My first memory of my Daddy is very clear and vivid. He was home with my older brother and I, my mother had gone to the hospital to have a baby. He made Chappy and I asaro with lots of meat. I still remember the plates we used and where I was seated. We were getting prepared to go out and were so happy we could barely sit still. We went visiting Mummy and our baby brother, Opiki, who was born the day before. My 3rd birthday came 2 days later.
My Daddy was my hero, my superman, my greatest cheerleader, my sounding board, my confidant, my friend. He was always there to help, to encourage and to reprimand. There was absolutely nothing we didn’t talk about. He was a great listener, he never judged me. Yet he was an impartial arbiter, and he was firm in resolving petty sibling quarrels which occurred often.
My love for literature and politics and hunger for learning came from my Daddy. We had and still have (to some extent, thank you Mr. Nobody for stealing our books) a large and diverse library in my house. Medical dictionaries (Opiki almost became a hypochondriac until Daddy hid those), Stephen King novels, Kama Sutra, books by Amos Tutuola. Before one session was over in university I already had my books for the next, and I’d have gone through and discussed half of my syllabus with my Daddy. This wasn’t peculiar to me, my brothers and I fought over who collected the newspapers from the vendor as that person got to read them first!
My Daddy was just one call away. Wherever I was in Lagos all I had to do was call and he will come to pick me up. Whatever the time of the day or night he will pick up the phone as soon as it rang and he listened and soothed whatever pain or worry it was away. He visited me almost every day when I was in university. Everyone in my faculty knew my Daddy and most times he didn’t have to call me for me to know he was around. In fact, I used to hang out with my lecturers even before I was admitted to the faculty. Okiki, we never quite had the chance to do our LLM together.
The day he died I lost my friend. It was a day no different from any other, it started out uneventful. Work went on as usual but I felt this heaviness in my heart, I felt bereft. I called home everyone seemed fine. “How’s Daddy?” I asked. I was told he was fine doing okay, he was sleeping. I felt uneasy, I felt terribly unhappy. I didn’t want to go home after work and I didn’t feel like speaking with anyone so I decided to go to the cinema. I saw “Silver Lining’s Playbook” and I felt I could relate to more than half of the characters. I loved the movie. I was skeptical initially as I wasn’t sure I would like it and when I realised that I did I turned my phone notifications, I didn’t want to be disturbed. I got the news that my Daddy had passed immediately the movie ended. Bad news never has good timing. Chappy called me. Be strong he said, Daddy is gone. I later saw that Opiki had been calling me during the movie; he was on his way home from work when he got a very random call from one of my Daddy’s friends. He suspected that the worst may have happened and he wanted to prepare. Of course I practiced what I learnt from the movie, it is okay to act crazy some times. I cried I screamed and brought the house down. People ran out of shops and cinema halls wondering what was going on. Yes, I am the girl who lost it at Silverbird Entertainment Centre on 20th March, 2013.
You see my Daddy had been ill for some months. We hoped, we prayed, we worried, we cried to God that he will get better. I didn’t realise how deeply affected I was until one night I woke up and realised I had been praying and crying out loud in my sleep. The worst part of it all is the hope. Rising and falling, like the tide. Seeing a loved one who was strong and healthy gradually deteriorate physically and then pass on. There were bad days and there were good days. But I thank God for every moment spent together. I have no regrets, we said everything, and nothing was left unsaid.
We didn’t know how wonderful he was until we lost him. He meant different things to different people. The pastor of a church in our neighbourhood told the crowd gathered at the Christian wake keeping in his honour that my Daddy was the major contributor to the building of the church. My Dad wasn’t a member of the church. There were testimonies from people who had known him for over 50 years, 7 years and just one month. It’s a wonder he had time for his nuclear and extended family, his friends and everyone he helped and mentored. We laid my Daddy to rest singing his favourite hymns and the CMS Grammar School song. We wept listening to the songs because we could hear him singing in our minds. He loved to sing.
He fought valiantly and, as Chappy said, he bore it all with equanimity and with the knowledge that Jesus was waiting to receive him on the other side. We did our best and I am indeed grateful that he could see how well loved he was. He demanded to go to home and he had his family and friends around him until the very end.
I miss my friend. I see his passing as a denouement. I find myself wondering, “Where do I go from here?” Sometimes I am overwhelmed with emotion. I feel lost and unable to muster up the zeal or interest to do anything. I wish I could fall asleep and wake up in 5 years. I look around and I am genuinely amazed to see people happy. However, most of the time I rise above the dark clouds and pick myself up. I hear his voice, I hear him laughing, he tells me he is in a much better place, he is happy and without pain. He is with the Lord.
I have to move ahead. He asked me to remember the good times, to hold on to those memories. I will hold on to them, I will keep them dear. I will preserve the good name, the legacy he left behind.
Happy fathers day!