The Phone Call

Listening to my father’s tears drop
Through the telephone
I felt numb and heartbroken
Because I never thought
I could have such an impact on him
He is usually a tough nut to crack

He turned 81 this past October
His father had meticulously recorded
his birth day
I wasn’t there to celebrate him
I have been very absent
from his and Mom’s life
Ever since I left them as a teenager
In the early 2000s
But I have gone back a few times
Less visit as much as I wish

“Come home, my son! I beg you!”
He pleaded and I felt guilt stabbing meΒ 
“What are you doing there?”
I wish he knew how many times
I have been asking that question myself

My mother doesn’t know
The exact date she was born
But she knows it was in early November
Right under the mountain
Where Ethiopia knocked Italy down

A Libra father
A Scorpio mother
Brought to this world
A Capricorn toddler
In late December
Kind of interesting,
Don’t you think?

I grew up in the house
of blue skies and fireworks
Countless laughter and cries
Funny and stubborn freaks
Despair and perseverance

My father has lived a carefree life
His keen mind exploring many interests
Military, health, law, drawing
He was my first teacher of poetry
Largely self taught
He made books his best friends
He still wishes he had the chance
To go beyond the education he received
As a young recruit of the Emperor’s army
But he feels he has achieved it through me
Traditional but open to new ideas
Fair but fireΒ 
A devout Orthodox Christian
Everyday reading his Psalm
A former deacon
I guess I could say a man of many trades

He always loved farming and gardening
I believe he found it quite therapeutic
But being self sufficient
Was a part of his passion just like Mom

Our farm produce:
Fruits, veggies, dairy, cereal crops, honey
We had a house of plenty
Until we became internally displaced
Those were the days
When I was both shepherd and cowboy

Unlike me, my father has always enjoyed
Being stylish…must be a Libra thing
I remember he hated a wrinkled shirt
He has had a military discipline
Though he ran away from the military life
After a short lived experience
He would stand for hours ironing out
His washed clothes
He would also ask me to watch and learn
And help him with fanning the charcoal Iron
Sometimes my mother would do it for him
My mother, on the other hand,
Has rarely cared for her appearance
As far as I know
She was more concerned about us
She was the happiest when we had joy
“I have seen and have enjoyed enough
Now, I don’t need to care for myself,”
She would say

And that was the difficult part for me
Seeing her selfless, helpless and restless
I wish my mother took care of herself
Just like my father
He did care about us but
Self care topped his priority

Though I was raised
In a typical patriarchal family
My Scorpio mother
Never endorsed being bossed around
She would sting my father like Scorpion
Whenever he crossed a line
And those were our days of storms
Earthquakes, volcanoes and thunders

As a child, I often took the middle ground
The most impossible task
To side with one of your parents
But I always had my mother’s back
And my father knew my loyalty to her
He would sometimes joke about it
“I am all alone…
The mother and her cubs, all against me,”
He would sarcastically comment

But he has always had a soft spot for me
I have tried my best to make him proud
Though I have also failed
I have never disrespected him
Even when he has disappointed me
I would express my displeasure
Using a very subtle language
And that has been my secret weapon
Which he understood very well
Call it our code language

My father has authoritative aura
But his is very diplomatic
When he deals with others
Which has earned him respect
Something I have tried to emulate
But I think I am more like my mother
We both find it hard to sugarcoat

So the phone call
It finally happened
And it broke my father down
I cried as well
God, I have missed him

“My son, come home!
I need to see your eyes
Before I am gone for good!
I am approaching
My 11th hour
So come back, please!
What’s holding you back?
You can serve your country…
I want to see your eyes!
It’s so nice to hear your voice!”

It hurts so bad
To hear those words
God, let me go home!
If only it’s so easy
To just pack and leave!
“What’s holding me back?
Dreams, father, dreams
That must come true and will!
I am your sea goat, remember?
Figuring out my own destiny
Despite the challenges!”

I wanted to say
But I saved that until I see him
So I gave him another practical excuse

He said he has forgiven my silence
And it feels really good to be forgiven!

Such is a Diasporic life.


“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.” ~William Shakespeare



11 thoughts on “The Phone Call

  1. E

    Please try to go home if just to visit them. Not for them but for you. We are going to be in Ethiopia from Jan15 – March 15….

    Leslie Belay

  2. Home is where we belong.
    But dreams one should follow.
    Without trying we will never know.

    81 huh? That just made me wonder what my state of mind will be at 81 (: that is if I’m to live that many years πŸ™‚
    wondering what me and my sons’ conversations would be like. should be braving for long silences I suppose.

    Your father must have see so much of how this world ticks. Wisdom to be tapped on perhaps.

    I haven’t known my father much. He’s there somewhere. A phone call now and then to say hi how are you.
    But yes, I can hear so many unsaid words that floats around.
    life is such an awkward thing.

    I love that quote you finish with. It absolutely covers the parent-child bond.

    When you get to fly home, give him a gigantic hug, big enough to last until the next time
    πŸ™‚ Stay happy dear

    1. Thank you Mon Amie. : ) What a lovely response! Yes 81. It is interesting to have an octogenarian father. For most millennials like me, he would be a grandpa. But that’s what happens when you have a child midlife : ) Based on my take, I can say that if we make it that old, the biggest challenge will be loneliness since kids are minding their own business, unless you are surrounded by family, including grand kids; what makes the loneliness tougher for some is when they lose their life partner to death. The second challenge is slowly losing control of your body and not being able to move as active as you used to be. I too wonder if I make it that far what my mindset will be. I’ve tried to tape both my dad and my mom the last time I was there, squeezing as much info out of them as possible. I will do more when I get the chance; they both have a lot to share as they have taken different paths in life before they met. One thing I have taken from their experience is that having a significant age difference between partners (which is the case with my parents) can be very problematic and I would not advice it to my future children, if they happen (but then I can’t stop them if they so choose). : ) For now, I can’t wait for the gigantic hug, to give and receive! Thank you again for your thoughtful feedback. Stay awesome!

  3. Elyasye, you put me in tears man. Those sweet parents are missing you so much. Words cannot express how much they love and miss you. You need to go and see them please.

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