My Rejoinder to: AND MY FATHER WAS ALONE IN THE HOUSE: THE REALITY OF OUR MORTAL DECLINE! (By Samuel Ajayi)
This poignant piece submitted by Ezinwa Ogbuehi evoked so many emotions in me, as did the thoughtful rejoinders from readers. (Ezinwa amazes me always with his perspicacity and pathos. I’d have loved to be his teacher in my time!) The thread of responses to that post has grown so long that I choose to start a new one here.
You see, I myself am near the entrance to that tunnel that leads to forever. Nothing sums up my emotions better than the observation that the old man in the story, Samuel Ajayi’s father (?) finds delight in living vicariously through his children and grandchildren. Life is an endless relay race in which, as the eminent geneticist Richard Dawkins says, the sole role of each of us is to run his leg of the relay and pass the baton to his progeny. That’s why, though I’m no longer religious, a favorite quotation I use to face the terminus of life is that grand epistle of Paul of Tarsus to Timothy his protégé: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course…”
It is foolish to rue the fact that we do not individually live forever or that we sink into decrepitude with time. The fear of death, rife through all times and societies as it is, is the main reason we cling desperately to all sorts of superstitions about a “hereafter,” but that’s neither here nor there. In one of my novels I injected a dialogue between two thoughtful intellectuals concerning the reason why nature uses death to prune the vines of life and renew virility continually. My calculations showed me that if individuals did not die off but lived on to make more and more babies, the population of our earth would be reckoned in hundreds of billions. Our earthly resources are now groaning under the weight of our seven billion inhabitants. Now think of hundreds of billions! So, you see, decline and death of individuals is nature’s safety valve.
The only thing I regret is that, with our changed times and mores, old men or women can no longer expect to fade away cocooned in the emotional comfort of the proximity of their offspring — who are of necessity dispersed to the four winds by their pursuit of life. But that cannot be helped, and my father always said, “That which cannot be cured must be endured.”
I wish all of you long lives and the joy of eventually living vicariously through your offspring, as I now do, like Samuel Ajayi’s dad.
FaceBook Post by Ezinwa Ogbuehi (09/27/17):
AND MY FATHER WAS ALONE IN THE HOUSE: THE REALITY OF OUR MORTAL DECLINE!
By Samuel Ajayi
(Please take your time to read this through)
Earlier this month, I traveled home for a burial of a woman who stood up to be counted when I needed her about 23 years ago. On getting to my hometown, I went to our house before going for the wake-keep. With me was a colleague, Raheem Akingbolu. On entering the premises, a sprawling bungalow of over 12 rooms, the sound of silence hit me like hurricane. Everywhere was quiet. Except for errant ruminant animals feasting on leaves and hens preparing for roost, it was nature at its tranquil best.
I entered the house.
On his favourite couch was my father having a nap. He was alone in the house at that time. Ever vigilant, he felt my presence and came back to reality. On all fours, I offered my greetings. In his manner, he asked after everybody:
“Omo ni siko? At’eye ran? S’o i gbero ira rin han?” (How about those kids and their mum? Hope you are hearing from your siblings). I told him everyone fine.
And he became lively. From church to town matters; from politics to family issues; we touched everything. He was obviously glad to see me after almost a year. And that was when the ephemeralty of life hit me.
Here was a man who once filled me with awe. His presence usually sent jitters down my spines in my formative years. A beneficiary of the Jerome Udoji windfall of mid 70s as a teacher, my father acquired one Yamaha 80 motor bike before later getting his first car. The sound of the bike my siblings and I could recognise among 200 other bikes. Ever playful, the sound of my father’s motorcycle usually brought out the good children in us; that which we usually jettisoned whenever he was out. But he was never deceived. Our heavy breathings when called upon (which he usually did upon arrival in the house) would always give us away. And then some inescapable canning would follow.
Yet, he was always protective. If we went to the farm on a Saturday (he was hardly available on weekends due to different meetings) and did come back on time, he would be worried. Yet, we would likely be beaten upon arrival for staying late in the farm. Whereas, he was initially worried not seeing us on time. And if we killed a game in the farm, the last we would see of it was when we brought it home. Our fathers sha!
I grew up with many extended family members living with us. It was always a full house. But a passage of time has changed all that. Check this out:
The baby of the family (actually my half sister) is about getting married. Yet, she was a two year-old toddler when I entered university.
The second to the last born got married last year.
From one big family 30 years ago, virtually everyone has moved on to start his or her own life and raise his or her own family. As we were GROWING, my father was DECLINING. A harsh reality of life. As he aged, his INFLUENCE, CONTROL and POWER over us began to wane. From scampering to safety upon hearing the sound of his motorbike, he is the one who is happy seeing us. Even calling if he didn’t hear from us on time.
Today, the sound of my approaching car will naturally make him feel excited. Yet, 40 years ago, the sound of his own motorbike always filled me with trepidation. Then I saw him as my NEMESIS.
Today, I am his GLORY.
Time has a way of humbling us; of restating our mortality and reminding us how ACTUALLY feeble we are. As we age, our limbs become weak. We have our cravings but physical limitations ensure they remain what they are: mere cravings.
Today, many of us run our kids’ lives. If the school bus does not bring them on time, we pick our phone to call. We protect them as if the world out there will swallow them. Yet, one day, these kids will tell us in clear times that they don’t need us again except our prayers. They start their own lives and the cycle continues: protecting their own kids the way we protected them.
How many of us actually imagine our lives in 30 years time?
At about 80, my father is close to his twilight. That is the inevitable reality passage of time has brought upon him. I knew how active and agile he was at my current age.
His feeble voice and frail body (as I entered the living room that Friday afternoon) reminded me of the inevitability of my own decline.
It is just a matter of time…
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