Mr. Gbolagade Adeowuro
4 Midchester Avenue,
White Plains NY 06007
These are the things no one told you but they should have…
That Ifeade, your sister, the one you looked up to, the one you loved more than anyone else, even your parents, the one whose death forced you to be more than you ever were, the one whose leaving meant you could no longer live in her shadow, they should have told you but they didn’t, they should have told you that her death was expected.
Yes, Gbolagade, Ifeade’s death was not a surprise. Not to your parents, not to your grandparents, and definitely not to the people of the Owuro. From the moment she was born, everyone you knew Ifeade belonged to death.
See it was a covenant your forefathers had made with the gods of the land; their first born children for the throne.
Your parents were naïve about it all, your father especially. They had been educated in England you see, at the finest of schools. There was no space in their heads for dense matters like covenants or gods or God. Your father, Jokotade, was the third child. By the time he had been born, Ireade, his first sibling was all but a memory. There were photos of him in the sprawling palace your father grew up in but no one ever spoke of the chubby toddler that clung to his mother’s skirts.
If your father had asked, they would have told him Ireade died of malaria. That would have been a lie. Ireade like Ifeade had simply slept and not woken up one morning in the room he shared with his younger brother, the present Kabiesi. On the night death came for Ireade, the child who should have been king, your uncle, the present Kabiesi had been in the same room, sleeping soundly.
But your father never heard all these. Who was going to tell him? His elder brother, the new heir apparent, who was quickly whisked off to England to recover from the trauma of being the first to find his brother dead? His parents who would never recover? Or me? A servant and mere gardener? Never. I was hired by your family to tend the royal grounds; that is all. Within those royal grounds however is a garden of secrets that I have tended prayerfully and guardedly these past 6 decades.
I tell you all of these now because your child is about to die. You don’t know this yet but I do. I am an old man now. Your father retired me a few months ago but I have stubbornly refused to leave the tending of these grounds to another. I don’t trust that young boy they hired to take my place. He is always whistling and disturbing the rhythm of the plants. Besides where will I go to? My wife is long dead and my children and grandchildren are in a place I have never been and have no intention of going to. I have lived a good life –your family takes good care of their people and I am forever grateful.
My Bible tells me old men will dream dreams and I have been seeing Adeduro in my dreams these past few days.
After your sister, I never thought I would meet or know a kinder child but last Christmas you visited with your son. All of four years old yet he was awake as early as he could to help me plant this year’s roses. They are in bloom now and as beautiful as ever. He would make a great gardener, your Adeduro, but he will die before he gets the chance.
Your sister Ifeade was like that too. Always helping others. She would come to the garden and tell me stories she made up about the flowers. She gave the trees names. I loved Ifeade like my own daughter. You may not remember this, you were only two or so then but sometimes she would bring you with her here, to the garden on Saturday mornings. Together you both would help me water the flower beds. You always over watered the beds but Ifeade got it right every time.
God I wish I had been there the morning they found her. But I had been away, home with my own family for Christmas. I returned when it was too late, to find one of my flower beds turned into a tiny grave. The last time I saw your sister, you had all been on your way to the King’s palace for the annual Christmas party. It was on the 22nd of December 1988. I still remember the dress she wore that day.
‘Baba Gbenro do you like my dress?’ She had asked me, twirling round to show it off.
‘Yes little one, it suits you and the season’
‘What is season?’
‘Season is like a time for something.’
‘Oh like Papa says ‘there is a time for everything’?
A time to be born
A time to die.
Oh Gbologade… How I have missed that dear child.
But there is a way out. I know you too are a book person, like your parents were. Your father tells me you lecture at Harvard when you are not working in the lab for that big company you work for. You are a science person through and through, but I need you now to pay attention to an old man and his wisdom about things you will never be able to see with a microscope. Remember Ifeade, remember the emptiness you felt when she died, the emptiness that is no longer there since you had Adeduro. Remember all of these and put aside your need to be proven right. Your child’s life is at stake.
In Brooklyn, not too far away from White Plains where you live (I know because I asked), lives my son Adeshina. He is a pastor now and three years ago when he came home, I gave my life to his Jesus Christ. He was already a teenager when you were born so you will barely remember him. I do not have your phone number or I would have told him to call you. I have told him everything and he tells me he is praying already. I have your address because of the gift of gardening gloves you sent me two years ago. His own number is 917-68-9090. Call him Gbolagade, call Adeshina before the emptiness I see in my dreams finds you.
This is all I have to tell you. I hope it is enough.
Dear Baba Gbenro,
Thank you for your letter. It got here just in time for Adeduro’s funeral. The things no one tells us… I do not blame or fault you for any of these. My parents stood by and did nothing. My uncle, the King knew too and said nothing. He has buried three grandchildren after all. And then there is NIPOST. If what you say is right, then there a million others to blame for my son’s death and you Baba Gbenro are not one. So you must not blame yourself.
I called Adeshina after the funeral and we had a long conversation. He tells me he wishes he had gotten you to understand text messages and emails that time he visited three years ago. I am sending this letter with him because I totally understand how suspicious all of these modern gadgets must seem to you at 74. my own father is only 54 and suspicious as well. I am also sending new garden gloves in Duro’s favorite color of purple. I know he would want you to have them.
I am a scientist, a thinking man and before Adeduro died I would’t have believed anything you wrote in your letter. Today I am more of a mathematician. I am putting 2 and 2 together and whichever way I add or multiply it, it still ends up as 4. 4 years of pure unbridled joy that was Duro.
I still don’t believe in God, but I am starting to consider the possibility. I visit your son’s church when I can and it has been a great reprieve to me and my wife as we have dealt with Duro’s passing.
Your son tells me there is nothing to worry about anymore based on your theory of the covenant my ancestors had with the gods but three days ago my wife informed me she was 6 weeks pregnant and worry has returned to my life. I don’t worry about life or death, not any longer. I worry that I am like my father, unable to love another child, the way I loved the first. I worry about this new child and if he too will know that there is an emptiness in my heart, one nothing will ever fill.
We are talking names now and Aderopo is top on the list. This new child has brought back a hope we thought died with Duro 5 weeks ago. We still weep and mourn but now we do so with hope. He will never replace Duro in our hearts but the name Ropo sounds right. Aside Aderopo, we plan on naming this child Olugbenro for his middle name.
Stay well Baba Gbenro and thank you for tending our garden of secrets. It is okay to retire and rest dear man, the secrets will no longer wound-they are out in the open now.