Ever since I’ve returned to the USA from Kenya, I’ve had people ask me how I feel. The answer is “better,” but I’ve struggled to find the words to describe what “better” means in this context. And, as you’ve probably guessed by now, struggling to find the words to describe something is unusual for me.
Meeting my Kenyan family certainly wasn’t a First Contact situation, as I’ve mentioned before, but it was like this: I’m normally uncomfortable around people whom I’ve just met face-to-face, but I felt none of that at all. My Kenyan family is composed of sweet and wonderful people and I think we all felt instantly connected.
As for my father, I suppose that some people in my place would be angry about the 50 years of separation and the sparse contact, but I felt none of that—only fascination at finally being able to see the face of the man who is responsible for my existence…and, oddly enough, a bit protective of him.
Here’s something that only the children of divorce/death of a father can gra
sp: growing up being the only person in my family with my last name and, not only that, the only person I knew close by with this name, I’ve always felt isolated. Oh, my American family never made me feel that way, but It was what it was. With the Kenyans, there is–at last–more than just one Ochieng. (Actually, ‘Ochieng’ is the ‘Smith’ of Kenya.)
I accept and revel in my oddball-ness now, but it took childhood and a good part of my adulthood to get to that point. But, I think that it’s point at which we all arrive, if we’re blessed enough and driven enough to keep moving: that God put each one of us on this Earth for a purpose.
I did feel a little worried about how my American dad felt about all this attention being focused on the guy who missed out on all the hard work. But it was the guy with a different last name than mine who summed up how I feel since one of my lifelong dreams became true. I feel whole.
(Thanks to Asher Abrams)
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.
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