“Yo, yo, yo, guess who’s back!”
Toju and I barged into the living room of our home like the characters from Ghostbusters. It was Friday. We loved Fridays. Before, that was because we could move with our cliques from nearby universities and spend the whole weekend getting wasted either in clubs or some stranger’s party in another city or wherever getting wasted chose to find us. That had been ‘the life’ as we knew it. But now, those things weren’t so fun anymore. Firstly because Toju had decided to give up drinking and he was the one who gave my alcoholism ginger in the first place. Secondly, because Jesus. I started having this guilt and uneasiness when I did unnecessarily risqué things or treated my body abusively. I’d flashback to all grandma had said about Christ’s sacrifice, then I’d think of mom and grandma and how they were forced into lives they’d rather have missed in hind sight, and I’d suddenly feel very stupid for trying to consciously ruin myself in like manner. Toju and I had a long talk about it and we decided we’d see how life was without all those things. If abstinence didn’t kill us, then abstain we would.
So now weekend excitement for us was going home to Dad’s glorious cooking, free wifi and our comfortable beds after days of grueling campus struggles, annoying roommates and lecturers from hades. For me, it was also grandma.
“Dad! Grandma! Where are you guys? You should be out here celebrating the arrival of the coolest residents of this household.”
I dumped my sleepover bag near the door and marched towards the kitchen. Toju called out a ‘Hi Dad.’ and headed for his bedroom. On getting to the kitchen, my senses were assaulted with beautiful wafts of Banga soup. I grinned and scanned the empty room.
“Okay. Where are you? You don’t leave your food unattended. You’re not me.”
Suddenly a head popped out from behind the door, a few inches from my face.
I laughed at his ridiculous expression and pulled a cobweb off his eyebrow.
“Honestly this guy, aren’t you rather old for these things.”
Dad shrugged as if to say, I don’t really care what you think and returned to the cooker.
“How was this week?”
“Okay. I only thought about dropping out twice. What of grandma?”
He nodded in the direction of my room upstairs and went back to tasting his creation.
“Okay. Thank you.”
I crashed into my room with enough noise to raise the dead.
“Woman! Behold your grandchild!”
She was lying down on her back, hands layered on her chest in her usual sleep pose and I covered my mouth guiltily, scared I’d interrupt her sleep. I tiptoed dramatically to the side of her bed to make sure I hadn’t when I saw it.
I laughed and grabbed both her shoulders to shake her gently. “You’re faking you this old woman. Stop pretending, why are you and dad so playful today anyway?”
I paused the shaking and waited for her to open one eye in wink style so I’d tease her some more. When after a few seconds she yet stayed put, I sat down beside her on the bed.
“Okay even if you’re sleeping you have to wake up now because we have only two days to gist and I have plenty gist. I even met this guy. And no, he isn’t like Christopher whom you had a good time slapping once, he’s really nice and he’s all about this Jesus business too. He sort of reminds me of you to be honest….”
I looked at her face again but she made no movement. But for that smile my imagination told me had broadened since I began talking, she looked perfectly still…
Too perfect in fact.
I felt the unease slowly begin its rise from my belly and I released a nervous chuckle. “Okay grandma, you win. You’ve actually gotten me a tiny bit worried. You can stop now.” I grabbed her thigh and shook forcefully but once I stopped she was perfectly still again. The smile left my face.
“Grandma?” I whispered shakily, trying to out yell all the voices in my head that were trying to tell me what my heart had already announced. You have got to be kidding me.
I slid to my knees and rested my chin on the edge of the bed, staring at her chest. My eyes stayed glued as I waited for the rise. It was taking too long and my panic made me impatient.
“Grandma, what are you doing? Get up!”
I slapped her arm angrily. What reason did she have to be trying to scare me like this?
I heard him yell back an irritated, “WHAT!?”
“Please come and tell your grandma to behave. Me I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing, toying with me like this.”
It took him a few seconds but finally he popped his head through my open doorway. “Are you mad? Why would you be shouting my name like that?” He glared at me and then tilted his head to see grandma. “Good afternoon m-oh, she’s sleeping.”
“We need to wake her up.”
He looked at me strangely with an incredulous smile. “Babe, what’s wrong with you? Because you’re home for the weekend mans should not sleep again?”
