I actually never knew his birthday. It was not the thing, you know, to walk up to your dad and ask him what day he was born or ask him what his age was. You kind of guessed or if you were smart like I thought I was, you kept your ears opened when his friends were around or like when I got particularly lucky. The census was on, and the fellow asked Dad’s age, I was the only one who heard him give the fellow a smile and say his age. Thereafter I calculated silently to myself. So when he passed at 45, it was painful, and I wept bitter tears. I still had a few more years of growing up to do, but I had to do all that on my own.
Papa had a sense of humour, a fat laugh, and he was wickedly handsome. Six wives and a few girlfriends by the time he departed for the celestial job of being a policeman. You are wondering if I had finally lost it? Sometimes I am not sure myself so I wouldn’t really blame you if you go searching for more intelligent reading somewhere else. For some strange reason, I have been writing about people who have passed recently. I still talk to my dad you know. I did until a few years back when I learned I was holding him back and bid him a proper farewell
You would have liked him you know. He had this confused conviction about life, love and women. He told me about his confusion a few years after he had passed. I was intrigued when he finally started sharing such topics with me. While he was alive, it was father-daughter chat but not really deep. No, I am not deranged, I come from that part of the world where there is a thin line between the living and the dead. We invite them to meals, chat with them about our daily issues and demand that they keep an eye on what is going on here on terra firma. We are of the firm conviction that real knowledge comes to you only after you have shed this cloak.
In fact, the standard thing to do when you had reason to be suspicious of the cause of death of anyone was to go ‘call’ the person. That should be done within the next seven days before he starts walking towards the river of forgetfulness. If he crosses the river of forgetfulness by the 40th day, it will be hard going for him to remember his time on earth in real time. You see; we accept that dying must come but that the person continues to live in that other life and can also be permitted to have a say in the affairs of those who have left.
Why am I telling you all this stuff? I guess I don’t want you to think I have gone bananas okay? I am Nigerian and from the part of my world, when an old person dies, we say he has gone to the place of the elders and send him a prayer that he should only eat what his peers eat while, in that realm, we implore him not to sleep but keep an eye on those behind here. We turn his bones over every five years and prepare him a seat with the elders. This is usually done in some parts of my world by having a second funeral, or the final burial rites as we say.
I think we did that for my dad, but we haven’t done for him the second funeral, and there is a reason for that. When I spoke to him about ten years after he passed, he sniffed at that idea and said, some of my younger siblings still have not found their feet, and so I should hold my intentions. Besides I had met one or two of my younger ones when he moved home.
He was always being moved in those early years when he just passed. He told me he found the first place a bit confusing, and he needed to rest. Then came the first permission I was granted to visit him just as he moved. It felt like a train ride then. I had to remember which spot I had to get off. That was the first time; he asked after mum and the other wives, and he snorted about some of the things we had done when he passed. He told me not to panic if I did not remember most of the trip but that I could visit once in a while.
Just talking to you about dad makes me feel better. How is it from your side of the pond? Life is not something to sniff at, and it is not necessarily about making money. Papa said what was important was learning to be a human being. Always wondered what he meant by that. I mean I had to go to school, learn the grades and try to be successful. I remember he looked up then and smiled pointing to mother’s prophet, and he asked me if I thought I am on earth just to acquire wealth.
Anyway, I just wanted to share about my dad and me so you will stop feeling so sorry for yourself. Get a move on, learn to be a human being, death is simply being born into another world. Maybe you might have some idea what newborn babies feel when they are thrusting screaming in here. Have you ever seen a baby laugh as it is born? I wonder why
Okay, I will chat with you sometime again soon. I am off to convince my mum she doesn’t need such a fat stool to be made for her to sit with the elders. She has been going over there only fifteen years, for goodness sake.