How I came to meet my father

By David Hedd   I am 42 year old man. I have two beautiful daughters and a virtuous wife. But until a few weeks ago I did not feel m...

By David Hedd 



I am 42 year old man. I have two beautiful daughters and a virtuous wife. But until a few weeks ago I did not feel my life was complete. Then I had never met my biological father and wondered who he was. My mother died in a faraway country when I was barely an adult. Her death was as a result of a single mistake she had made: Falling in love. She would later become pregnant at age 16, and was consequently abandoned and ostracized by her own family. Worse still, the young man who impregnated her had evanesced. He was no man! If tears would run out, my mother would have had nothing left in her. She resorted to ceaselessly crying as she worried whether I would ever get to know my father, amidst her mental torment and physical tribulations. She lost everything: her future and eventually her life.

 Teenage pregnancy is dreadfully pernicious, in more ways than one! So on the 18 June 2016 - a wet Saturday morning in Lagos, Nigeria - my wife and I drove to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport. It was the first physical step towards retracing my late mother's footsteps back to a home I had never been to, and in search of a dad I had never met. My trip to Sierra Leone had been decided after I telephoned the man whom several searches and researches had proved was my father. It all started in the early 1970s when mom and a boy of a Creole descent, started romantic bliss in the hilly town of Freetown. Mom was 16 and her boyfriend was twenty-three.



 Like many of their peers at the time, they fell in love, or would I say, mom fell in love with him. Because I could recall her telling me how he used to cuddle her and because she was petty, she felt every ounce of his weight that translated into the warmth she so much wanted and anticipated. In no distant time, mom got pregnant. Her hitherto bright future was blighted - came to a complete halt. Her boyfriend literally dissolved and was not seen again. Her father, with whom she was living, got so enraged that he threw her out of his house. Instantly, she became an orphan. She was able to eke out a living by the mercy of strangers and compassionate friends.


 I was born at Connaught Hospital on the 12th August 1979. From what I gathered, the entire clothing I had on was secondhand, given to my mom by empathizers. All along my father had disappeared. But amidst her myriads of difficulties, mom vowed that she would not let me die. She constantly prayed to God for shelter so she could put a roof over my head. This happened when she was 17, and could barely take care of herself let alone a child. Then came into mom's life a Nigerian who worked then as a photographer in Sierra Leone. He provided her with accommodation. I would grow up thinking he was my father. Gradually, their relationship metamorphosed into something romantic. My sister, Mammy was born into that relationship. This was unbeknownst to mom that this was not love either. Her newfound love had incubated a heinous plan to steal her son to Nigeria. I will never forget that night when she painfully, with flood of tears in her eyes, said thus: "It is never a good thing to lie to someone that you love, the lies may soothe you in the now, but must surely come back to you in the later" I was stolen to Nigeria with my birth certificate doctored to reflect the name of this Nigerian, chiefly to make the prying eyes of the airport security less determined and discouraged from asking questions about my paternity. On that Sunday morning, mom was at home, heavy with the third child - my brother - when her Nigerian partner told her he was taking my younger sister and I to church. Five hours elapsed, we did not return. 8:00 PM, we were still not home. At this point, it dawned on mom that something was amiss. Confused and bewildered, she gathered herself and went to the photography studio in downtown Freetown for an explanation. Getting there, she could not believe her eyes! The studio was empty! And her children had been stolen from her!


 Mom collapsed! Hours later she was resuscitated. And the news of our voyage of no-return was given to her. Apparently, her partner had conspired with other Nigerians in Sierra Leone at the time to perfect his trip to Nigeria without mom's notice never mind her consent. She could not bear it, contemplated suicide on multiple occasions, as she could not stand living without her children, especially her son with whom she lost everything. My brother - he third child - died shortly after birth as a consequence of the trauma she had been subjected to! Although she was young and naïve, she was also determined and gracious. And that explains how she saved up money to come to Nigeria to see my younger sister and me. She was ready to forgive the man who bruised her heart and tumbled her life forever. I must have been 16 years old at the time. I had just finished secondary school from the village, barely able to read and write



I landed at the Lungi international airport at 16:05hrs. As is the case travelling to Sierra Leone, I had to board a speed boat into town in the absence of a ferry, which is much cheaper but slow and steady. There was no ferry, and I was forced to take the speed boat for US$ 40 for a journey of less than 30 minutes. I had gone to the ATM to take money from my Nigerian Zenith bank account. Unfortunately, money was not dispensed.


 I later heard that there were restrictions on Nigeria's ATM cards by Nigerian government, partly to forestall money laundering. That's how my dad spoke to one of the workers at the terminal to allow me board the speed boat to the city center. I got off the speed boat 25 minutes later. Gathered my only piece of luggage and walked down the wooden hallway leading to the waiting area. I knew immediately it was him. 


He smiled and thrust his hand for a handshake, but I gave him a hug instead. He seemed more gregarious than I'd envisaged. The thoughts I had of him were unfriendly, boor, foolhardy, and an antithesis of humanity. Now I am 42 - and he is 66. He's way taller than I am. But all features of him are identical to mine, including his toenails. He seemed to know everybody in Sierra Leone. Smiled and greeted everybody as we drove along the tiny and hilly Freetown roads to my aunt's house. 

An uncle of mine, Gibrilla, drove behind us in his 1990s 4Runner jeep. As a sign of respect, Uncle Gibrilla had told me to go with his car. While sitting, legion of questions flooded my mind. Why did he abandon my mom at 16 years, and pregnant? Why didn't he tell his parents about my mom? How come he didn't care to look for me all these years? Did he know my mom died early in her life as a consequence of his boorishness? 

And why is it that I had to go and look for him after four decades? I was sitting down there drenched in confusion until we got to Aunt Kadie's house. The time to keep the record straight! Prior to mom telling him she was pregnant, he said, three other women had confronted him saying they were pregnant for him all of which turned out to be lies! They were not pregnant; perhaps they wanted to extort money from him, he concluded. Thus he did not take my mom's story seriously. At a point, he said, he demanded for a pregnancy test but mom didn't want to go to the hospital. I will not believe it, and unfortunately she isn't here to speak for herself. "Did mom ever tell him she had a son by him?" He answered in the affirmative! 

And why didn't he make effort to see his son then? I asked. He said he later went to the UK to study and when he returned home he'd forgotten about his past life as a young man. Your thoughts of me at the time could better be imagined than witnessed. 

Little wonder on the day he met mom in Freetown after ages, he said to her that he had heard that she took gave his son to a Nigerian. "That is not a right thing to say, moreover it is untrue," mom is said to have responded to him! 


She went back to her house and started mourning, all over again. I am back in Nigeria, with my wife and my daughters. Doing all I can to make them feel parental love, something I was denied in every sense of the word. In any case I have met my father. I have probably forgiven him. 


But I wonder who or what to blame for my mother's early demise: her stunning beauty, my father, my stepfather, or my grandparents? My mother would still be alive today if not for one or all of those. Rest in peace, mom!



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