By Grace Waide
Today marks a very special day for me.
Today on a Wednesday 27 years ago at exactly 1:30pm at the Goroka Base Hospital, my daddy died of cancer.
As I moved around yesterday, I passed many places where we walked together.
In my mind’s eye I could see my 11-year-old self walking hand in hand with him under the Klinki pine trees, not a care in the world just simple faith that life is great.
I drove past the Westpac Bank and I recalled his last withdrawal slip that he signed, his signature barely recognizable. I recall my big brother, Elijah, barely 13 trying his best to explain to the teller why his dad could not sign well. It must have been scary for him. I recall Claribel, our eldest traveling from Balob Teacher’s College in Lae for Easter and arriving an hour late to see daddy.
I recall mom trying her best to keep us all together. When you live in a different province, all your coastal friends are family.
I went past the Hospital and memories flooded in. I tried to keep myself from crying. Memories are both a gift and a curse.
So what? He died and went away. To the world, he was just another simple teacher. One who would not make headlines. But for me, he was my world.He was the man that God blessed me with. He was the man who shaped my life, even at a very young age, he instilled discipline and spoke to me and my siblings about doing the right thing, even if no one else is doing it. He spoke about servanthood and placing others ahead of self. These things, I have carried with me into adulthood. He was a very generous man who would give even his last good short to a villager who may have come to visit us. He would give away our last rice packet in exchange for kaukau from a villager. So we would be stuck with kaukau while the villager would celebrate rice with his family.
Rice was such a luxury item if you lived in Okapa or Gotomi or Tarabo, Kemeyu, Andadara. He would walk for hours to take whatever medicine to treat a member of the community in which we lived much to mom’s frustration and anxiety. I recall him pulling out arrows and spears and binding up the wounded from both sides of warring tribes in Andadara, in the outbacks of Obura Wonenara. We were caught in the middle of tribal conflict and the tribes chose the school field as their fighting zone. Of course we were caught in the middle. All day we would lie low in our house listening to arrows zooming past out house or getting embedded in the kunai roof or pitpit blinds of the house. In the evenings, dad would be summoned to go and attend to the injured. An understanding was reached that dad could treat both sides of the warring tribes but he was not to tell the other about the number of dead or injured. As dangerous as it was, I would sneak out to go and watch him do his “bush surgery” on the wounded. Some were beyond help. Here was a Teacher who assumed the role of Aid Post Orderly. I recall him getting us to help him to cut bamboos from high up in the mountains and help him to lay them and use these to pull water from way up in the hills to the school so that the children and school could have running water and of course mom would have water right next door to the house. It was hard work. But he would work at it until it was done.
Sometimes, being young, I would roll over in grass on the mountains and sleep while he worked. He taught me that fixing a pipe or roof or chopping wood was not a ” man’s” job. If I can do it, so can you is how he would say it.
“When you grow up and get married, you must know how to fix your own house. Don’t wait for a man to fix your plumbing.”
Oh and he loved to sing and whistle while he worked. I smile sometimes when I find myself doing the same. Even at an early age he thought us to pray. He would make us sit down in the evenings and mornings for prayers. Here was a man who was offered a job to be an executive in a company and to go overseas to work. He turned it down to be a teacher. Mom could not understand why he chose to go back to the classroom instead to taking up the offer to go and work overseas and offer us a better standard of life.
Looking back, I realize that it was his love for what he did and his passion for teaching that kept him doing what he did up until he passed on.
I learned a valuable lesson from this. It is not the money and high life that defines a person. It is what you are passionate about and content with.
My dad was content with being a teacher and passionate about being a humble servant to the people of Eastern Highlands and Morobe.
TO A GREAT MAN WHO IS MY DAD. REST TILL THE TRUMPET SOUNDS. LOVE YOU DAVID PAUL WAIDE. On this day, God has brought me back to the place you loved so much and a PEOPLE you served with your heart and your life.
For now, I look over the hills of Eastern Highlands on this cold misty morning and offer a teary prayer for a man I called Daddy.