LIFE IN SUMMARY II.
The following morning, the air was cloudless, peaceful. And the atmosphere was back to life with mother singing as she prepared breakfast in the kitchen:
ekeledili mu aya,
ekelidi mun o so,
Nneka was with her in the kitchen but she washed the plates. Aunt Blessing prepared the dining table, Dike swept the house. Duke washed the car. And father was having a meeting with other members of his family about the burial of their late mother. I waited for the moment the visitors would be leaving the house because of the usual gift (money) I got from them. Some of them kept on lamenting these words “uwa iwe” meaning wicked world, while others shook their heads for as long as one could not imagine. Father was the first son of the family and was thus responsible for the funeral service. Not only that he was the most successful among his family members. so they looked up to him for almost everything. He took decisions while his relatives succumbed to his decisions because he fed them. I would often hear mother say irritatingly “I don’t know the kind of bond your father has with his family.”
We were all aware that it was going to take more than a day to finish. My mother who had made up her mind to follow father to our hometown to bury the deceased was no big fan of it. She had never visited the village for ten years since the move to Lagos city.
After two weeks, the burial ceremony had been well organized and it was time for us to go to the village. Mother called her pastor, Rev. Thomas on the day of our departure. He prayed about our journey and the burial ceremony. Then she put her phone in her bag. We took off with food and water in the car because of I have always loved food right from my little age. We arrived at the village at around 10 pm and everyone welcomed us. The house felt choked up but of course, we had to manage because father’s family meant everything him.
The burial ceremony started the following night, 2nd January, 2016. It began with the movement of late grandma’s body from the morgue to the family home. People had gathered to pay their last respects before she laid six feet beneath the ground. I stayed back at a hotel with my siblings because mother refused us participating in such activities. There was a party which represented the celebration of late grandma. I remember picking money sprayed on people from the bare ground along with one of my aunts. I gave all the money to mother after the party was over. For the next six days, different age groups came to sympathize with the family. During this period there were a lot of curses reigned on the unknown good-for-nothings.
On the 9th of January, 2016 at as early as eight in the morning, we were all at the Catholic church. It was the church father grew up in and the one grandma attended before she passed on. Growing up, father’s lifestyle encouraged his parents to give their lives to Christ. Father was happy to know grandma could as well be resting in the bosom of God.
After the service, we stayed back for a few minutes to greet a couple of friends, loved ones. Also, people who knew grandma. Mother had to rush back to the hotel to pack things for her departure to Lagos that same morning. Once it was time for mother to enter a taxi to the park where the bus will take-off from, father pecked mother on her right cheek. And gave her a lasting hug. He told her ijeoma (safe journey) while my siblings and I waved at her. We followed father back to the family home with our remaining belongings.
The sun was out. So, the women had gone to the farm, old men to the early morning meetings and the children swept the house. While my Aunt Blessing was preparing the dining with breakfast before we set out on our journey. My father was treating Dike’s injured leg from riding bicycle. Duke had on a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt with a pair of blue snickers to go with it. My sister and I wore the same outfit, which was a pink gown and a black flat shoe with a white pair of socks. And Aunt Blessing wore a black shirt neatly tucked into a pair of blue jeans and a flat pair of sandals to go with her outfit. Her hair was also braided like that of me and sister. We ate fried yam with scrambled egg and drank juice with it before leaving the hometown for Lagos.
Father decided not to drive as we left the hometown. Instead, he asked his driver, Oga Sunny who was of an average height in his late fifties. He had bulgy eyes in a baggy shirt and pants with a pair of slippers to start the journey. When we got to a place around Benin, there was a minor accident in front that had blocked half of the road. At least that was what father thought. It flagged down vehicles that were going in its opposite direction like ours but none stopped for it. Oga Sunny on sighting the situation from where we were, advised father that it was best we drove off because it seemed more like a set up than an accident. But, father insisted that we stop to offer them help and Oga Sunny obliged. Meanwhile, my brothers and I were playing some games in the back seat of the car. My sister just sat down still in the car and my aunt was asleep.
The next sound we heard were gunshots in the air. My aunt woke up at once, my brothers kept their mouths shut and I adjusted closer to my sister for an embrace. In this confused and scary state, one of the armed robbers came to the side of my sister’s door. He asked every one of us to run into bush including the driver except my father. We were all reluctant because we did not want to leave father there alone. But the man whose face was masked kept shouting “run into the bush now, run before anyone finds you”. My sister crawled out of the car into the bush followed by my two brothers. My aunt grabbed me from the seat and told me to get on my knees as we crawled from the location into the bush. My sister slowed down as she waited for me to catch up with her but my aunt told her to run and leave me. Dike struggled to limp on one foot. When we had found a secure place, we all went down. The next we knew was we saw Oga Sunny coming into the bush without father. Aunt Blessing was not pleased by his sight. So, she asked why he had left father behind but he replied saying “na wetin they tell me, they tell me say make I run into the bush”. As we tried to stay hidden we kept hearing gunshots until about twenty minutes later when we heard a car zoom off.
