Nothing else gives me so much joy like writing. It was a passion my late grandmother, who brought me up, noticed from my very infancy years when I turned virtually everything that came my way, including her wrappers, to a writing pad such that she nicknamed me secretary.
However, in the course of time, I discovered that there are times even the best writers cannot write. Usually referred to as writer’s block, at such moments, try as he could, the writer never gets round to writing anything. Even if he does, he dawdles on the same line or paragraph for long until he gives up, hoping to try another time.
That is the state I now find myself. I could not muster the courage to write that a part of me died, even as I live on. How do I write about my father in the past tense? Even my kid sister is in the same flummox situation, and insists she cannot think of him as a memory.
One of the experiences I had as an undergraduate student of Panjab University, Chandigarh, was the simplicity of the natives. They knew how to have a laugh even at their own expense. And once a person died, they accepted the fact that ‘he had expired’.
Until I learnt about that euphemistic way of describing death, I never really knew that people expired but indeed, we all have expiry date, from the very day we are born. That is why we never get younger but older. Each step we take brings us closer to that date, which only the manufacturer knows. There is no adulteration. If there was, many of these criminal politicians would still be around to keep messing up our world; these wonky businessmen would have gone to China and wreaked more havoc on the orderly creation.
Nevertheless, God disappointed the tricksters, the fraudulent and all those who trust in the arm of the flesh. And so, the Bible expressly said in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a time for everything. A time to cheat and a time to be cheated; a time to steal and a time be caught (ask many a fugitive politician of today); a time to fail and a time to succeed. Yes, life is about time and timing, including a time to be born and a time to die (or expire); a time to be fathered, and a time to be fatherless. There’s no escape for anyone.
Strangely, the young die; the old also die. Only God knows when one would die. But whether one dies young or old matters not; death is death. We just have to be conscious of this one thing: What would we be remembered for when we cross to the other divide of eternity, and where indeed would we spend that eternity? That is a choice we all must make here before our eyes close in desth.
Of course, it would have been nice to still have some nice old folks around. Old folks like my dad whose translation has now made me a confirmed orphan without an orphanage to give me shelter.
Obviously, writing this tribute to my father is, unarguably, the most arduous task I have faced in my life for the simple reason that I don’t even know where to start. Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon me to pay tribute to the man without whom I would not be on this planet earth today. Yes, he sacrificed one drop of his juice to mould me and that’s the reason for my being.
Unfortunately, I don’t know as much about my father, as I would have loved to and this is understandable due to what I can describe as my forced exile years in my maternal home. The distance across seas and plains contributed to denying me the opportunity of knowing him deeply, even when we reconnected. My feeling of loss at this moment is so profound because I wish we could have more time together to bond and catch up on all those lost years.
I reconnected with my father when he was already challenged on various fronts but I shall ever cherish the few times we were together, which filled the deep emptiness that characterised all my growing up years. He had resigned to fate and bluntly refused to be lured outside the cocoon of what he saw as his ‘irreversible’ hurt, as he described it. Though I differed with him on this, he clung to it courageously and there was nothing anybody could do about that.
However, one definite thing I came to realise about my father is that he is an enigma. He was a colossus in his own right; he was like a deep well whose depth no man could fathom. Truly, nobody could say he knew my father well enough, especially because he is introverted and would rather bottle up his thoughts or fears with brave camouflage.
My father was a simple, nice man. He gave life a good shot and was enjoying it before fate dealt him a terrible blow that upset his entire being. People have different views about his success or failure in life but I think he made the best of his life within the circumstances he found himself. In fairness to him, he contended with forces beyond his comprehension and power. Whoever wanted to rouse my father’s anger should make a statement that seemed to compare him with others. He was a due process man and would never be caught cutting corners no matter what he stood to gain.
However, his greatest legacy is his family. Piecing the thread together was somehow overwhelming and complicated but here we are – six males and two females and fourteen grandchildren. I have assurance that the Lord has arisen and I make this solemn promise to you, papa, that by God’s enablement, my siblings and I shall be bound together in love and unity and hoist your name and memory across generations.
He was an exceptionally intelligent man, a mathematician par excellence, an engineer crafted out of the finest fibre and a well travelled man.
His capacity to recollect things was so profound such that he still had easy hang of things despite his age and illness. His memory was a deep well from which he could easily fish out precise occurrences from decades ago. Though he spent the greater part of his life in the United States, he was at home with everything and everyone in an uncanny way that it seemed he really never left the shores of this country.
Though my father brooded a lot and was withdrawn, there were moments of happiness when he would release a full throttle of laughter that reverberated metres away. He loved historical and political stories. He constantly bemoaned the plight of the people and wished he could help. He hated the inept leadership, corruption and buffoonery in governance, which he rightly blamed for the poor state of a country so blessed and yet so cursed at the same time.
One of my father’s best moments was the mention of his Christian faith. He believed so much in God and very proud of his Catholic background, always insisting he was born a Catholic and would die a Catholic. Truly, he held tenaciously to this until the last moment.
My father took his exit at a very difficult time for mankind, at the height of COVID-19 pandemic, on April 10, aged 81 years. We as a family vowed that the head of our patriarch would not rest in a foreign land. I am so proud that this very Friday, December 4, he would be sent home in a blaze of glory in his native community in Imo State. To he cost has been enormous but God gave enablement. I have no doubt that he would be happy that like Joseph instructed the children of Israel not to leave his bones in Egypt, his family refused to leave his in America but has brought him home to sleep Ong his forebears.
I doff my hat for his wife for being there for him, and for us all, and for being in the driving seat that made his repatriation possible. She is such an amazing woman; a dependable ally; a mother in Israel and a bridge builder that did her best to bring us closer. Above all, she bore my father’s burden with uncommon calmness for which God will ever be kind to her.
I could see my father’s body laid unresponsive and oblivious of my teary eyes. I called out but he did not hear. There was this serenity about him that seemed to say he was content leaving this turbulent world. But for me, it was all palpitating sorrow tearing through my chords.
I cannot but wonder why death remembered me so savagely in the last few years. First, it was my mother, followed in quick succession by my two beloved uncles whom God used to bring me this far; and now, my father.
Here was a man, a lion of his time brought under captivity by the elements and yet he couldn’t fight back but yielded like a compliant child. I really hope he finds the peace I saw on his face.
Lest I forget, papa; thanks for visiting home in July last year and giving me the opportunity of a memorable parting. Safe journey, Papa; goodnight and sleep well!
December 5 is here!
Saturday is the D-Day. The day when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, fixed for the conduct of the rescheduled senatorial by-election across the country. It is date that Imo North must keep faith with destiny. It is a date when Sir Frank Ibezim of the All Progressives Congress, APC, must emerge to turnaround the fortunes of the zone. Let nobody be deceived by curious developments in the polity; Ibezim is the man of the hour. He is the bridge Okigwe needs to cross from darkness to light.
So, Imo North indigenes must troop out en masse to kick out the pall of darkness constricting the zone. The name on the ballot is of no consequence now; just vote APC and when the time is right the proxy names shall give way. Imo North, you future lies in the hand of God through Ibezim; don’t squander it.