The tears had started pooling in my eyes of their own accord and Toju’s expression became one of concern. “We need to wake her Tee. This sleep is weird please.”
He was beside me in an instant, staring down at grandma as she lay, just as I’d met her when I entered. I watched his face cloud over.
I heard the helpless displeasure in his voice. That is not what I wanted to hear. I got up and raced out of my room to the top of the stairs.
“Daddy! Come now! PLEASE!”
I could hear things clanging in the kitchen for about two seconds and then suddenly he was at the bottom of the stairs looking up at me. “What’s wrong princess?”
My face was already streaming but I couldn’t check it. The misery was beginning to swallow me. “Grandma. She won’t wake up and I don’t know what to do!”
He flew up the stairs and went straight into my room. I followed behind slowly and waited at the door. The two of them were the strongest, smartest, kindest and most trustworthy people I knew. If they couldn’t fix this for me…
Dad’s sigh reached me from where they stood and he raised and arm to grip Toju by his right shoulder and squeeze. That was ‘be strong’ body language; I’d been to enough burials to know.
“Dad stop disturbing Toju and wake grandma up!”
He didn’t respond and instead took the folded wrapper at the bottom of her bed and shook it open. I watched as he and Toju began to lay it over her and I just snapped. In a flash I was in between them and my grandmother and I stood facing them with both arms spread out so they couldn’t easily drop the cloth over her.
“How dare you?” My voice was low and dangerous. I narrowed my eyes at them both. “If you can’t wake her just say so. Instead of acting like she’s dead.”
Dad looked at Toju who just shook his head and raised both his hands. His eyes were blood red but there was no moisture on his cheeks. “Dad, you deal with this. I can’t.”
He walked out of the room and I heard him stomp down the stairs before the front door’s slam. I looked at Dad but the pitying sadness in his eyes was annoying so I turned to face grandma again. “See what you’re doing now. You’re making Toju cry and me as well, when you’re not even mom. Grandma, stop all this and wake up. Please.”
“She’s gone love. Let’s let her go now, come on.”
I pressed both palms to my ears and squeezed my eyes shut immediately, willing his last words to dissolve to nothing. “Dad, don’t.” I growled. Opening my eyes again I shook her limp body with such violence I was sure her bones might break. “Grandma! I’m begging you. I’ll be good, let’s start over. I’ll be good from the beginning. Please ma. Please don’t leave, come on. I never really wanted you to go. I was playing. I was stupid. Grandma. Please…”
I felt dad pry my fingers from were they dug into her shoulders and then he carried me over to my bed. He sat down at the edge, cradling me and swaying slowly back and forth.
“Let her go baby. Let her go.”
“Dad I’ll be good. I swear. I promise. Jesus, God please. I’ll be good. Just make her come back. I swear I’ll be good…”
It didn’t rain on the day of her burial.
It’s not like I expected it to anyway. Her arrival brought too much light into my life for the elements to crown her departure with gloom. No, it wouldn’t be right. Though my room felt empty and in my heart there was a hole, the joy God had brought into my life through my grandmother was something I wanted everyone to know. So I prayed for sunshine.
And I got it.
Toju and I stood holding hands. He wore the shirt he’d been wearing the first day we met her – a dark blue denim number with an Ankara collar and breast pocket. I wore the first none-revealing dress I’d ever owned, a pretty lilac silk gown with white lace cap sleeves and white tassels dangling from the knee-length hem. I’d bought it the week after we’d talked about modesty and my body being God’s temple.
Oh yeah. I was going to miss her like mad alright.
Dad stood quietly a few people away in a brown traditional shirt and trouser – her gift to him after he and mom had gotten married. The preacher asked each of us to come forward to sprinkle dust on her casket – as was the tradition -, but for some strange reason, I didn’t feel like. I understood what they meant when they said ‘From dust to dust’ and the significance and all that, but for one, I couldn’t imagine her being anywhere else but in heaven so the customary dust line was pretty meaningless to me. In fact, I was only able to connect with her corpse because it still had that faint smile on its face; otherwise all I could picture was she in heaven, telling Jesus what a tough nut I’d been. Another thing was that our family never cared much for tradition and I just-did-not-feel-like. I looked at Toju questioningly; wondering why he wouldn’t go forward but he just glanced at me, shrugged and whispered.
