HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I had a vision in which my father urged me to write him a letter about happenings in my life after his transition. That was how the journey to OLD SCHOOL began. Please, come with me on that interesting journey.
DEAR FATHER: Part 1.
It’s six years now since you left us for the other world. The way you left was such that I couldn’t tell you many things that I had in mind to share with you. Much more happened after your passing that I daily wished you would come back just for a moment together; father with son – now a grown man – to look at what life has thrown the way of that little boy you dragged off to boarding school, what now seems like ages ago.
But that wish is over now because of a vision I had one day.
In the vision, it seemed like you appeared to me and said, “Son, why don’t you write me a letter and tell me about all those things on your mind?”
Write you a letter! I mused. Who ever heard of someone writing his dead (I hate that word) father a letter? Where would I post it? How would you collect it? Okay, let’s say I went ahead and wrote the letter via e-mail; you never touched a computer all your life, so how would you read it?
Questions and more questions were popping up in my mind when suddenly it was over. I soon forgot about it all.
Then, yesterday, in your living room, which by the way I’ve given a bit of a facelift, my son, your grandson Ose, asked me a question. Do you remember him? Well, if you do, surely not as a thirteen-year-old inquisitive teenager.
He said to me, after looking at your portrait hanging on the wall, “Dad, why didn’t grandpa wait for us to meet him before he died?”
I guess you’re wondering what we were doing in your living room and how many of us were there. I’ll tell you. We came on a visit to your first wife, my mum, their grandma. Yes, all of us – myself, my wife and our two other children Isi, who is now almost fifteen years old and Eghonghon who just turned ten.
They had always pestered us with the demand to go and see their grandma so that they would at least know her since they could not remember their grandpa. They even accused us of making them to forget all their friends in Nigeria. Not that they had many, as we had emigrated to South Africa when the eldest was only just seven years and the youngest was about eighteen months old.
Anyway, there we were, on a Christmas holiday visit, thinking that Ose’s question was just one of those numerous questions that had been asked on our journey from Lagos to Uromi; questions to which I had been unable to give satisfactory answers. Questions such as; why do motorists and pedestrians in Lagos all appear to be in a hurry; why do three or more people ride on one okada (commercial motorbike); why does the government allow little children to be running around in traffic selling stuff; why are there so many police roadblocks on the highway and why do police collect money from drivers at roadblocks; why are there so many potholes in the roads; why do motorists have a habit of honking when there are obviously no obstacles in front of them; why don’t petrol attendants issue receipts at filling stations? And so on and so on.
These were questions informed by their experience in South Africa, where you would be considered off the hook if you failed to stop at an intersection for the motorist that got there before you to pass first; or you are in the habit of tapping your horn every now and then when you’re not a taxi driver drawing the attention of commuters; where motorbikes are not used for commercial transportation; where you can drive for years without seeing policemen at roadblocks asking you “wetin you carry?”
But it turned out that it was only the beginning of more questions to come.
“And why don’t you have a gap-tooth like grandpa?” the little one chipped in, still looking at the photo.
To the boy, I fired back, “Why don’t you ask grandpa why he left without saying goodbye?”
The tone of my voice wasn’t exactly very friendly. He knew it and I knew it too. I knew he had just asked me a question that I had asked myself several times before.
Then I remembered the vision. Perhaps I should indeed write that letter Papa suggested to me, to tell him about my sojourn after his departure. Perhaps he would find a way to read it and provide answers to some questions agitating our minds, or at least get to know what has been going on since he went to sleep, I thought.
After all, that was what sympathizers told me when they were consoling me over your transition. They told me you were not dead but sleeping. The all-knowing village elders, when I got home, even told me that wherever you were, you were sure to be watching over us. Some neighbours told me to stop crying because knowing you the way they did, there was no doubt in their minds that you would not be far away from us. And that was how I began this letter.
I hope you won’t be disappointed to learn that I cried when I was told of your transition. You always told us that a man should never cry. But then, you were not a man when your father died. If I remember correctly, you told us that you were still a little boy when he passed on.
Did I cry because I loved you so much and would miss you dearly?
Did I cry because I was not around you when the final hour came?
Did I cry because you died too young?
Not necessarily – you crossed four scores, and given the current life expectancy, you did very well for yourself – or rather God was quite kind to you.
Why else did I cry?
I cried because when they broke the news to me, I was broke; very broke. I was passing through a phase of financial drought, as my head office could not remit money for my Foreign Service Allowance at the time, owing to some bureaucratic constraints.
I had managed to send some money home for your treatment and got reports that you were responding well to treatment. I learnt later that on the very day of your exit, you gathered members of the family around you, asked the children to sing some gospel songs with you, even though you were not the church-going type, and requested for a special meal of akamu and akara. They were all happy that you were recovering. But you knew better. That, apparently, was your idea of a farewell party.
You had left word that I should not allow anyone to put your body in a fridge, as you used to call the morgue. So, there was no question of holding on for me to rake up some funds to come home to witness your interment. I had no money but I had tears and I let them flow. I was bitter and angry. I was angry at the government of my country for introducing at the time, a financial regulation called due process, which delayed the process of sending money to my office in Pretoria. I was angry with myself for not being a multi-millionaire like some of my mates, or even juniors, who could have chartered a plane to fly straight home.
I voiced my bitterness and frustration as I cried and my wife; that gentle spirit, that voice of reason, that incredible counsellor said to me; “These people you are comparing yourself with, do you know what they do to get their money?”
At that point, I didn’t care a jot what they did to get their money and could have done anything to have enough for my needs. Or could I? At the back of my mind, I knew she was right. Some of them had no visible means of livelihood but carried complimentary cards describing themselves as international businessmen. Some of them were genuine millionaires though, having chosen more lucrative careers. I knew I couldn’t change my career overnight. I knew too that I was going to have a sleepless night that night. And I did, in spite of efforts by my wife to console me.
Papa, you told me once that a man should not consider himself lucky until he is married. You knew when I got married. You sent your friend in my wife’s village to go and investigate whether she was from a good family. You led the delegation that went for the traditional marriage ceremony. You were around when she gave birth to my three children. You never once told me whether you considered me a lucky man or not.
Now, I can tell you that I consider myself a lucky man. When I look back at the time she would jump on my okada when her mates were running after ‘happening guys’ in sports cars, when I look back at the time we went without food because my state government could not pay teachers’ salaries, when I look back at the time I had to make a small cassava farm behind the house I rented as a school teacher, and she had to fry the cassava to make garri for me, when I look back at the time I upgraded to a Volkswagen Beetle car and her friends would still mock her for following a common teacher around inside ‘comot-make-I-enter’ (as the two-door budget car was nicknamed) while they were rollicking with akata guys driving Mercedes V-booths, when I consider how patient, how kind, how humorous, how firm or even stubborn (when she believes in a cause), and when I look at the wonderful children God has given me through her, I cannot but consider myself a lucky man.
I remember telling you that my wife was a former student of mine. You had asked me at the time whether it was proper for a teacher to have an affair with his student and I explained that I waited for her to pass out of school before I made my move. What I didn’t tell you was the tactics that I used……
To be continued.
These days, technology and social networks have made the task of wooing a woman much easier. What means did I employ to secure the attention and love of my future wife? The story has just begun. Watch out for Part 2.
You may follow the link below to see other aspects of my sojourn, captured in the published book OLD SCHOOL.
Follow this link to order your copy from the location closest to you: http://www.newsplus.ng/old-school-now-available-near/
Or get a soft copy at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07PGRB14Y/ref=mp_s_a_1_6…
GOD BLESS YOU.