“I just received the email where tributes are supposed to be sent. Would you write a tribute?”
“Sure, if you want me to.”
My adopted dad has died and I’m supposed to write a tribute. If there is anyone who would hate this, it’s him. He always said tributes were too performative. He said it was better to tell a person how you felt about them while they were still alive, something about tributes made him feel like it was a contest where people showed off how close they were to the dead person.
That’s who Maman wants me to write a tribute for? Fuck!
So, I started working on this tribute like I start any other writing assignment. Good ol’ Google. I typed, “How to write a tribute…”
Ever efficient, Google showed me thousands of options and I spent over an hour reading dad tributes. I highly recommend you never try it. Doctore deserves something straight from my heart. (contrary to popular opinion, I do have a heart.)
First all, a backstory.
The first time we met him, I was hesitant to let him in. It’s the reservation every firstborn has when their mother has been single for a while. Doctore had a good vibe but I didn’t trust my sensors anymore. Once bitten, twice shy.
I’ll start with why I call him Doctore. There is no big deep meaning. If you’ve seen Spartacus, you know who Doctore is. For those of you who haven’t seen the TV show, he was the guy who trained and patched the gladiators’ injuries after they survived the arena fights. That’s what he did to us, he patched us up. My mom, my sister and I.
I can’t speak to his relationship with my mother or sister. Life had dealt us the same cards but we reacted differently. I became numb. People in my life would say, nonchalant but I think I became numb. That’s why when he came into our lives, I was hesitant. He had a really good vibe and that scared the shit out of me.
I wanted a dad. I had a father but I wanted a dad. I wanted what I saw in the movies. I craved the father-daughter relationship I read about in books. I wanted the bond I shared with my father from the age of 0 to 5 years. At the age of 20, Doctore turned up.
He turned up and stayed. He didn’t try to be a dad. We talked, we shared experiences, he opened us up to his passions and interests, and we created new traditions. One time, he sent his driver to drop white envelopes for my sister and I. Our names were on the front, when we opened the flaps, it had “Cinema Allowance” on it. That day, I told my mum, he’s THE ONE!
When I received the news of my father’s death, I was 22. Doctore was there. As he held me, I willed tears to come but they remained stubborn. Doctore told me the best time to ask for ice cream was when a loved one passed because no one would say no. (This is very true BTW) It’s one of the things we had in common, a dark sense of humour.
He didn’t try to be a dad. He turned just up and stayed. Whenever I had a problem, he never tried to analyze, it’s like he always knew I had the answer inside me so all he did was coax it out by listening to me. You always got the sense that everything was okay when he was around.
I remember the time I woke up with indescribable pains in my tummy and I called him crying and telling him to promise he would take care of my mum and sister. I legit thought I was going to die. When he arrived, he asked a couple of questions, and pressed my tummy and said,” you need to drink peppermint tea and lay on your tummy, it’s just gas.” Now, I’m paranoid about holding in farts. You should be too.
Doctore was terrible at gifting. I don’t know how he found his way into the lives of three ladies whose love language was, gifts. He once travelled to the UK and got us bathing sponges. My mum and sister were so pissed, they couldn’t put it in words. So, I started sending him pictures of exactly what we wanted to make it easy for him. Another time, he started the yearly Talent Enhancement Gift Programme so he could buy us things that would mean more to us. Some of my gifts included; journals, fancy pens, a camcorder, a camera, a voice recorder. He didn’t try to be a dad. He turned up and stayed.
If I keep remembering stories, the tears will come and I’ve been given a deadline to write the tribute, so here goes…
Everyone here will have their own special memories of Doctor, either as a husband, father, brother or as your grandfather, Uncle, friend. To us all, he was a great man. For my mother and sister, he was, above all, a kind, caring and gentle presence. He was thoughtful and honest…a man of strong principles. For me, he was Doctore, my beacon.
Doctore enjoyed simple pleasures. A shared smile with Mum; a WhatsApp video of a dancing dog; a new meal I created out of thin air. A good plate of salad. Oh, how he loved his salads. A cold bottle of Star. Us, telling him about our day. Games, especially trivia games. A large slice of pizza with a cold coke. A drive around Lagos with no destination in mind. Good music. He found it easy to smile and taught us how to appreciate the small things.
He always seemed to have time. Not for him the hurried tearing open of a birthday present. The label would be carefully inspected. If this was handwritten it would often give as much pleasure as the gift itself. He would surgically remove the wrapping paper with a sharp knife, pausing along the way to wonder what was in the package. When the contents became clear there was always great satisfaction.
We will sorely miss his consistent, sympathetic support and encouragement. He was a good listener when he needed to be and had a true gift for communicating…and he used it well! Actually, he loved talking to everyone he met and would talk to anyone. It didn’t matter who they were, it made no difference to him. Everyone was treated with the same respect.
We all benefited from his many words of wisdom. His positive outlook, unending patience and ever-willingness to help meant that a solution was never far away. His example has set a high standard for us to live up to. His values and principles will continue through us all.
For that, we are all eternally thankful. Sleep well, Doctore.