Once the ruckus had calmed down, we stood up and went back to the main road where we found father lying flat on the ground with his face to the bare ground. “Oga, Oga, Oga” Oga Sunny called out to father. Father finally stood up still frightened by the whole incident. He shook because his legs were weak and his eyes very sad. I wondered what they had done to father because I had never seen anyone as scared as he was. My aunt noticed that the car was gone and alerted everyone as she yelled out in tears “we buruofu moto.” All that crossed my mind was the rice I never even tasted throughout the burial ceremony. I cried so much that my siblings thought it was absurd. My father came towards where my aunt, siblings and myself stood. He lifted me onto his arms and asked us to find our way back to our hometown.
The next day, father put us on a bus at the park while he stayed back to sort out some issues on the robbery. We arrived at our home in the evening, at around thirty minutes past six. Mother on sighting us from the landlord’s verandah, which was in the second upstairs apartment ran to hug us. On getting to where we were, she said at once “nwam oo eh! Chukwu m di ne ke ne oo (my children eh! I am thanking you, God).” She lifted me up to her back. I wrapped my arms and feet around her chest and waist. Then she assisted Aunt Blessing in carrying some of our belongings. We lived on the mainland of Lagos City (suburban area). The upstairs apartment of a two-storey building with old roofing sheets. The building was cracking and the painted colors were fading. The first thing we did was to take our bath while mother prepared dinner for us. We ate that evening as though we had not eaten in weeks because we were all exhausted from the journey.
On the 12th of January, 2016, father arrived Lagos at about quarter to eight at night. But to our surprise, he came back with the stolen car, a black Toyota Corolla, 2016 model. Everything was intact except my jollof rice which no other person cared about. Mother danced so much that her heart ached for joy, not for the car but father’s safety also. Father slept that night without eating anything for dinner.
For several months, everything went back to normal. Father resumed work, my siblings and I went back to school while Aunt Blessing stayed back home as usual. We were once again a happy family who tried to put the past behind. But as people fondly say “the past has a way of creeping back into the present”. On this fateful night, at around eleven pm, we observed our night devotion without father who had gone to sleep as early as eight pm. Immediately after which Aunt Blessing went to put off the generator. I decided to sleep with father because I was scared to sleep alone and mother decided to stay in her my room with my older sister. The entire house was dark so I had to find my way into father’s room and onto the bed. As soon as I got the edge of the king sized bed, about to lay my tired body on the bed. Father stood up and grabbed my neck. It sent shivers down my spine as I thought it was one of my nightmares. I did not want to believe it was happening for real. I could barely see father’s face which made me suspect an evil spirit possessed him. And as I begged for my life with my shaky frisky voice, his grip got tighter. I was not ready to die so I kept saying my name out loud “daddy no! Daddy please, it is Nnena…”
Whenever I look at father’s face especially on the days he is furious, I get so scared praying never to encounter the person I saw that night. Even though mother explained it all to me that father’s action was not done on purpose. It happens to some people whose body cannot bounce back any shock from an attack. She also informed me that he had been experiencing it even before he attacked me. But he believed in his faith that it was a phase that was going to end. I felt bad for father but still could not come to terms with what he had done so I asked mother how he was doing. I could see sympathy in mother’s eyes as she looked at me and said “your father is in a difficult situation right now. He hates himself right now for what he did to you. He has been in a recluse for quite a while now and he wants to snap out of it, yes he still has his faith, he is seeing a therapist. What your father did not let you know was that he fought with the robbers that attacked you and your siblings the other day. He almost thought he was going to lose his life and that fear is tormenting him”.
It is a month since father attacked me, April 30th, 2016, our relationship is strained. But I love father and I know he loves me too, which is why I still call him father. Father left me with scar that haunts me up to this day every time I upset him. Father is back with himself. But I am the stained one at such an early age trying to forget what could have been my worst nightmare with faith, therapy, and paroxetine (one of the things I hate now my habit and living). Mother says it is because I love father from a distance What do I know? I am but a child.
Photo Credit: Unsplash.
Bibiana Ossai © 2017.