“I don’t feel like fam.”
I smiled and bent forward to look at Dad. He had on a faint smile, already making a gesture to the preacher, asking him to go on with the ceremony. I tucked my chin in my neck and grinned; there was no doubt about it, my family was weird. As the preacher made to proceed, confusion evident in his expression, a smallish slender lady in a black mini dress matched with a wide brimmed black hat suddenly stepped forward. I was still thinking how appropriate and movie-like her outfit was when I saw the bright yellow pumps on her feet and smirked.
All black was too mainstream after all.
She stepped closer to the open grave and raised her heaped hand above it, releasing fine white sand onto the closed casket. I looked around, wondering where she’d gotten the white sand from since the whole site was grassy and the earth outside was unmistakable brown.
Toju nudged me. “The white sand is pretty cool.”
“I know right?”
Afterwards, mom stepped back to return to the spot where she had been hiding behind all the other guests but my eyes followed her retreating form so I knew exactly where she stood.
When the ceremony was over, Dad stayed back to thank his friends and colleagues who showed up and Toju and I walked over to the car to wait for him. Thankfully, he’d parked close to the road so there was a slim chance of us not seeing every departing guest from where we stood. I kept my eyes peeled for yellow.
We didn’t have to look out for her though, she walked right up to us; her lips set in a straight line with eyes shielded behind the darkest shades I ever saw.
Toju spoke before she reached us. “Hi mom.”
She nodded at him politely. “How are you two?” She asked, head turned in Toju’s direction.
“We’re doing okay. We thought we’d die from missing her but, our comforter’s been doing a rocking job.”
Mom nodded, not fully comprehending Toju’s meaning of course but reluctant to stretch the conversation I was sure.
“You should have listened to me.”
I saw her raise a perfectly arched and concealed brow. “Meaning?”
“I told you to come by before somebody dies. You should have listened. She’d have loved to see you.”
“You should have told me she was around.”
“Would that have made you come?”
She hesitated for a moment and released a faint sighed, shaking her head. “No.”
“Do you want a hug?” The question startled both me and her and I looked at Toju strangely, wondering if he really didn’t already know the response she would give even before I heard her say “No, thanks.”
Regardless, he stepped forward and enveloped her in his long arms and I braced my emotions for her customary repulsed shove. It didn’t come. Instead I saw her raise one hand slowly, and after suspending it in the air for five seconds, it rested on Toju’s back.
I rolled my eyes and blinked back the moisture. I had promised myself I wouldn’t cry today and now my mom was out here trying to be a mascara ruiner.
When their hug was done, Toju returned to my side and she nodded formally at both of us before making to move past the car.
“We’re having a special dinner tomorrow – just us as a family – in honor of grandma. You should come. Dad brought it up himself.”
She stilled and looked up. “Did he?” She sounded disbelieving.
“Nice shoes by the way. They’re lovely.”
The sound of my voice came as a surprise to her and I could sense the awkwardness she felt. We really hadn’t spoken in forever.
“Oh. Thanks. Yellow was her favorite color.”
I nodded and smiled and she walked away. A vehicle was waiting for her on the other side of the road. It looked like a company car but I had no idea she had a real job. Well, it had been nearly six years after all. As she opened the door to get in I called out to her loudly.
Pausing with a hand on the roof, she turned to look at me with a question in her gaze.
“It’s not just the shoes to be honest. You too. You look lovely.”
There was a long pause as she just stood there gazing at me for several moments. Finally, she adjusted her glasses and yelled back.
“You think so?”
I nodded, giving her the thumbs up sign.
And she smiled.
Thank you so very much for following, reading and sharing your thoughts through this story!!! I would really really love to know what you think, what you would have preferred in the presentation, plot or content itself, as well as what message you got.
It just may go a long way in helping me shape the next series to better suit your tastes. 😉 Ciao!
(P.s: My apologies to those who may feel this story got too much of a whirlwind ‘wrap-up’. It will enjoy more elabroation should it ever be made into a novel but as far as ‘Spot the Difference‘ is concerned, this is as lengthy as I can make it for the sake of other posts waiting in line -and in consideration of the likes of two of my most patient readers. 😀 😀 :p)