Patrick has been my friend for 18 years and I’ve known his wonderful family for roughly the same period. They are the most friendly, honest and good natured people you will ever meet. I knew his dad, a very friendly and insightful man. His mother, a woman full of love and understanding. It is why I am honoured to post this article where Pattoe (as we call him) shows us a simple yet effective way of living.
“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.”
— Ken Keyes
He poked at the fire, furrows creased, thinking, scheming. It was day 4, still no animal in sight, they had come a few dead carcasses, long dead to be of any use. “Such bad luck”, he thought but his father always had something positive to say. “The herd must be close by”, he said. The endless optimism was annoying at times, but anyhoo, to each his own. His critical mind liked to analyze facts, scheme, plot and decipher. He wanted a plan, a set course of action to follow. He wanted things to make sense. There was a drought and the animals had migrated, the crops had failed, people were starving but he was always smiling.
That smile, who could forget it? It was a constant feature in his everyday life. It was a part of his life and he couldn’t avoid it, he had come to accept it as part of everyday life. He glanced over at his father, sleeping, the smile plastered on his face. An SI unit, poked at the fire again and added some firewood. He thought about the hunt tomorrow. “Hunt? More like roaming around and hope we strike gold, or in this case meat.” Three days of long treks and committed hunting had yielded just a rabbit, long gone since they needed sustenance. Three days and nothing to show for it, well except the smile.
As much as he tried to worry, he couldn’t. Somehow, deep down, he knew they would find something. It was a sense of calm that he loved and hated. Why wasn’t he worried? Three days of nothing and he had this optimism. This undeniable feeling that someway, somehow they would succeed. It baffled him and annoyed him, yet it somehow made him want to go on pursuing, chasing, and searching for that ever elusive prize. He started smiling, “Am my father’s son,” he thought. The last few years had been HELL. The war came, bullets whizzing past, they lost everything, all they had left were the clothes on their back and each other, he had been through enough suffering to last three lifetimes but that ever persistent feeling of optimism never seemed to die, he had given up many times but it was always there lurking, never leaving him. Like that one mosquito you can’t seem to kill, that one, that gets inside the mosquito net and flies into your ear every five or six minutes.
You have to understand; this wasn’t his life. Four years ago, he was an aspiring engineer dreaming of building bridges. The “game” he hunted was the female kind, he was what the young folks called a “fisi” Now here he was, ready to eat a real fisi if he came across one. Oh how life changes! He was now hunting game like he grew up hunting yet he had been a city boy through and through, never had slaughtered a chicken in his life. The scariest thing he had killed was a huge banana spider. But here he was, sleeping under the stars, smiling and thinking about the antelope they would kill the next day. There it was, that optimism! Followed by that smile, he fell asleep, dreaming of laughter and meat.
They did eat the next day, a large antelope that had been left behind by the herd. Years passed, things got better, life improved. The smile was a constant feature; that never changed. But one day suddenly, no more smile, it was gone! Now, here he was, burying his father. He had heard many scary sounds, screams, gunshots, the roars of a hungry lion in the dark. Nothing filled him with more gloom or dread than the sound of the soil hitting his father’s coffin. There was such a finality to it. That day, after that sound, the optimism left him. Gone with the father that he was now burying. He tried to smile, nothing. Not even a forced one, it was truly gone. Gone like yesterday, never to come back.
I lost my smile one day, like him it disappeared with that awful sound. A sound that feels me with dread to this day. You see, I too lost my father, four years ago. Words fail to explain the trepidation that filled my heart, as the soil hit the coffin. I felt that life had to come to an end, not just his but mine too. Many of us, if not all, have buried someone. We have gone through the motions, we have missed, mourned them, drowned our sorrows in drink or other ways to try and fill that void. I did all that and then some. But as it may seem, this story does not have a sad ending but rather a celebration of the great men and women that once graced our lives. Though he is not here physically, the perspective he gave me in life will always live on. He instilled in me a never ending positivity that grows and wanes but it’s always there, a constant in my life. For that, I am thankful. So we aren’t here to mourn but to smile, and smile some more.
There is a story circulating on FB that goes like this:
“Two twin boys were raised by an alcoholic father. One grew up to be an alcoholic & when asked what happened he said” I watched my father” …
The other grew up and never drank in his life. When he was asked what happened he said “I watched my father” …
Two boys, same dad, two different perspectives.
In life, we are all faced with similar situations. Two people will look at the same situation and perceive it totally differently. I looked at the death of my father like the ending of a book. But what I later realized was his story was not yet done, he left a beautiful wife and four wonderful children, who continue to tell his story and add more chapters to his book. I have dreams and ambitions that were founded on his encouragement. So when my story is told, they will speak of a father who imbued me with optimism and a never quit attitude. Maybe one day, I will honor him in some grand way and everyone will know his name. Maybe not, either way, I am honoring him in the best way I know how. Being optimistic!
What about you? How is your outlook in life? How do you perceive things? Do you know that your perception is your reality? We walk through life sometimes trying to change the world, how about looking within and changing ourselves? We are constantly bombarded on how to look, what to wear, how to be successful etc. Every single aspect of our lives is micromanaged by one thing or other. I am not here to do that, I am simply making you aware that it’s your life, get in the driver’s seat and drive. The way you can do that is to change your perception if need be. Wherever you want to be in life, it may seems that’s its dependent on one circumstance or the other but it’s really just dependent on how you view them, are they obstacles or challenges? SMILE
There are a lot of things that I would like to tell you, but I will leave you with this. If you don’t do anything else today, SMILE. I know that’s what Mr. Ndung’u is doing and that’s what he would have told you.
Use your smile to change the world, don’t let the world change your smile!
My grandmother passed away this weekend. Last weekend, we celebrated mum’s birthday. A few months ago, we got grandmother a pacemaker, because of that my grandmother enjoyed her eldest daughter’s (my mum) birthday. We miss her, but we are thankful! She taught us to smile…if nothing else.
Dedicated to the loving memory and smile of Mr. Francis Ndung’u.