plastic injection molding company.
Within a year of working at B&B Plastics, his stellar performance and leadership abilities caught the eyes of his superiors and he was quickly promoted to the role of a Marketing Manager.
As years followed by, Mandla enjoyed the fruits of his sweat first as a bachelor and then as a husband.
Deciding to settle down at the age of 26, he married his university sweetheart, Suzy, who two years into their marriage gave birth to their first son Themba.
Initially, Mandla did well providing for his young family, teaching his children right and wrong, and became an exemplary family leader, husband, father, and community citizen.
But he had two major weaknesses that spiralled his downfall.
One, he adored finer material things, and it never crossed his mind to save for a rainy day. Whatever he earned, he spent it all. Not a wince did Mandla ever think about tomorrow.
Two, he had an insatiable penchant for expensive whiskey and cigars, sometimes showing up at work his breath rancid with nicotine and alcohol.
Since he was a star performer at work, his superiors often turned a blind eye in favor of profits.
Unfortunately, a prolonged economic downturn happened resulting in many business casualties. B&B Plastics was not spared, the once prosperous business disappeared overnight leaving Mandla with no recurring income but an expectant wife, pregnant with their second child. Themba was almost 6 years at the time.
Full of pride, Mandla was never a man to ask of help from anyone else. Inwardly hurting from losing his high-paying job, he was not the man to go about telling his wife or friends that he is in pain. To him, showing pain or vulnerability was a sign of weakness; the only worth demonstrating was strength.
The toil of searching for a new job amidst an economic crush overwhelmed Mandla, eventually driving him to find solace and peace in the bottle.
From sunrise to sunset, he was drinking non-stop. At one time, he got so drunk that he peed in his pants and became the neighborhood’s laughingstock. His neighbors often wondered how he always had money for alcohol but none to provide for his family.
The more Mandla drank, the further away he distanced himself from his family and Themba. No longer was he supportive of his extracurricular activities or just spending quality time for a father and son heart-to-heart talk.
Instead, he easily lost his temper and was now constantly involved in brawls at the local bars. At home, he unnecessarily raised his voice towards his wife and children.
He also begged neighbors and passers-by for money, to buy alcohol, at times embarrassing his family when the creditors came knocking at his wife’s door because he never paid back. Hence Themba regarded him lazy and improvident.
It’s been years since the economy has turned a tide. Today, Mandla is working as a shop assistant at an auto parts and supplies shop. Although some parts of society consider him a grown-up failure, he is still pushing on to repair broken bridges.
Jabu, has played a big role supporting his best friend beat his alcohol addiction.
The once broken relationship with his children is slowly getting repaired. Mandla is spending time with Themba, and they have gone to watch a couple of football games together. Suzy has stood by Mandla’s side all these years and according to Mandla, he will forever be grateful of his wife.
Dads all over the world, as you celebrate Father’s Day today, remember not to embitter your children or they will become discouraged.
No matter what life has thrown at you, don’t give up. Keep on fighting and set a good example for your children.
It’s never too late to become a better father. Start now, start today.