It’s that time of the year again, when we should gather to celebrate you and the influence you have been on our lives. Unfortunately, yet again I am far away, so far this time that I cannot even remotely be part of the event. Knowing you, I know its typically low key, a gathering of the special people in your life – which is basically Dad and us – the brood you’ve given your all for. We are all scattered far and wide now – me, kid bro, both sisters and all the numerous cousins but you have a special place in our hearts.
Growing up, you and I were never mushy – maybe because we are so similar. But you were always a fixture – unnervingly so at times. You forced principles into my head: hard work, decomposing problems into little bits, building contingencies into plans, defending budgets, that family meant sticking together even if people rubbed us the wrong ways, caring for the women in my life and your favorite quote for the natural recluse I was “No man is an Island”. I remember vividly the tanning my hide got for daring to beat the hell out of Ej; you understood I was provoked, but you insisted that the greatest moral victory was in not reacting, but living by a higher law – self control. Those were dark days, and you firmly ensured I was kept in check – hammered into line with everything under the sun: the old 404’s fan belt, the cable for the decrepit gramophone, the peppered koboko, bare hands, pick-pin (that had to be a torture tactic from the MI-6 archives!) and the odd kick on occasion; but the words were the ones that hurt the most. They forced me to think long and hard abut my life from a young age.
You probably saved my life by introducing me to Shakespeare, Chaucer, Moore, Browning, Mboya, Chukwuemeka Ike, Diop, Dennis Brutus and Alex Al Guma; whilst my friends were hanging out experimenting with cannabis, I was trying to recover from being blown away by words. You forced me to write all those 500 word essays back in the day, giving me the building blocks of critical thinking that have made me who I am. You taught me that anger was not to be expressed violently, but channeled into doing stuff. You and Dad modeled doing hard things; surviving in the midst of all those ASUU strikes on mere pittances in ways I find very intriguing even now: forgoing the extras for the needful, recycling as much as possible, long term planning on expenditures, always keeping some money away for the rainy day, having some savings in the bank and yes growing our own food! I still think you were way too hard on us – me especially, but then perhaps it was because you cared in your own way. You did stand up for us outside the house – if a bully threatened us, you went to their parents and made them back off. Of course you were not perfect, but I was way too ‘quietly stubborn’ as you famously put it!
You excelled at everything you did, making those chauvinists at work shut up. You demonstrated that being a family focused woman didn’t make you less intelligent or less hard working than them. And when the top job was open, you did your best, and but for some politicking you should have landed it. I still get called your son – even though I have some grey hair- still get some favours from people that you helped in the past – all those students you mentored, the NYSC chaps who came for free food, the women whose marriages were saved, all those cousins you brought into the house so they could get a fighting chance at getting an education rather than rotting away as yet another relic to the problems of polygamy coupled with living below the poverty line. I’m sure they feel the same way too.
I never got to read Medicine eventually; even a PhD seems like a tall order now, but I hear you are very much proud of me, and that I am still your golden boy. All them extra degrees you got are so not my portion IJN! I’m sure you understand that I never was and will never be the mushy, effusive guy. So I may never call you up out of the blue just to say mushy crap – but I hope that my actions and the mutual respect say it all; that you hold a treasured space in my life. You may never get to read this (I’m so hoping you don’t read my blog!); but just so you know, the customary phone call will occur later today.
Happy birthday Mum
P.S. I’m still working on the grand child angle, you know it takes two to tango! Kid sis has a head start already, so hopefully I am not so high up on the agenda. Kindly do not bring it up when I call you later….. Thanks for understanding..