A Little background information is necessary in order to understand the story I am about to relate.
I am getting on the wrong side of sixty. I am retired. Money is not fighting in my pocket but, give praise to God, I do not lack what to eat. I live in my own house and have a devoted and loving wife. Although, I won't describe us as pious, we are practicing Christian. Upright, but not evangelical. Believing, but not righteous. We believe in live and let live.
My happy life was however punctuated by a bad luck. It was not really a bad luck, just a delay. I am sure the God Almighty knew what he was doing. Praise be to him. I had a child very late in life. I know that God was testing me, so I did not panicked. By his grace I am now the proud father of a beautiful girl. Ama is not the apple of my eyes; she is my eyes. Each and every time I see my little girl, I feel a pleasure which is difficult to put into words. Only a parent can understand what I am trying to say here.
Being a very small family, we are very close. That was when Ama was younger. By some strange reasons, the older my daughter gets, the stranger her behaviour becomes. The more she advances in age, the farther she drew away from me. The more she drew away from me, the closer she gets to her mother. Do I feel jealous? You bet I do!
It got to a stage when entire conversation with my little girl does not go beyond, 'Good morning.' 'How are you doing?' 'Fine, thank you dad.' Off, she go. Off she goes into her mother's room. The two ladies will stay in that room, locked up for hours. Occasionally, their giggles will reach my tormented ears.
What could they possibly be talking about. Women, what strange, unfathomable creatures they are! Aside from her mother, Ama also talks a lot with her friends. Many times there were when she will visit a friend, spend the whole day there and come back home. The first thing she will do is pick up the telephone and call the same friend again. They will spend the whole evening post- morteming their activities during the day. So, I am pretty sure that she does not suffer from any ailment. It is only I whom she's banishing from her life.
I have watched American electronic-psychologists giving advice on what to do when your children doesn't communicate with you. 'Talk things over," are the usual staple. It makes you wonder if the 'experts' parental-experience goes beyond the academic. How do you talk things over with a girl who behaves as though your very presence torments her?
Let me get on with the story.
One evening, I was relaxing in my usual seat, doing what I usually do in the evenings. At my age, very little activities occupy the time. I sat watching my favorite Ghanaian soap, drinking my usual Guiness with Mandigo. Before you started getting any silly idea, you should remember that, at my age, sex doesn't mean the same thing as when you're eighteen.
My wife was relaxing in her room. Ama was out the whole day. Since the university closed over lecturers pay dispute, she has being going out a lot. From her mother, I heard that she had been visiting the campus, meeting her colleagues to study together and commiserate one another over their predicament. She also told me that Ama has been seeing a boy and told me some details. Her tone suggested that she was betraying a secret. I did not know why I should be kept in the dark. I am too old to want to change the world, especially its youth.
Suddenly, Ama burst in. She always seems to be in a hurry, especially in my presence. In her tow was a boy. That was the first time she has ever brought a boy-friend home.
"Hello, Dad." She shouted and dashed to her mother's room.
I continue to watch my soap. The boy paced up and down and decided to make himself comfortable by sitting down. He was a young boy with a handsome face. I kept one eye on the TV and the other watching him. He was obviously ill at his.
It is unbelievable how far the world has changed since my days. In my youth, no boy will be bold enough to go with his girl-friend to confront the father. It is simply not done. The elders of families handle such delicate affairs. And the boy's dressing, my God! I do not call your name in vain! In my times, you have to dress very properly (a strong emphasis on the proper) when you want to visit any of your in-laws. Here, I have a boy visiting my daughter and dressed like those characters one sees on MTV.
Shall we describe the pants as a trouser or a bag sewn together by a tailor, who has had trousers described, but has not actually seen one? For a shirt, the young fella wore a full-length Jacket. On his neck, he planted a loosely-tied loud tie. In the breast pocket of the jacket protruded a towel- size handkerchief. He wrapped a red bandanna around his head like some of those American hustlers who call themselves wrestlers. He wore a very dark glasses, the type worn by Mafia bosses in movies. A fire-service boots adorned his feet. I took some time to scan him properly. I did not know whether to cry or laugh at the picture the boy cut with me.
He sat down, studying his fingers. Everytime I look up, though, I found him looking at me. I had to verify if he was indeed the mystery boy. How do I frame the question without appearing over- bearing or too inquisitive?
"So you are Ama's friend?" I tried to make my tone very flat.
He sat upright in his seat and looked at me. "Yes, sir." He replied in a shaky voice.
He's my girl's visitor, I didn't want to alarm him. He felt so uncomfortable and I felt sorry for him. The whole thing appeared like a great torment to him. How do I make him more comfortable?
"Would you like a drink, kid?" I asked him.
He gulped down saliva as he considered my question. "Yes, sir. Gin and lime, sir."
I had the feeling that the kid was trying, desperately, to look and act manly. He was trying to posture a confidence that he did not possess. I can understand his uneasiness. Which man had confronted his father-in-law without some apprehension? He looked like a lamb being led to the slaughter. I wondered what was going on in his head. And asking for gin and lime? That simply was not done in my time. I gave him his requested drink, he was extravagant in his thanks. He really was nervous and very tensed. I watched in dismay as he almost filled his glass with lime and, looking at my face, felt embarrassed. He quickly added gin.
