Mercy averted her gaze, feeling a mix of emotions as her father wheeled himself into the sitting room. A sense of unease settled upon her, causing beads of sweat to form on her forehead.
She found solace in fixating her eyes on her brown suede boots, avoiding direct eye contact with him. This strained dynamic had persisted for the past two years, ever since the accident that had left him in a wheelchair.
Despite her attempt to shield herself from the reality of their changed circumstances, she couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable longing reflected in her father’s eyes.
The atmosphere in the room seemed heavy with unspoken words. Deep down, she knew that her father’s love had not faltered, despite all that had happened. Her apprehension in confronting the new reality was the problem.
As she continued to study her boots, memories raced through Mercy’s mind. He had always been her pillar of strength, her guiding light. Her heart ached at the thought of her father’s unfulfilled desires, the dreams he had been forced to set aside.
Taking a deep breath, Mercy lifted her gaze, meeting her father’s eyes. In that moment, she saw not only longing but also a glimmer of hope, a silent plea for understanding and connection.
“I can’t help but blame myself,” she started. “You were coming to watch me and…”
“Not your fault, my dear,” he countered. “That’s life, and I want you to take this burden off your shoulders.”
Mercy shook her head. “I cannot. It’s my fault.”
Just when he thought they had made progress. She had sunk back into the sea of guilt. A brief silence ensued as he racked his head to say the right words for he feared the wrong words would make her erect walls again.
“Is that why you have refused to participate in the public speaking competition?”
“I should have known Ambrose would come running to you,” Mercy replied. “Do you know why I loved public speaking?”
She had watched his shows on TV, the brilliant Nathan Dorgu, her father. On weekends, he would have spelling drills with her to see the new words she had learned during the week. There was a particular weekend he was away at work but found time to talk to her over the phone.
“So, what new word did you learn?” Nathan inquired, his voice brimming with curiosity.
“I am not sure,” Mercy hesitated, her tone laced with a hint of self-doubt.
“Why?” Nathan gently probed, encouraging her to share.
“It sounds weird, Dad, and I might bite my tongue while trying to pronounce it,” Mercy admitted, her words tinged with a touch of embarrassment.
A warm smile crept across Nathan’s face as he sensed his daughter’s unease. “Give it a try, my dear,” he encouraged, his voice filled with gentle reassurance.
Taking a deep breath, Mercy summoned her courage and spelled out the word, letter by letter. “S-E-S-Q-U-I-P-E-D-A-L-I-A-N.”
Nathan chuckled, unable to contain his amusement. “Oh?” he exclaimed, his laughter echoing through the phone. “So, what does it mean?”
With a mix of pride and trepidation, Mercy responded, her voice carrying the weight of the word’s significance. “It means a person who uses long words or tends to speak and write in a verbose manner.”
Nathan’s smile faded, he let go of that one sweet memory and focused on the present. “Because of me,” he replied.
Tears welled up in Mercy’s eyes as she nodded. “Yes, because of you,” she whispered. “I admired you so much, Dad. Your charisma, your eloquence… I wanted to be just like you. But now… I ruined it. I killed your dreams.”
He reached out and gently took her hand in his. “The day you were born was one of the most profound moments of my entire life,” he said warmly. “I held you, and I knew then I was ready to protect you with everything.” He cupped her face. “I would do the same if I had the chance to go back in time.”
His words made her cry even more, and she thought she would choke. She wished they had had this conversation two years ago. The weight on her shoulders began to lift, replaced by a newfound determination. She looked into his eyes, seeing the unwavering love and support he had always shown her. At that moment, she made a silent promise to herself and to him.
“We are going to make a pact,” she whispered. “I will participate in the competition on the condition that you will go for therapy. Mom said your doctor confirmed there is hope you might walk again.”
He chuckled. “You drive a hard bargain, Madam Speaker but I will take it.”
Ambrose smiled as he listened to his father and sister. I want to be just like you, he thought. “Please go for therapy. I miss the Saturday jogs with you.” He murmured.
“I am happy they got to talk. Getting stuck between them all has got to be the hardest thing ever.” A voice from behind replied.
Ambrose turned to look at his mom. “Am I in trouble for eavesdropping?” he asked, clasping his hands.
“It depends,” she smiled. “I know how long you have waited for your sister to patch things up with your dad, so I’ll let this slide.”
Nathan was ready to do anything to get her to dream again. He had put off trying therapy out of fear of being disappointed. As they sat there, the walls that had separated them began to crumble, replaced by a stronger bond forged through understanding, acceptance, and unwavering love.
The following days were a whirlwind of emotions and actions. Mercy threw herself into preparing for the public speaking competition, pouring her heart and soul into her chosen topic. Her father, Nathan, kept his end of the bargain and started attending therapy sessions, determined to regain his mobility.
Mercy stood nervously backstage, her heart pounding with anticipation. She glanced at her father, sitting in the audience with a proud smile on his face. It was the first time he had been able to attend one of her events since the accident. His presence filled her with a newfound sense of confidence and strength.
When her turn came, Mercy took a deep breath and stepped onto the stage. She spoke about the power of resilience, the importance of embracing change, and the strength that can be found in the face of adversity.
“I want to close by sharing a lesson I learned from a wise man: true strength is not measured by the absence of challenges, but by the way we rise above them.”
As Mercy finished her speech, the room erupted in applause. She looked out at her father, who was clapping proudly, his eyes filled with tears of his own. They had both taken a leap of faith, stepping outside their comfort zones to rebuild their connection.
After the competition, Mercy rushed off the stage and into her father’s embrace. Nathan whispered words of pride and love into her ear, assuring her that she had done more than just excel in the competition – she had reminded him of the strength and resilience they shared as a family.
In the weeks that followed, Nathan continued his therapy diligently, motivated by the progress he saw in Mercy. The physical limitations that had held him back began to fade as his determination grew stronger. With each step he took, he gained confidence and hope for the future.
Mercy, on the other hand, found solace in knowing that she had not only found her own voice but had also helped her father rediscover his. Together, they became a testament to the power of love, understanding, and the willingness to face life’s obstacles head-on.
Their journey was far from over, but they faced the future with newfound resilience and a shared determination to overcome any hurdle that came their way.
Here’s to the superhero dads, who shatter stereotypes with grace, who defy societal expectations of being emotionally bankrupt. Who prove over and over that mothers should not be the only face of parenting.
Happy Father’s Day