My Father Is Sick And Dying But I Can’t Visit Him Because Of The Secret My Mother Told Me About Him

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When I was very young, I started wondering about my dad. We lived in a big house with many families. Each family had a man who was in charge. But we didn’t have one. I only had my mom. I watched her go to the market early every morning and come back late at night. When I came home from school, I’d go to the market with her. That’s where I’d eat lunch and do my homework. In the evening, I’d help her pack up before we went home. She always made sure I had what I needed. It was just me and my mom, working together.

But I wasn’t happy. I saw other families and wanted the same. I wanted a dad at home. At school, everyone talked about their dads; “My father bought me this and that.” “My father took me here and there.” “My father…” “My father…” When it was my turn, I said, “My mother…” My friends started questioning me; “Why is it always your mother? Don’t you have a father who does things for you?”

So I asked my mother about dad; “Where’s dad? Everyone has a father, so where’s mine?”

When I was little, she said, “He’s traveling. You’ll see him when he comes back. If anyone asks, tell them he’s away.”

As I got older, around ten or twelve, she changed her answer. “I don’t know where your father is. He traveled and never came back. I don’t know where he went, and I haven’t heard from him. If he shows up one day, you’ll see him.”

Then it turned into a threat when I was a teenager; “You’ll never ask me about your father again, do you hear me? Do you lack anything here? The next time you mention your father again, I will throw you out so you go and look for him yourself. And when you leave, you’ll never come back here again.”

So I stopped asking and accepted the reality that I didn’t have a father. If I did, he wasn’t ever coming back to me. One day we went to our hometown. I was sixteen, I think. When I was alone with my mother’s elder sister, I whispered into her ear, “Do you know anything about my father? Mom said he traveled. These days when I ask her, she gets angry. Do you know where he is?” She whispered back, “Yes, I know where he is. He’s around town. I know where we can find him, but promise me when we go there, you won’t mention it to your mother.”

The next morning, she held my hand and took me to a street near the main market. She said, “Let’s sit here and wait.” Minutes later, she pointed at a shop and said, “Look over there. You see that man opening the shop? Look at him closely. That’s your father. He owns that shop, so he’s always around. Someday when you grow up and want to meet him, you know where to find him.” I begged her to take me to him, but she refused. She said it wasn’t her place to introduce me to my father. We stood there for a while and watched him until he opened the shop and went inside. My aunt held my hand and led me away. As we left, I looked back and stared at the shop until it became tiny and vanished from view. The only thing I remembered was the sign in front of my father’s shop; “Adɔfo asa,” which roughly means “There are no more lovers.”

I got home and wrote it down in my books. I never forgot how my father looked. Tall like me, dark-skinned like me, and lanky just like I am. I often thought about him and wondered why my mother wouldn’t let me see him. When I went to the boarding house in senior high school, I sneaked out and traveled to our hometown to meet him. Guess what? He recognized me when he saw me. He asked, “What are you doing here? Who brought you here and how did you know my shop?” I answered only one question; “My aunt showed me here.”

He took me home and introduced me to his wife and his three children. The first was much older than me. The second, Raymond, was around my age, and the third was a girl. It was Raymond I connected with. I spent the night with them, and the next day, he took me to the station, gave me money, and said goodbye. Something in me felt settled that day. The curiosity, the emptiness of the unknown, the insecurities of my younger days—they were gone. I had seen my father, touched him. I knew he was alive, a real person. My spirit rested, and I never searched for him again, but somehow, I always talked to Raymond, asking about Dad and everything.

Eleven years later, I checked my messages and found one from Raymond. We had lost touch, so he left his number and asked me to call him. I dialed his number right away, and we talked. I asked about dad, and he told me, “Your father is slowly dying. I don’t know how much time he has left, but at his age, surviving a stroke is rare. He’s lost movement on his left side and is losing his ability to speak. He recently asked about you. That’s why I reached out. Come and see him before it’s too late.”

I wanted to travel the next day to see him, but something stopped me. My conscience nagged at me, “Mom must have had a reason for not wanting me to see my father. Would it be a betrayal if I went against her wishes?” So, I went to talk to my mom about it.

“Did you know I met my father many years ago? I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.”

“I knew you met him. I chose not to ask.”

“How did you know? Did Aunt tell you?”

“So it was Aunt who took you to him, right? Thanks for letting me know. I’ll deal with her.”

“Wait, she didn’t tell you? Then how did you know?”

“Your books. I saw what you wrote in them. Adɔfo asa. That’s your father’s nickname. The day I saw it in all your books, I knew you had met him.”

“Are you angry?”

“Yes, I’m angry. That’s why I avoided the topic. But now, I know where to direct my anger.”

“But why didn’t you want me to see my father?”

“The day you reconcile with him, you’re no longer my son. I won’t explain now.”

That’s where the conversation ended. I didn’t dare tell her about my father’s condition or my desire to see him. I gave up on the idea. But Raymond kept calling. “Do you want to wait until he dies to see his body? Don’t you want to hear his side of the story? He mentioned you. That means he has something to say.” I told him, “I’ll come when the time is right. Work is busy, but I’ll visit soon.” He replied, “I hope he can still speak by then, or it’ll be pointless.”

These thoughts keep me up at night. I planned to visit him secretly during Christmas, but I couldn’t. My conscience stopped me. Instead, I spent Christmas with my mom, promising to visit him in the new year, but I didn’t. Mom’s words echoed in my head: “If you make peace with him, you’re no longer my son.” I can’t afford to lose my mother just because I want to see my father.

I lie awake, thinking about Adɔfo Asa and what he wants to tell me. It’s dawn, and it’s 2:17 am. I should be asleep, but thoughts of my parents keep me awake. Should I risk it? Maybe not. Raymond’s recent words worsened my state of mind. He said, “What if you’re the reason he’s still alive and suffering? He hopes to see you. Maybe that’s what’s keeping him alive. Will you see him if you’re the reason?”


That’s why I’m sharing my story here. Would you take the risk? Visit a dying person to upset the living? If you were me, what would you do differently? I don’t know what my father did to my mother, so I can’t judge him. Mom won’t talk about it, and her siblings say it’s not their story. I’m stuck between two options. Where do I go from here? Please advise.

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