"How close are you with my girl." I tried to strike up a conversation with him. I did not want to leave him with the impression that he was not welcome here. I love my little girl, and I consider any friend she chooses OK for me.
The boy's face registered astonishment at the simple question. "Close, what do you mean, sir?" He asked me. I thought it was such a simple question.
How do I re-frame the question without embarrassing him further. I was in a sort of quandary. How do I strike a conversation with a boy young enough to be my grandson? On the other hand, the easiest thing would be to watch my soap and close my mouth. But that's not very welcoming, either. What would he conclude except that I hated him. God knows that I cannot hate anyone my little girl loves.
I tried to help him. "I mean how solid is you re-, friendship?" I was being semantically careful.
"You mean close as in close?" The boy asked. I really hoped that my girl hasn't got herself involved with a dullard. He looked at me as though he had problem understanding the question. "Do you mean to ask if we're doing stuff together, sir."
'Stuff!' Is that not what they call drugs, nowadays. God of Israel, I hope that Ama hasn't got herself involved with such stuffs. He does not look like an addict to me. But, can you ever tell?
"Stuff?" I wanted to know what he really meant.
He sat on the edge of his chair. His face was a meter of turmoil. "Yes sir, do you mean to ask if we're doing stuffs like discoing, cooing, necking, kissing and f-..."
He looked as though he hated what he was telling me. His youthful lips were curled into a semblance of impertinence as he rolled off what he's doing with my little girl. When he mentioned the F- word, I had to stop him. I knew that he was not going to tell me that they were 'Fishing' together.
Perhaps it was a mistake, but I had to show my paternal concern. I asked if they were taking any precaution. He looked very surprised by the question.
"I don't believe in protection," he said. "Jah Guides." He concluded.
Heaven helps those who help themselves, as the saying goes, Here sat a boy, sipping my drink, revealing to me that he's doing 'stuff' with my daughter, and telling me that he doesn't believe in protection because 'Jah Guides.'
As to my question as to whether or not his parents are aware of what he was doing, he looked bemused and told me that: "My old folks are OK."
He looked more amused as he scrutinized my face. He explained that he meant by 'old folks,' his parents.
I wanted to know if his parents were aware of his 'stuff.' He found my question humorous. "My folks are strictly twenty-first century guys." He told me.
The type of vocabulary the youth of today possess is astonishing. What could 'twenty-first century guys' possibly mean? In my time, no child will dream of calling his father 'guy.' I wonder if his mother is 'gal' to him.
"I meant to say, sir, that they are dynamic, sir. They are up-to-date. They are into electronic and stuffs. My father actually uses a computer and my mother packs a pager. They are cool cookies." He explained to me.
His has promoted his parents from 'guys' to 'cool cookies.' Could we blame these on the pervasive western culture our children are consuming? And 'dynamic!' Words have really lost their true meanings, especially with our youth.
"My old lady tells me things since when I was ten or eleven. My father has been giving me money for accessories and immunities since I was twelve." He answered when I asked if he discussed 'stuffs' with his parents. He uses his slangs as though they were part of the normal, everyday's vocabulary. He decoded 'accessories' and 'immunities' to mean 'Condoms and things.' He didn't say what 'things' are. Maybe it is time, our youth start to carry a translator. How do we, otherwise, have conversation with people whose vocabulary consist of 'stuffs,' 'things,' 'old folks,' 'old lady,' 'cool cookies,' and other meaningless, to us older folks, patois.
I had wanted to strike a conversation so that I appear as a good host. The more I ask, though, the more voluble the boy gets. Could it be the effects of the drink? I don't know where I got the urge to ask if he smoke. He then proceed to give a lecture on the benefits of smoking every description of plant you care to name. Makes you wonder if our universities are maintaining resident Botanists\Chemists to concoct things for our youth.
Any parent will understand my frame of mind by this time. Are we too intrusive, or do we only want the best for our children. When do we cross the boundary between caring and intruding? Should we stop caring? Should we stop worrying about what future our children are building for themselves. What do I do when a boy, my potential son-in-law, tells me that he gets his kicks from smoking lettuce leaves? I ruminated through my mind's eye what his plans for the future could be. Ama's mother had hinted that he was a sort of student. However, when I asked him, he gave me an earful. He dismissed every subject they teach at the university and told me that he was kept in school because his father had more connections than the Ghana Telecom. And he was not trying to be witty.
In my days, men start forming a definite plans for his future at an early age. It seems as though our youth have abandoned this all-important affair. Worries about the future are things they are not prepared to face NOW. The future, to them, is a VERY FAR thing to be worried about today.
"Water always find its level." He explained when I asked what plans he has for the future. He hasn't figure out what plans he has for my daughter. "I haven't figure that one out yet, sir. .. We going to be cool."
The women finished their women-business and emerge. I was glad when they came out. To my utter consternation, Ama threw herself a him, wrapped her arms around him and whimpered, "I have missed you." It was less than two hours.
The ways of the youth remain unfathomable, at least, to me.