By BIGA LEBASI
KAPOLE tamagu! Or kapole my father.
Kapole in my native Suau means nostalgia plus.
Anything, anybody, place or thing, dead or alive that brings back happy or sad memories one must use this exclamation to express feelings of yearning for the past.
Yes, indeed, kapole DADDY in uppercase letters for in this small way I now declare my GADOSISI (LOVE) for him for this Sunday, Sept 2 is international Fathers Day.
I can recall my dad as far as the pristine early years of my existence growing up at our gisoa pa’ana ( Suau: under the mango tree) house that hugged part of the motor road that’s still snaking its way to oea ( hill/mountain top, garden) and the Kwato Mission historical cricket oval — in 1947 (incidentally that’s probably the year my cousin Lenah Dickson Dawanincura was born at Kwato and Taubadasaku Lawrence Stephens was born in Sydney, NSW, Australia.
This occurred at this house where standing between his big legs, I was then age five, and staring up to his caring face I asked in all my innocence: “Dedi iesahato to niu ne nige se lau si eno. Haidi si laulaueno?” In Suau it is translated: “Dad why didn’t the coconut trees go to sleep. Where do they go to sleep?”
I absolutely do not recall dad’s response or reaction but one person who, I believe was present and having gigimasi (conversation) was my uncle John Mark, who’d continue to delight family and friends recalling this gigimasi between dad and little Biga (Biga is pronounced as you say “bigger”!) until he passed to the other side early this decade at Alotau. Riep madiagu (my uncle).
Then my family moved from Kwato Island near Samarai, now Milne Bay Province, to our mission coconut estate Kanakope near China Strait and dad would manage it until death did do us part ….oh so sadly. ‘Course I was his “daddy’s boy” through and through, left right and centre.
He moved. I moved. He slept stretched out on the verandah and I was there clinging to his back like an oyster in the doldrums and in billows of the raging Coral Sea. Why? You ask? Because I loved him to bits.
He was my tower of strength, my protection. My hero. Mulolo Lebasi was and is still my bestest dad in the entire world.
Kanakope opened my young horizon to a brand new world of excitement, Papuan country life, growing up in an environment of love and satisfaction that all my needs to entertain myself were there already put in place by some power that I later was told it’s God!
Set in a very secluded bay Kanakope was paradise plus for me. I’d go fishing in a “stolen” canoe or a raft, off a pontoon left rusting in peace after World War 2 in 1945.
There are mangroves all around the bay so I’d perch on extending roots or branches and bring gosawa or konu from the briny deep for dinner. I love catching fish. But dressing them, I dread!
I followed dad all over the plantation, east, west, north and south and up towering Monimoni right up, up and above. On rainy days mist swirls around the top in mysterous hide-and-seek childhood, catch-me-if-you-can way.
I recall with fondness our hunting expedition to half way up Monimoni. Bang! He shot a couple of gabubu (pigeons). I ran down hill in great awkwardness for there were everything against me barring my descent to save the very dead birds from the Ramsi and Pinky and Spider our mongrels and best friends too.
“Slow down” dad warned. Too late, but thank God I ended up caught on the branches of a tree blessed with huge leaves that had me crash land in safety!
We about turned and due west we made our way to Maimoa visiting Bubu (grandma) Sineloi and some more relatives whose names I cannot recall for I now suffer from memory lapses too.
I followed dad recruiting for labourers from Goodenough Island in 1948 on Kwato Mission boat the Osiri (coconut fronds). Yams. Tuna. Dayadayasi. Seagull eggs. Pigeons. Oranges. Pawpaws. Bananas to cook and eat when ripe.
I wanted to piss. So dad lifted me up and above and over and I watered the Solomon Sea with pollution! I didn’t cringe in fear because I trusted my dad! Full stop.
We’d go fishing, night and day trawling. One night just at the back of Salauni the fish were biting and the sea full of luminous strange lights and the twine line was making scary noises as it rubbed against the side of the kewokewou and I moaned up stern.
We paddled, I mean he did and we arrived home safely for he loved me so.
He did catch a wild black little pig. He built a pigsty out of rusty WW2 corrugated roofing iron and let lose the pig in it for me. I was jumping with joy and ecstasy. A live pig for me! Sadly this little pig did not stay at home for long. It went to the wild. Riep silly little pig!
Then it happened. And it was so sudden. Sad. And cruel. Why him? Jesus, why him?
I, having heard mother sobbing into a pillow and overheard Bubui Sineloi consoling her with a tear drenched face, ran down to the jetting thus disobeying her pleading to stop me.
I stopped. Stared. I stared at the bloody white sheet. He was in the dory I used to row in around the peaceful Kanakope Bay.
I ran all the way home. I screamed. I screamed. I tumbled to the floor screaming. Yelling. Questions. No replies. They were afraid. I was too.
Where’s dad? Mummy, tell me please! Now! Where’s my daddy. Why? Why?
At Lekawakuduli on Kwato Island two miles from Samarai lies my favourite dad in the world in eternal peace, among towering and aged rain trees with wild orchids and staghorns and ferns of many varieties and more dense tropical foliage.
Starlings still break the silence. Waves from the white sandy shore too.
Otherwise, at most times silence and peace reign in this memorial park.
Eawedo. Gadosisi Dad. Thanking for loving me.
P.S. My dad died from a dynamite accident at Kanakope in 1948. I was six and I do recall his sad ending but my love for him I am carrying to my grave.
- Biga Lebasi is a freelance journalist.