A walk in the park is used to signify something that’s easy, lighthearted. But as I walk through Uhuru Park on Saturday morning, I’m the furthest thing from lighthearted; it’s not easy. I had to pass through Community to get to the park and as I did, I was assailed by memories.
For Community is where my dad spent most of his working life; where he was through my high school years, and my first stop during school midterms and closing days. The guards at his office building knew me – unless they had been replaced during my time at school – and would wave me on once I mentioned my dad’s name; sometimes even before then. I would wait for him to finish what he was doing and we would go out for lunch.
We would talk as we ate, me catching him up on what I’d been up to in school — all good stuff, of course, the naughty bits were reserved for my brother — him catching me up on what I’d missed while I was away at school.
He would dole out wisdom as only a dad can and would make me laugh. This would sometimes draw looks from the other lunch patrons. But I never cared about that or what they thought. For whenever I was with my dad, I was invincible. Like the aptly named park, I was free.
After lunch, if there was nothing urgent on his desk, he’d walk me through Uhuru Park to town. He’d make sure I was on a home-bound bus before making his way back to the office. This was our ritual whenever I left school. But we had one too for when I went to school.
For then we’d meet in town. He’d buy me french fries and chicken at that Kenchic that used to be on Tom Mboya street and that has now been replaced by tiny exhibition stalls. He’d then take me to the Tusky’s next to the Fire Station — which is now an Eastmatt supermarket — for my back to school shopping before we crossed the road to Koja and the Kabete-bound buses that would take me to school.
As I sit down on a park bench, watching the park come to life, in readiness for the families with young children that will later descend to partake of the colorful amusements that the park has to offer, I think about how life has changed. It now has a before and after, one that I never thought I’d have; years from now maybe, when my children were born and grown, but not now. We use before and after to signify monumental changes; before and after weight loss, before and after plastic surgery, before and after parenthood.
For me now, I have a before and after losing my dad. As I stand up to resume my walk through the park, I’m grateful for my befores and mourn my afters.