25/12

You wake up with the sound of your sister’s voice sounding slightly annoyed. She tells you that you’re going to have to pay a family visit today, and this pisses you off too. She says it’s your father’s idea and there’s no day better than this to go. You go through the motions dreading the car ride and subsequent sickness that comes from the prolonged journey, driving through Lagos is never a fun idea much less to Ikorodu. You arrive unannounced with the fruit basket hastily put together by your elder sister, with your father leading the way. Your eldest sister is too busy trying to keep up with him while you help the other sister who’s evidently struggling with the weight of the watermelons that were an afterthought in the not-so-big basket.

There’s a lull and then an uproar. Smiling faces and loud laughs from people you’ve successfully avoided for two years coming out to greet you, to lighten your load, to welcome you. The old woman barely upright in her stance greets you wide smiled and almost toothless. She hugs you like her life depends on it, then looking up to see your face, maybe trying to memorize it so the next two years of silence wouldn’t be so hard. She’s aged, obviously but she’s still active. You struggle to communicate with her in your less than half baked Yoruba, with little assistance from your father. She looks at your father, her son and thanks him for bringing you. She laments on the amount of time it has been, how she asked for you constantly. And the disappointment from not hearing back from you. She looks up, arms stretched and thanks God in every manner she can think of. She thanks him from letting her see her grandchildren one last time before she dies. She’s close to tears now, you can hear it in her voice, her gratitude naked and unashamed muttered in her Ijesha dialect. You imagine her mortal sadness if you hadn’t arrived. You don’t need to understand Yoruba to know her pain. It’s funny how the “grand” things you ask for pale in comparison to her anguish to see you maybe for the last time.

She laughs occasionally. She reminds of how she carried you when you were little, but your sisters were too old to allow her carry them so they went around with the house help. She encourages you to eat, just a little for the sake of odun. You hesitantly agree. Your Yoruba fizzles out with nothing left to say, and then you communicate in English to your sisters. She doesn’t understand but she’s content to have you there, to have seen you, touched you, embraced you.

During the ride back home your father will tell you she’s 96 years old and still very agile, how she’s doing well for her age. He’ll tell you what a shame it was that you never met his father, that he too was strong for his age. Although you knew when he was dying and you were so close to it you almost experienced it. You will hear him miss his father and then you’ll kick yourself a little for being angry earlier. He won’t tell you he misses them, he’s too rough edged and grown up for that but you’ll know in all the subtle ways he expresses it. This will be your Christmas; emotionally tiring.

25/12

An ode to the man.

Growing up I’ve always had a lesson teacher/tutor whichever you prefer, to help me through the academic year. And believe me they came in different shapes, sizes and personalities. But the most memorable and probably loved – largely because I spent the bulk of my formative years with him – was my Ghanaian lesson teacher; Mr. Patrick. I don’t mean to exaggerate but he was awesome. He was an awesome teacher, mean flogger, and somewhat friend, and encourager. He was one of those people that never saw a reason to stop believing in you; and by God it got exhausting

Mr. Patrick taught me for 5 years, Nursery 2 – Primary 4. And from nursery 2 – primary 1 I pretty much excelled in school. When I got to primary 2, there was a new girl in class named Rachel. Rachel was smart, very smart and she was Efik. She became my biggest competition in class for the 1st position. I was geared up, I wasn’t ready to relinquish superiority over my home turf to a newbie. It was an interesting fight, the constant struggle for topmost position and the constant disappointment that came from having clinched second. I remember the beginning of every school year, Mr. Patrick and I would sit at the dinning table and discuss our aim, our collective goal and how to get it. It was funny because he’d offer me incentives like money or a new storybook, there was always something to offer just to motivate me.

He’d say “Are we getting the first position this term?

Followed by my very emphatic response “Yes!

As the terms rolled by and the report cards topped with “2nd position” piled up, the eagerness dwindled and the “yes” became a “maybe”, then “hopefully”, then “I don’t know”. But through it all, the quiet conviction behind his question never faded or dwindled. It remained, patient, unwavering and never doubting. At a point I stopped getting disappointed that I came second, but disappointed because I’d let him down once more. In the two years I spent with Rachel as a classmate (I left the school after primary 3), I never did surpass her in class.

I grew up realizing that probably one of the most exhausting things is people’s faith in you, in the fact that you are able most especially when you don’t think you are.

I also grew up to realize that my class teacher in primary 2 and 3 (same person) was tribalistically biased, and that I more than deserved the first place.

I can’t ever forget Mr. Patrick not just because he believed in me, but because he gave me hope when I needed it the most and helped me believe in myself too. Mr. Patrick doesn’t teach me anymore and he isn’t a part of my life anymore but I do miss him, his Ghanaian accent, and his impeccable English.

Sometimes, I’d wish I was still little and I had Mr. Patrick to believe in me once more when I can’t. But then, I’m not little anymore and I have to learn to stop relying on people to help me believe in myself. I have to grow up and be my own Mr. Patrick and exhaust myself with vehement belief even when I just can’t.

An ode to the man.