The world's oldest man, 113-year-old World War I veteran Henry Allingham, died Saturday July 18, 2009. It was reported by AP that he spent his final years reminding Britain about the 9 million soldiers killed during the conflict. My father was a teenager during the war given that he was born around 1898. His age was estimated based on the arrival of the first airplane into Kenya, the great cassava famine, the First World War and his 'riika' or his circumcision age group. My paternal grandfather married three wives and my father was a son of the first wife. My paternal grandmother lived to be 125. This year my father is 110. None of his age mates that he grew up with are alive today. Like his mother, father and grandfather, he has never visited a modern hospital and by no means popped modern-day medicines in his body. He has been blessed and healthy throughout his entire life. For many years, my father labored to raise a family of thirty children, three wives, numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and most recently, a great-great-great granddaughter!
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My elder brothers and sisters were looking at an old man sitting in my father's chair. He looked old and ragged, his clothes filthy and tattered. He donned an untidy hair jam-packed with lice and nit. My older siblings did not pay much attention to the old, grimy, skinny beggar. My mother was crying. One of my siblings asked, "Mother, why are you crying?" "Nothing," and she answered in between sobs. Then the withered old man cleared his throat, "uuugghh . . . " my siblings were shocked, "No, it cannot be him," They had just heard their father's signature sound whenever he cleared his throat. They looked at him closely and surely they could see his eyes that reflected those of a lion. It was father. They all started crying. They shed tears of joy, regret, pain and despair.
My father had just been released from a Kikuyu concentration camp known as "kiugu" where many kikuyu people and the Mau Mau fighting for Kenya's independence were incarcerated. Jails and prisons were full. My father had left many kikuyu people behind in the "kiugu." The concentration camps were stretched all over the country. Daddy was arrested because he was suspected of feeding the Mau Mau at our restaurant in the night under the cover of darkness. The Mau Mau visited the restaurant, ate and took back enough food to feed other freedom fighters in the Aberdare forest. Providing food for the Mau Mau freedom fighters was dangerous.
One home guard named Kimani was a traitor and he informed the white District Commissioner. My father's association with the Mau Mau was enough to have him arrested. Kimani the traitor also had a crush on my teenage elder sister Mukuhi. On the night of my father's arrest, Kimanishowed up accompanied by the District Commissioner and policemen armed with riffles. Kimani walked direct to grab my sister. My father stepped in the middle. He told them, "Kimani, you are going to rape my daughter on my dead body, I will not allow anyone to touch her!" As my father continued to resist any contact with my sister, Kimani was frustrated and they fired several bullets between my father's feet. He did not move an inch, he was not scared. The police quickly seized him, put him under arrest and sent him to prison. Home guards were hated. They were traitors. Occasionally, the Mau Mau visited traitor's homes at night, chopped their heads off and left them for the dead. Many were killed especially after independence.
Kimani ended up our neighbor after Kenya's independence. He and other traitors were frustrated by their own guilt. People loathed them. His disappointment and culpability made him drink alcohol too much and he ended up an alcoholic. One day Kimani was driving his own tractor and he was as usual drunk. Out of his own arrogance, he did not pull over his tractor to urinate. Instead, he stood on the tractor to urinate as he steered it on the road. Suddenly he lost control and the tractor flipped, rolled and crashed him. He died on the spot, just a few years after Kenya's independence. People in our village celebrated his death. I felt sad for his children who were by then my best buddies and playmates.