He is the best father I can ask for.
“How old are you again?“ I ask him. I keep forgetting his age. Maybe it‘s because I don‘t want him to age. “Seventy eight“ he replies. “You are way too young papa“ I tease. “You still have a long way to go“. He laughs, hard.
I don‘t want him to feel old just yet. Despite the strong lines on his face, I believe my father is still young at heart, literally.
Almost three years ago, my father collapsed in the bathroom. Turns out almost all of the blood vessels in his heart were blocked, according to the doctors. But because God wanted him to stay young at heart, he gave him a second chance in life. After more than four hours of open heart surgery, his heart was renewed. And for that I am forever grateful. I am even more grateful for having a second chance to make a portrait of him.
Looking back, I began to understand that my father is probably one of my biggest influences without me knowing it. He has always been fond of making images, mostly of family and relatives. He still has not stopped. He takes out his phone whenever he notices a photo moment.
My father with his first camera, a Lubitel 2, he bought for 48 Ethiopian Birr in 1964. “I was a freshman at the then Haile Selassie University”, he recalls. 06 February 2016, Debre Zeit
On 27 April 1969, my father weds my mother. “I didn‘t know I was this handsome“, he teases, with a hint of nostalgia in his voice as he goes through their wedding album. 05 February 2016, Debre Zeit.
My father has always been a constant in my life.
He tried his best for me to become a better version of himself. One of my memories of him growing up is when he used to insist that I sit down with him after school to study math for what seemed like forever. I dreaded it of course, because I wanted to watch TV instead. 07 February 2016, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.
My father talks to a relative on the phone. Debre Zeit, 2016
This young man named Bezabih, was the reason for my mother and father to meet in 1959.
Back then, my father and his friends were high school seniors and my mother was a junior. “He came up to me one afternoon and told me about this beautiful girl he saw. I told him he has to show me and almost warned him to stay away from her until then” my father tells me. The next morning, his friend showed him the girl. “He was right. She was very beautiful” he recalls.
Photo originally taken in 1961 by my father.
I have always had this image of my father in my head since I was a kid. That was when he retired. Ever since, playing chess has been his way of keeping his mind work. 06 February 2016, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.
My parents did not marry until after 11 years they first met in high school. My father says my mother waited for him until he graduated from the University. In between those times, he had to be away from where she was to pursue his studies. The only way for them to keep contact during those times were through letters they exchanged.
I ask my father if there is anything he regrets in life that he wishes he had done. “I wish I had pursued my Master’s Degree” he replies. “That’s it?” I ask again. “Yes. That is it.” 07 February 2016, Debre Zeit
Most of my fathers’ days are spent with my mother in the quietness of my childhood home. 07 February 2016, Debre Zeit
Two of his granddaughters look on as my father takes his heart medication. This has become his daily routine since three years ago. Addis Ababa, 19 June 2016
My father takes a look at his grand daughters' tooth she took out a few days ago. 13 November 2016, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
I ask my father what is the most significant day of his life. "The day I married your mother", he replies. 23 April 2016, Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.