To nsaam: A letter to my dad on Father’s day

(NOTE TO READER: In case you’re wondering, “nsaam” is the Kusaal [a dialect of the Kusasi tribe in the Upper East Region of Ghana] word for dad. That’s what we affectionately call our dad. )

Today is Father’s day. Naturally, I woke up and started wishing the fathers I know a happy celebration, starting with those in my family. I then proceeded to post some pictures of the father figures in my life on my Whatsapp status. Then, as I was scanning through my friends’ statuses, I saw one acknowledging her dad’s qualities and I thought, “well, that’s inspiring!” So, I decided to write about you on my status too. I wanted the world to hear my unending praise of you. I couldn’t help but realise how much I had to say about you. To not bore my viewers to death with all the accolades about you, I’ve decided to convert it into this letter (or something along those lines).

Quite often, I see quotes about how we only save our tributes and songs of praise for a person’s funeral when it’s too late. Today, I’m not going to be accomplice to this. Therefore, Mr Lawrence Akudugu Azam, if you’re reading this, which you are, this is my acknowledgement in writing of the father I remember you to be. (Side note: You always confidently and vigorously pronounced your name, preceded by a strong clearing of the throat and a rolling of the “R”, as Lawrrrrance, and I never understood why. It was always extremely funny to me, though.) I also want you to know that it is a pleasure to write about you because I could never have asked for anyone else to take your place.

Growing up, I realized how hard it was for you to cater for all of us at the same time. It caused me to be very choosy when asking for a favour from you. I learnt to sort my needs at a very early stage. That’s also probably when I developed the fear of rejection. I remember this vividly. Anytime I wanted to ask for anything from you, I would start with “Nsaam (dad), do you have money?” That question always pissed you off so much. I remember you would respond with and I’m paraphrasing, “my friend, if you want something, just ask and stop beating about the bush! ”. But if you realised, it was because I was scared to hear you say no.

The following are some of your enviable qualities that anyone would attest to:

  • Jovial. “Mr Azam” was a household name in Sunyani, where you worked as a social worker for several decades. It still is with most of our childhood friends. You knew everyone and vice versa. Every corner we entered had your name written on the walls with the marks you had left. Growing up, as soon as people saw our surname, they would ask if you were our dad. Everyone remembers you for something.
  • Avid reader. Our house was a storehouse for every daily newspaper. One thing I’ll always be thankful to you for is our bookshelf! You bought it in the early 90’s but it’s still there to date. If I’m right, it’s currently covered with a Ghana flag to conceal some of the damages it’s had to face from our moving around the country. Thanks to that bookshelf, I travelled the world without ever seeing the inside of an airplane. I read about advanced topics that I was too young to be expected know about. From sociology to psychology to economics to cook books and whatever, we had them all. We especially had lots of books about America because of the few years you spent there. Let’s not get started on the many times we had to hear your American stories. You even registered us with the Sunyani Public Library so we could go spend time there after school to read, instead of coming home to play with the other kids. Your strict treatment of the English language never permitted you to tolerate “bad English” at home. I owe my similar treatment of the language to you.
  • Religious. Nsaam is more Catholic than the pope but in a good way. You take God seriously. That reflected in how you raised us. You remember our baptism dates more than our birthdays, even though you remember those too. I acknowledge God as the center of my life today because you took the bold step to raise us all in a very strict spiritual and religious environment. You made sure we took all our prayers, catechisms, and Sunday activities seriously. You were always the more prouder when we joined associations and took on diverse roles in church to grow our faith.
  • Organized. I don’t know about my elder siblings but when I entered class one, you bought me a folder to file all my exam papers and results. I can still picture that file with my name on the back with your ever so impressive handwriting. I still have mine in that gigantic grey box, which is still alive and well. By the way, how old is that box? If I still have a receipt of something I paid for years ago hiding somewhere in my drawer now, it’s because you taught me to file away everything important and memorable.

I can’t expand on all your qualities so I’ll summarise the remainder:

  • Selfless, dedicated and strong-willed, always focused on your goals without stopping to garner support. You don’t depend much on external support but don’t mind one.
  • Forgiving, possessing a short memory of wrongs.
  • Generous, giving unconditionally, rid of hesitation or complaint.
  • A leader at home, at work, and everywhere you find an opportunity.
  • Decisive and resolute in decision-making.
  • Etc, etc…

Like anyone else, you had many bad qualities too but let’s focus on the positives. In fact, it was hard to think of your negatives in the midst of so many positives. If I (and any of my other siblings) am who I am today, if anyone gets a hint of any of your qualities in me, it’s because of you (and mom, mma). Today, I’m writing this letter to you because it’s Father’s day. Every day is my father’s day because everything I’m able to achieve today is because of your sacrifices. Today, however, you get an extraordinary treat in the form of this letter.

Nsaam, whenever you feel discouraged, lonely or alone, or any other negative emotions, just take a quick look at us. Take a look at the many framed pictures of us on the wall in your hall, and be proud of how much you’ve achieved.

Every child perceives their parents as the best. I’m EVERY CHILD. Today, I’m writing this to appreciate you, nsaam.

I love you.


11 thoughts on “To nsaam: A letter to my dad on Father’s day

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