Not all days were bad days with my father. The first time of three occasions my dad ever told me how much he loved me as a son was about 6:00 am after he’d returned from overnight partying, drunk to stupor. So he was on the second and third occasion. My father needed some sort of booze to muster enough courage to tell his children how much he loved them. However, his words came out very differently whenever he was drunk. They were idiomatic, discerning and much deeper. Simply put, my father was still the unreligious prophet I thought he was.
I was too young to understand most things he talked about, but he assured me that I would fathom his words someday.
“You are smarter than you think son. I know you like the back of my hand. You will find yourself remembering my words even at your old age. You are a good boy. You have a good heart. You need to know the world is not as you see it. You are too sad for your age, and I know why. You want to change everything. You desire to change the world. You believe everyone could have a good heart, but you will understand better when you get older.”
He continued, “I want you to decide your path. Choose your path. Choose your destiny. Don’t ever try to be anything like me because your future is undeniably great. You just have to pray and be very patient. You know what your grandma used to remind me about every time I misbehaved?”
“Grandma said” ………he leaned back as he cleared his throat. “She told me, never leave a shoe by itself with the face down, it brings bad luck! Superstition it was I concluded, but here I find myself today with lingering uneasiness at the sight of any shoe upside down. It tells me, son, we don’t have to necessarily believe in some adventures that make us, be it from our past, present or future circumstances. However inherent a superstition has come to be by virtue of either trust by innocence, force by order, an upbringing that we couldn’t change – in the end, you still have the choice to change anything …….”
On several occasions, I observed many other families, in particular on the television, how much love they shared with one another, and wondered why that was missing in my family. I envied the passion and emotion between parents and their children, and more importantly amongst the children. I craved and longed to have that much love within my family. I realized how much I wanted to be touched and held by my family. I wanted to be told how much they loved me, but none of these was close to existence amongst us. For starters, I couldn’t initiate such things because it would sound out of place and unusual to everyone in my family. Besides, the boys will give me the “what the heck?” look.
As a kid, I wasn’t exactly sure why I was often sad. It was quite unusual for a child of my age. I guess I was too young to understand all the emotions inside me at this time, but I believed it got my dad’s attention a few times.
“Why are you so sad?”
“What are you worried about?”
“You are still a child. You shouldn’t have anything to worry about!”
Sometimes he came back home from work with a storybook or two on days like this since he knew I loved to read.
Why is everything about life
Too much of little bites?
The longer ones
Usually are the painful ones.
And just like a flash,
The euphoric ones crash.
As soon as you have a taste
Of what brings so much joy,
Then stealthily crawl up this bait,
Like the Trojan horse of Troy.
Why does our pain last for so long?
Sorrow almost never departs?
Happiness lasts just for a moment,
And joy hardly ever exist?
Eventually, I stopped worrying about how long Grandma was going to live with us. I believed her when she promised never to leave us. A promise she was eventually forced to break. I feared when she died, my father’s house might turn into a graveyard. It didn’t take grandma’s death for my dad’s house to be referred to as the fortress that keeps the Ayoade’s from the rest of the world. It was closer to what Mr. Ayoade desired in many ways, so it was ok.
It was a lot of thinking for a seven-year-old when I think about it today. Grandma’s consolation got us through many years. However, a few years later, I would be asking the question I always dreaded to ask as a kid. “Grandma! Where are you now?”
I made many promises to grandma on the condition that she stayed long enough.
“I will never be anything like my dad when I become a man.”
“I will love everyone, hug them and kiss them.”
“I will change the world and put smiles on people’s faces.”
……till she tells me she knows. She was convinced none of her grandchildren would turn out like my father, referring to his demons.
“You children must also know that your dad loves you all to death. Unfortunately, he can’t change who he’s become. His biggest fear is to see his worst reflection in anyone of you. You must learn to take the best from him.” Grandma said as she reflected on the right side to the coin.