Happy Easter folks. I am in Kansas city for the holiday. I ran away from the East Coast to come and eat better Onugbu soup. 😀
So this one is for the Father of all fathers, the King of kings, the Lord of Lords; the One who went the rest of the way for you and me a couple of thousand years ago, the One who is the reason for Easter, the reason for it all…
Thank You Baba mi, thank You Orun mi, thank You.
The house was as clean as it had ever been. Just the day before, Mayen had gotten her maids to dust everywhere and mop the floors. She got them to do it again this morning, just to make sure. She had even gotten them to wash the curtains in the library a few days ago, a room that no one ever visited anymore, not since Bandele had his surgery and slept more than he lived.
Everything was perfect. The guest rooms were all done up too just in case Dapo showed up with company. In her head, Mayen dreamed her son was married and had fathered a little girl he named for her; a little Mayen with her grandmother’s smile. She had set up Yeti, her daughter’s old pink room just in case these dreams were real. Little girls liked pink and Dapo’s childhood room with its blue everything and posters of Chelsea FC would not do.
Mayen had even gone out of her way to make Bandele’s favorite meal in preparation. It was also Dapo’s favorite meal so it was perfect for the occasion. She cooked it and imagined the little Mayen loving it too. Boiled plantains and fish pepper soup. She cooked the plantains till they were soft enough to mash to a paste. She made sure to not use too much pepper in the soup because Dapo had been away for a long time and who knew if life had tempered his endurance for roses that came with thorns.
As she sat in the living room to await her son’s arrival, Mayen wondered if she was dressed appropriately. She was wearing the blue dress Bandele had bought her from London on one of the few trips he had taken without her.
‘But you know I am not a fan of blue, Bandele. I am too old for such a bright color.’ She told her husband when he presented her with the dress even though she was in love with it from first sight.
‘Nonsense! You are as beautiful and as spry as the first time I laid eyes on you. If nothing else, wear it for me. It will make me happy.’
Blue was Bandele’s favorite color. It was Dapo’s too. It was why he supported Chelsea as a child. Mayen still had happy memories of Dapo in his blue jersey and Bandele in his red Manchester jersey as they screamed over football together every Saturday evening.
It all seemed so long ago.
Mayen had worn the blue dress a couple of times after Bandele brought it home and then the doctor found a clot in Bandele’s heart. At first, Mayen had blamed herself. If only she had cooked him more healthy meals, made him exercise more often…
Then the doctor found another clot and told them Bandele would need surgery and long term care so Mayer had put guilt away and saved her strength for what was to come.
The blue dress and her other nice clothes were discarded for the more comfortable boubous her tailor sewed with pockets that could hold medications and other things Bandele had come to need. The few times they left the house together after the surgery, Mayen would wear her boubous; a syringe in the left pocket, pills of varying colors and sizes in her right. She no longer carried handbags. She needed both hands to push her husband’s wheelchair on the days he was too weak to walk.
The doctor gave Bandele a clean bill of health after the surgery but Mayen knew that there were some things no medicine or surgery could fix, some things only love could cure. He slept a lot after the surgery and no longer read books to her. When Yeti, their daughter, came to visit with her twins, Bandele didn’t even try to play with them anymore. He always hugged them too tightly as if he was afraid they might get away too.
Yet he would brook no talk of the one he had let get away.
Mayen had never known anyone as stubborn as her husband or her son. Between Bandele and Dapo, they could negotiate the terms of World War 3 all by themselves. Still Mayen prayed.
Then eight days ago, her prayers were answered; Dapo called.
Adedapo Mfon Paul Coker; their only son, the baby of the house, the black sheep, the prodigal son. He was the reason for Bandele’s blocked arteries and the parts of his heart that didn’t beat any longer. He was the reason the past three Christmases had meant incomplete family portraits and Mayen’s usually content heart aching for more.
It was Jojuola, Bandele’s live-in nurse who answered the phone when Dapo called. Bandele had been fast asleep when the call came in on his cell phone so Joju had come in search of Mayen instead when the phone started to ring.
‘Hello,’ Joju answered, afraid she might lose the call before finding Mayen.
‘Hello,’ the person repeated to her and Joju’s heart reacted in such a forcible manner that she searched for Mayen with more intensity than before.
‘Mummy, ‘ Joju said breathlessly when she finally found the older woman reading her Bible on the balcony. ‘Mummy, there is a call for Daddy but he is asleep. Someone who says his name is Dapo.’
The speed with which Mayen had reached for the phone belied her 62 years and Joju was thankful to not be the only one to have a crazy reaction to this caller. She walked away to give Mayen some privacy and herself, a chance to wonder why the stranger’s voice had affected her so.
On the balcony, Mayen was full of praise for her God.
‘Adedapo! Is that you? Oh God, my God I thank you. Is this your voice I am hearing, Dapo? Jesus is Lord. He is indeed a faithful God. He has not allowed me to know shame. Adedapo, oko mi, how are you, ayen mi?’
‘I am fine, Eka mi’ he said and Mayen’s heart swelled with joy to know he had not forgotten the language of her heart.
‘Yeti told me about Dad. I am so sorry Mom. I am so sorry I wasn’t there with and for you both. I was just so afraid. I didn’t want to break his heart any further.’
