Sunken Ships is a Zikoko series that explores the how and why of the end of all relationships — familial, romantic or just good old friendships.
Angela* was her father’s favourite child, and he made it obvious. They did everything together, but all that changed when she decided she no longer wanted to be a Christian.
Describe your relationship with your dad
Angela: My dad and I were close. I’m the second child f four, so it’s not like I have any unique title like “last child” or “only girl”, but there was something about my relationship with my dad that felt different.
While all my family members were doing their thing in the evenings, I’d stay with my dad to watch television and discuss politics. We supported the same football club, had the same favourite food and the same bad temper. My siblings knew my dad had a soft spot for me, so whenever they wanted his permission for something, they’d always make me ask. I don’t think he maltreated them; he just never hid how much he liked me.
I went to boarding school like my other siblings and went to university in a different state as they did too. The only thing I believe I did differently was not being in a hurry to move out of the house.
Angela: I didn’t want to. I had a job close to the house, I owned a car, and I got to spend time with my parents.
I grew up in that house, and it’s comfortable. I’d help around the house, pay for a couple of things and keep them company. My parents never said they wanted me gone. They were getting old, and I didn’t like the idea of older people staying in a house alone. Staying with them meant that in an emergency, someone would find them.
That makes sense. So how did it affect your relationship with your dad?
Angela: Initially? It didn’t. We watched sports, the news and played ayo together. We even became closer because I was older and understood some things better. He’d give me family gist, and we’d gossip about my mum.
All was well and good until I decided I wanted to stop attending church. My parents raised us as Christians. We were in various groups in the same church we’d attended since I was born. They took going to church very seriously, and I did too until I started losing whatever attachment I had to religion.
I was working late, so I’d skip mid-week services and feign sickness to skip Sunday sermons. Faking it got harder each week because finding new excuses to stay out of church got more complicated. I knew I had to tell my parents, but I didn’t know how.
Did you figure it out?
Angela: Yeah. One Saturday, while my parents were in the living room, I told them about my decision to stop attending church because I wasn’t a Christian anymore. My mum kept asking me questions, but my dad was dead silent. When I’d finished answering my mum, my dad just said to me, “Service is by 8 a.m. tomorrow,” and he stood up and left.
I knew he would be difficult, but I didn’t expect him to take it as severely as he did. We were supposed to watch the 10 o’clock news together that day, but he didn’t come out of his room.
The next day was church, and I refused to wake up on time. At around 7:30 a.m., my mum knocked on my room door to tell me it was time to leave. I ignored her. She came two more times until my dad showed up. He was so angry, he kept screaming at me, and I shouted back. We’d never been like that before. Our temper was usually reserved for other people, but that day? We let each other have it.
That sounds stressful
Angela: It was. After we finished shouting at each other, he told me he didn’t want to see me in his house when he returned from church, and that his house won’t be a den for immoral people.
I’d lived in that house for 25 years, and he suddenly kicked me out because I didn’t want to attend church. A part of me didn’t want to leave because, at first, I thought he was bluffing. But nobody knew my dad better than me, so I knew he was dead serious.
So you left?
Angela: Before they came back from church, I’d packed whatever belongings I felt mattered into my car and driven to my friend’s house. I dropped their key for them. My mum called me a lot that day. When I refused to answer, she started calling my siblings. They told me I shouldn’t have left and begged me to return. But my dad didn’t call, and I didn’t either.
Even though I was annoyed by their decision, I got them a cleaner who’d stay in the house 24/7 because I still didn’t want them to live alone.
Wow. Did he ever reach out?
Angela: No. I’d call my mum and speak to the cleaner, but he never talked to me. Initially, I would ask them to put him on the call, but he never agreed. Then, I stopped asking. One day, my mum called me to say he’d been rushed to the hospital, that he woke up and wasn’t breathing correctly. He’d had COVID the year before, and apparently, it did some significant damage to his lungs.
My other siblings were out of the country, so I was the only one keeping shifts in the clinic. I’d sleep on an uncomfortable chair and cry every day because, even though I hated his guts for throwing me out, he was still my dad. When he eventually got better, he still refused to talk to me directly. I was so annoyed because he didn’t even say he was sorry or tell me thank you.
I think that was when I realised I’d lost my dad. My mum says he misses me, but is proud, but I don’t care anymore. If he’d rather have a Christian than a daughter, then so be it.