I saw a picture of you posing with a group of friends in front of the main gate of Makerere University. It definitely was taken in the 80’s, mid 80’s I think. Behind you stood the entrance to the best university in the land. How proud you must’ve made your parents! I was told during your days, the government took care of everyone who made it to the university. That alone makes me know you were a brilliant student, a smart kid in your school days.
You wore a blue pair of trousers that had a bell bottom and had a short sleeve shirt that hugged you loosely. Man, you were in touch with the cool guy style of your days. Is that why mum got so smitten with you? Is it your sense of fashion that she fell for? Or you were a smooth talker. I guess these are questions I should ask mum.
I see you started wearing glasses much earlier than I did. I’ll tell you this for sure. I got so spooked when I noticed the frames of my glasses are similar to the one you wore in that picture, a picture which is about 35 years old now. I look so much like you. Like, man, you guy, is this what “like father like son” means? When I look at your picture, I see my face staring back at me. It’s insane.
I guess you were a much cooler during your youthful days than I am. Grandma, about 12 years ago, handed me two of your certificates wrapped in a clear bag. Those were memories of you she kept so close to her heart. One was a certificate of leadership and the other was for your service as the basketball team captain of your high school. You must’ve really been athletic. Girls must’ve cheered you on on that court. You were the team captain, the one who provided leadership and motivation to the rest of the boys when you needed to grind in the results. I’m so proud of you, man.
Did mum ever watch you play? If she did, I imagine she looked at you with so much pride. Ey, the joys of having a high school sweetheart! I didn’t have any by the way. I guess she cheered you on like no one ever did. The sight of her on the side of the court must’ve lifted your spirits and given you the extra adrenaline to get a win. I have a question for you though. How did I not get the skill of basketball? I thought such abilities were genetically transferable. It’s a shame I can’t even bounce a ball. So embarrassing. So much for being the son of a basketball team captain.
I was told me about your out of this world drawing skills. I heard your artwork was something to behold. The movement of your pencil on a sheet of paper created such magnificence everyone who saw it bowed in honor. Dad, I couldn’t even draw a stickman when I was in school. My skills were so horrible I once scored 45% in a fine art test. I knew the pencil or paint or whatever people use for drawing wasn’t made for me. That skill eluded me too.
Let me tell you this one. I was once in a queue for food at an event four years ago. A man walked to me and said I resembled a guy he knew so many years ago. He asked if I was your son. I told him yes. Dad, you should’ve seen the cheer on his face. He was lit. He went on a monologue on how you were a blessing to him, how you were his tutor in high school, how if it were not for you, he wouldn’t have learnt or passed his English exams in high school. Again, I was so proud to be known as your son.
I should tell you about this one too. About two years ago, I called up the Executive Director of an organization that drives entrepreneurship capacity building in this country. I told him my name. We spoke and at the end of our call, just before I hung up, he asked if I was your son because I carry your name. Again, I said yes. He was so proud. He said you were one fine hardworking young man during your days in high school. He said you were a guy they would count on. You were dependable. He said it was so unfortunate and a loss to this country that you died young. Man, I nodded with so much respect for you.
Gradma told me you were so kind. She says you had a big warm heart, a heart that was filled with love for humanity, a heart that wanted to see people do well in school. You loved education and academics. I think if you’d lived longer, you’d have gone on to get a Ph.D. I was also told you were the kind of guy who’d give your shirt to a shirtless guy because you believed he needed it more than you did. Oh, such an altruist you were!
Look, even after you’ve been gone for 25 years and nine months, there are still people who speak about you with so much reverence. If that’s not a legacy, then I don’t know what is?
Until my next letter to you.