Everyone came to help us move. Even Uncle Ansa whom I had not seen for a long time. I still remember the night you and he fought and you slammed the door at his exit. Mama had tried to calm you down but you had gone into your study and shut the door on her too.
I was supposed to be asleep but the argument woke me. I came downstairs and cuddled up to Mama as she waited for the storm clouds to pass.
That was the way it was with you, Papa; stormy and cloudy, but with 0% chance of rain.
Mama says I have your temper, and your big heart. She always smiles when she says that. I smile too.
I do not want to leave this house but Mama says we must. It is strange how it is the things that give me comfort that keep her awake at night. I heard her talking to Uncle Azu last month, when she told him about us moving to Nigeria.
“Every time the door shuts in this house Azu, I imagine it is Ifeanyi in one of his moods again. Everywhere I turn, I see him; his smile, his dance, the bushy eyebrows he would never let me shape, his glasses, his brandy… Every sound I hear, I imagine it is a harbinger to his laughter, his terrible singing… Every man in uniform I see, I want to run to. I want to ask him if he has seen my Ifeanyi, if he can tell me where to find him. I can’t get away from his memories Azu, not in this house, not in this country. And I need to. I need to for my sanity.”
I listened to their conversation and cried. I went to the study and found the book you had been reading. It was a book of poems. Your place mark was on W.B Yeat’s “An Irish airman foresees his death”.
We don’t have much to pack but it takes hours for us to be done anyway. Mama told me the other day that our things will be sent to Nigeria on a ship, just like the ones you spent most of your life on, just like the one you died on.
“Why can’t we send it by air” I asked her. “What if something happens to this ship too?”
She had burst into tears at my questions. It was just the two of us at home that day so I counted my toes a thousand times and let her cry.
We will spend a month in Uncle Azu’s house and then it is off to Lagos where Mama has family that can help her ‘cope’.
She sold most of the books but let me keep the one with the poems.
They tell us, you died serving your nation but didn’t you always say you were Nigerian at heart?
They tell us we should be proud and hold our heads up high but they forget sadness weighs heavy.
They tell us you were one of the best sailors the Navy ever had but what does that matter to a 12 year old boy who loves planes and needs a father? Or to his widow who will never again sleep in her husband’s arms?
‘I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above.’
My father met his fate somewhere among the seas below. Does that make the sacrifice any less worth it?
“Maybe someday you will join the Navy too, son and make your father proud,” One of the men in uniform said to me as he shook my hand, on the day that we buried you.
“I think I’d rather be an airman.” I informed the man.
“Whatever you are, this country will be honored to have you.”
I miss you every day, Papa, and when the storm clouds gather and the rains start to fall, missing you gets harder. It makes me miss the storm clouds with 0% chance of rain.
I will be an airman so I can stay close to those clouds.
‘In balance with this life, this death’
Song of the day: Fergie – Finally