The Bible says, ‘To men are given three score and ten years to live on earth’, I can’t remember the exact location in the Bible but since I turned sixty, I’ve had that line etched on my mind. At 65, I started getting my house in order; anything could happen at any time. My 80th birthday saw me still alive and kicking.
After 80, every dawn is treated like a gem. You take short, thoughtful strides, not only because you are trying to savor the gentle caress of the sun rays on your back but because you can no long hurry along like you did some years ago. You chew gently because you don’t want to give your teeth any reason to detach from your gum. At 80, it’s a blessing, considering the kind of life I lived that I still move around without a walker, have my own teeth and still have my senses intact, well most of it. One night a few months to my 92nd birthday, I had a dream. I usually have blurry dreams that are forgotten by dawn, but the few times I had vivid dreams, they came through…
I watch them –my offspring…the fruit of my loins and I smile. They came as soon as I called. There’s Ifenna and his snob-nosed wife all the way from Australia. Ifenna my first son doesn’t have any children yet. He says they’ve agreed to focus on their careers first but I think she just doesn’t want to ruin her shape – my son’s wife is as vain as they come. My eyes fall on Chikelu my second son, he reminds me so much of myself. We are alike in so many ways than he’d probably ever know. I know he is gay but he doesn’t know I know. He probably thinks I will judge him. I was always so hard on him but that I was because he reminded me so much of myself. My first son has a wife who would probably never give birth for fear of ruining her shape; I pray she has the sense to get a surrogate, my second is as gay as a canary colored suit, between my two sons, the Ikemba line might just be on its way to the end. My three daughters have done so well for themselves and I beam proudly at them, Vicky is a Doctor, Ugo is a sought after wedding planner in the country and Ihunna is a pilot. They have given me eleven grandchildren.
They are one big happy family as they swarm around me, eating and chattering. Chikelu teases me that I’d probably live till a 100 and they all laugh. Ihunna who is sitting beside me on the sofa reaches over to squeeze my hand, mouthing ‘I love you Sugar daddy.’ I smile at her and mouth the words back at her, ‘I love you Nnem.’ She, like Chikelu probably believes I will live till I’m 100. She doesn’t know. Nobody does.
I think about my life. The highs and the lows. I remember Adaobi; the one who got away. Sigh. I loved her but another who was richer got her. Obiageli’s face swims to my mind for the first time in over sixty years. I try to remember her as she looked the day of our wedding but instead I see her as she was on that last day. I see and feel her as though I was transported back to that day; the veins of her hand bulging out as she squeezed my hand tightly, her screams stabbing through my heart, her eyes as they rolled back in her head, the Doctors frantically trying to get the baby to cry as she slowly turned blue. The look in their eyes as they told me that the baby was dead… I remember Obiageli wearing her wedding dress, face devoid of that garish makeup morticians usually used on females, in that coffin looking to the world as though she was asleep, our baby lying face up in her bosom… I think about many months spent in drunken stupor, waking up in my own vomit. I think about him, Gerald, the angel who saved me from my downward spiral and taught me that love wasn’t bound by gender boundaries.
I feel the remaining hair on my arms rise, I smell the heady scent of her perfume and I turn to see Nma sitting on the armrests of the couch. She gives me that smile that always turned my brain into mush. I lost Nma – the mother of my children almost 25 years ago to breast cancer. She is here, so I know it’s time. I’m 92, I ought to be ready but suddenly I feel the urge to bargain with death. A few minutes more… a few hours more, or even days or weeks. I want to hear the sound of running feet as my grandchildren run around, the feel of their pudgy arms as they hug me when they come to my room every morning. I want to tell Chikelu that I understand his worries and fears. I want to tell him that I love him the way he is and he should love himself too. I want to tell Ifenna that I’ve seen the way he looks with longing at his nieces and nephews… that I know he really wants children but his wife has a choke-hold on him. I want to ask him to grow some balls and discuss surrogacy with his wife or the unsavory alternative – divorce. I want to tell my daughters one more time how much I love them and how proud of them I am.
I want to do so much more but then Nma leans over and kisses me, a kiss that I feel to the very core of my being. I see time flash past and a feeling of being borne away on clouds. I begin to drift away and my eyes slowly close. It is the day I die.
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