My Ethiopian childhood was an Inversion of the American Dream

My time in Ethiopia was an inversion of the American dream with my enigma of a father at the helm. I never knew my father at his peak. Like most African politicians – there is a time of reckoning, and my father never recovered from his. I remember the first thing I was ever insecure about- it was my dad. You see, I only know my father in the capacity of a loving inebriate.

Repressed by American fodder and social norms, it wasn’t until recently that my sister and I begrudgingly began to recount memories from our childhood in Ethiopia. While I could only place my memories with scenes of heightened emotions- joy, anxiety, fear, and shame. My sister could recount the details with texture and prose. Most of our spirals were elicited by interactions with our now 73yr old father. With the utmost sincerity he would receive our calls with “oh Beziye-nafkote gedelegn/ your absence is killing me”-  a microaggression. Closing our biweekly chats with American I love yous, I would go about my day until an intractable flood of loathing enveloped me- WHERE WAS HE THEN.

Now that I live with my sister,  I’ve started to exercise my irritation. In this instance, I snarkily remarked on his newfound presence to the mental dives he put me through during his disappearing acts. As usual, she colored the 2-D scene on my behalf. Once, she recalled, he returned from a 3 day bender and on finding her distraught – slapped .50 cents on her stress induced sweaty palms. A fanta for her heartache.

 We cover a spectrum of memories- food insecurity to episodes too shameful to put on paper. The possibility of release from our own conscripted existence of a childhood keeping our line of exchange open.

Like any other insecurity- I am hypersensitive about my father. I have been monitoring peoples perception of him since before I could write my first name. To my mother’s family he is a spineless dupe but to his friends a loyal but penniless socialite. Watching my maternal grandmother and aunts hone in on our deteriorating living standards was very formative for me. Confused by my own desire to cover-up for my dad and then chilled at realizing their biggest grievance wasn’t his drunkard jaunts but his poor finances. My dad, unlike the retired officials of his social circle, never took on the role of boulevardier.