Daddy, I Have A Story For You

“Daddy, I Have A Story For You” – from Nathaniel Dunigan’s Journal

“Daddy, I have a story for you,” said Kasumba (pronounced: “kuh-SOOM-buh”).

“Let’s hear it.” I realized how accustomed I am to engaging in such a dialogue with one child while at least seven (or ten or twenty) others hover around me and on top of me with their own points of attention. Stories and songs seem particularly popular at the moment. Joel had just finished a tune for me that went “BOMM-sock-oh-tay, BOMM-sock-oh-tay”. And his dance was perfectly choreographed, especially on the BOMM-part.

So Kasumba began his tale. It was about a man and his dog in America. The long-and-short of it is that they made a trip in an “aeroplane-EEE” all the way to our village here in Africa where “the children-EEE were very HAPPY!” (I think it is his not-so-subtle hint that he wants a dog.)

Later, at Tuck-In-Time, I made the rounds for more songs and stories.

Njuba’s (pronounced: “in-JEW-buh”) story was simply that he hates to be sick. (Don’t we all? But he especially does.) And he kept drawing my hand to the crevasse of his neck so that I would feel his fever.

“Oh, beloved sick, how doubly dear you are to me when you personify (the Divine), and what a privilege is mine to be allowed to tend you.” –Mother Teresa

Ivan, one of my newest, was practicing his English; unfamiliar on his tongue. “Daddy,” he said eagerly, looking for the next word in his rehearsed commentary. It was failing him, so he tried the ole start-over trick.

A deep breath, and then “Daddy, My story…” (okay, this seemed to be working).

“Daddy,” (uh-oh, we’re starting over again).

“My story: I love you soooo…”

Then, while I was crouched at his lower bunk, I noticed that his eyes were not focused on mine, but above my head. Instinctively, I looked back–at the upper bunk behind me–and found Deus mouthing the words for which Ivan was so desperately searching.

“Daddy, My story: I love you soooooo MUSSSHHH!!!” His story climaxed with a smile and a hug that were truly bigger than life.

“Nange, bambi. Nange.” Me, too, dear. Me too.

In the girl’s room, Rita (10) insisted that I sit on her bed for a minute. (She always does.) Then she handed me a little note that will forever stay in my heart–and somewhere in the wells of my eyes–its reflection drawing tears up from my soul. Tears that don’t feel like sorrow, pain or grief. But neither do they really feel like joy.

Her note, written in big block letters on half a piece of notebook paper, says:

Daddy, I love you, and you love me.

I was sick and sick and sick [meaning extremely sick].

And (they) brought me here, and you took me (in).

And I will always remember.


Daddy, you are my true father.

I love you.

And that’s the end of my story.

Signed, Rita.

I love you, too, Rita.

And Njuba.

And Ivan.

And Kasumba.

And Deus.

And Joel.

And my dozens of other precious babies.

I love you, too.

And that’s the end of my story.