‘Ah Dapo, but isn’t that what our hearts are for? To be broken by our children and put back together again by them. Your father forgives you. He loves you. Come home now my son. Forget the past and come home. The tables have turned my child. Your father needs you and your forgiveness now. Come home, Ufanima.’ Mayen said
‘But I can’t Eka, at least not right now. I want to give Dad something he will be proud of, something to mend the heart I have broken.’
Mayen very much wanted to tell Dapo about how Bandele boasted to his friends about him; his son that had followed his dreams, the boy that had refused to buckle and live up to expectations, the child that wanted to be more and surpass every expectation.
She wanted to tell him about the Mayan folk tale she had found Bandele reading. It was the story of a father whose son had gone so far away from home that it seemed impossible that he would ever return. One day his father called out to him, saying ‘son come home’. The son said ‘but I am too far away. I don’t think I can make it all the way back.’ The father said ‘walk back as far as you can and I will go the rest of the way.’
She had wanted to tell Dapo how she had seen tears in Bandele’s eyes after he read that story and how two days later, the doctor had found the clot.
She wanted to tell Dapo all these and more but she kept quiet. These stories were Bandele’s to tell.
She was about to ask about the possibility of little Mayens instead but Dapo cut in and said:
‘I have to go Eka. I love you and Dad so very much and will see you soon by God’s grace.’ He said.
He had ended the call then and Mayen had not even gotten a chance to ask about the last three years.
When Bandele woke up, Mayen didn’t tell him about the call but the very next day, she started preparing for Dapo’s coming home.
It had been a week now and the maids were beginning to whisper at Madam’s demands that they mop and dust every day. They were also starting to look at her funny when every night, just before dinner, she would put on the same blue dress and sit on the balcony overlooking the driveway as if waiting for someone to arrive. They were debating if they should call Yeti, Madam’s eldest daughter to tell her this latest development, but Nurse Joju told them to mind their own business.
Since Joju was hired to help care for Mr Coker, she had never seen Mrs Coker more hopeful and Joju knew hope was always the first step to healing so she reprimanded the maids before they could steal the woman’s hope.
It was the eighth day after Dapo called and Mayen’s stomach was beginning to rebel against the pepper soup she fed it every night. The maids on their own part were secretly pouring their share of the evening meal down the drain. Joju loved pepper soup so she drank it all especially since she knew it made the older woman happy.
It was the eight day and hope was starting to dim for Mayen. She could only drink so much pepper soup.
The end of the eight day came too soon and with no sign of Dapo. Mayen drank some of the pepper soup and bid Joju and the maids good night. She was taking off the blue dress in preparation for bed when she heard a car pull into the driveway. Bandele was pretending to be asleep but was really watching his beautiful wife undress when he heard it too. Joju was reading a book of folktales from around the world that she had found in the Coker’s library when she heard the car’s engine. The maids were planning their revolt against pepper soup dinners when they heard it too.
‘Mayen!’ Bandele called out to his wife as she ran out of their room. She had been acting strangely these past few days but he had been loath to bring it up especially since he didn’t want to discourage her wearing of his favorite dress. Now here she was again, running like the house was on fire.
Bandele reached for his walking stick determinedly and got out of bed. He couldn’t run but he would be damned if he didn’t go after her. It was why he was created after all, to always go after her.
He heard his son’s voice but he knew it wasn’t possible. The last time he had seen the boy, he had told him to forget he ever had a father and his son had replied ‘…with all pleasure’ before walking away without looking back.
Now, as Bandele walked slowly in the direction of Mayen’s voice saying ‘Ayen mi, ayen mi’, over and over again, his knees quaked.
‘Walk back as far as you can,’ the Mayan father had said, ‘and I will go the rest of the way.’
Bandele ignored his quaking knees; he would go the rest of the way if it killed him.
‘Adedapo,’ he breathed through his mouth when he had almost made it through the rest of the way
‘Dad,’ the boy said letting go of his mother to reach for his father.
Joju ran to her patient’s side. Her heart had been racing since she answered the door and let the Cokers’ son in. He had looked at her and she had looked at him and somewhere in the cosmos where hearts collided, they had found each other. She had opened her mouth to tell him she loved him but Mrs Coker had pushed her out of the way with the force of a mother who would not let one more second get in between her and her son.
Joju held onto her patient’s arm now, afraid the shock of seeing this beautiful creature might do to him, what it had done to her. Again she felt the wrath of a parent not willing to let anything stand in their way. Bandele shrugged her off, let his walking stick fall to the ground and ran the rest of the way to his son.
‘Omo mi,’ he whispered in the boy’s ears as the broken pieces of his heart glued themselves back together.
‘I am so sorry Dad’ Dapo cried.
‘You are here now. That is all that matters.’ Bandele told his son.
The maids watched from a distance and again wondered if this was a good time to call Sister Yeti. Even Nurse Joju whom they looked to for good judgment seemed to have gone mad as well with the way she couldn’t take her eyes off the man who had walked in from nowhere. The man himself seemed quite mad as his eyes kept seeking Nurse Joju’s as if he could see his future in the contrast her white dress made on her coal dark skin.
The maids finally decided to sleep on it before making their decision to call Sister Yeti.
As they walked to the room they both shared, leaving their seemingly mad employers behind, the winds outside howled, carrying the voices of fathers everywhere, who were willing to go the rest of the way.
Song of the day: Daughtry – Waiting for Superman