“Go into the shop and take a packet of tom-tom for you and your brother. The weather is too cold befor you start coughing.” Mama said as she patted Moyo lightly. Moyo ran off yelling her brother’s name even before I could comment. She probably knew I would say she couldn’t have it.
“Gbenga! Gbenga!” She continued to yell joyously as she ran outside. I turned to Mama.
“Maami you’re spoiling these children o!” I complained.
“Spoiling them with just a packet of Tom-Tom for cold?” She asked sarcastically.
“Maami you know you didn’t give them that Tom-Tom because of their cold and even if it were so, a whole packet?” I asked rhetorically.
“Wo Laide, you worry about nothing. They are just kids and one should pamper them a little.” She tried explaining.
“…But you didn’t pamper me like that at their age.” I cut in.
“Oh I see!” She exclaimed. “All those times my mother brought kuli kuli and wara for you and your sister nko?” She asked sarcastically.
I chuckled a little.
“Now don’t complain again o!” She said as if it to close the chapter of our discussion.
These were the moments I loved the most. Half the time in my life, she did a lot of shouting about almost everything. She was one woman very hard to please or understand but I knew she only meant well. Sometimes she would set booby traps like sprinkling bread crumbs in a corner of the parlor just to be sure me and my sister cleaned the house. I always called her a perfectionist and really, no one likes perfectionists.
I remember growing up, she and Baba fought a lot. Not over money really – but sometimes, she would just decide not to understand anybody. When it comes to reading meaning into harmless messages, Ah! Expert! It was so annoying! Many times I thought of running away from home especially because we never got along about or over anything.
When I came home with a Second Class Upper degree, she wailed and lamented about her disappointment that I didn’t bring home a First Class. My father on the other hand said he was proud that I had honored him in such a magnificent way – no, I won’t even tell you what degree maami graduated with – She probably thinks I don’t know but that’s the main reason I got irritated about a lot of things she did. Baba was my guardian angel while growing up! Maami never liked that I was Baba’s pet so you can imagine how strange it is now that we bond.
“Maami, is Baba at home?” I asked.
“Oh yes, he said he wanted to get something in the room.” She replied. “Maybe he has slept again.” she added.
“Kai! Baba can sleep shaaaaa!” I chipped in as we both laughed.
“Where are the children? Call them in before the rain starts. You know these village roads are muddy unlike the city” She added.
I looked out the window to call my babies.
“Ah! It’s drizzling already!” I said alarmed “Gbenga! Moyo!” I called out.
I saw them run towards the house as I closed the louvers. Maami was already saying something
“…and then close the window in your father’s room” she concluded calmly.
I walked towards the door to let the children in as I echoed “Yes ma.”
“Gbenga go and tell your aunty to make tea for you and your sister. She is in the kitchen.” I said as the two of them ran inside the house. I took a wrap of Tom-Tom from Moyo before she could run after her brother.
“You go and sit down! I’ve told the two of you to stop playing in the rain! Go and meet Maami in the parlor!” I yelled.
I walked towards the room to shut the louvers as maami had instructed. My babies probably have no idea there are no good hospitals in the village and of course having pneumonia before going back to Lagos was not on my to-do list. I wonder if Gbenga has…
“MAAAAAAAAMI!” I screamed.
He was on the floor. He wasn’t breathing well. His pulse was faint. His eyes were closing. He was muttering something… No, he wasn’t… Baba! Baba!
“Kilode!” Maami yelled from the parlor as she ran towards me.
“Egba mi! Jesu! Bimbo! Bimbo!” Maami called out to my sister as we both tried to drag Baba out of the room.
But drag him where? Where was the hospital? How was the road in the rain? Would Baba’s 504 not get stuck before we even start moving? I started to cry. I was certain we would lose him. Oh my Baba!
They said it was heart failure. We knew he was hypertensive. They said he tried, that he had lived too long but we believed he lived too well. We all knew he had to go someday… Someday we wished would never come.