I was born Steven Madowo (it always surprises people when they send me money ?). Like several other cousins, I’m named after my grandfather. He was kind of a big deal in our village and everyone just called him ‘Bwana.’ When you call me Madowo, you’re referring to me, my father and his father. Someday, it will also refer to my son Larry Madowo, Jr (don’t judge me, I’m vain!). As I grow older, I realize how much I have turned into my dad. I didn’t know him well, he died when I was 7.
‘I am my father’s son,’ I often tell my friends and they don’t know how serious that joke is. I inherited so much of the mannerisms, temperament and attitude of a man who didn’t get to see me become a man.
To hear my relatives tell stories about him is both entertaining and deeply distressing. My heart has broken so many times that it can’t get any worse. I used to be embarrassed when my peers mentioned their fathers or something they had done together and I had no similar tale to share. I have wondered how differently my life would have turned out had he been alive today. All the things I lacked growing up, all the direction I needed, the positive affirmation that would have been nice, and if any of this served any purpose at all. Would he have been proud of me?
I suffered through the anguish in silence, like a man is supposed to. It took me a long time to even gather courage to ask about him, what he was like and extract key biographical information. There aren’t that many pictures of him left. Heck, I haven’t been able to find any picture of the two of us at all. It is no use trying to find physical evidence of what I know to be true; that he loved me, that he loved us. I didn’t understand it when he died, when we buried him next to his father in the family cemetery. I don’t know what difference it would have made for a 7-year-old to comprehend that he would never see his dad again.
Here I am today, a version of this man. I hope I am a newer, faster version 2.0. All the struggle and suffering and solitude led here. “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.”