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.