I REMEMBER FATHER
Father was a pastor in a local church and the church? They were a bunch of spoilt bananas. I mean how do you expect a man with seven children to take proper care of them when you warned all your pastor’s not to engage themselves in any other work?
The church management or whatever was supposed to be paying salaries to the workers(pastors) at the end of the month. Father’s salary was twelve thousand naira, you know what that means? Twelve thousand naira with seven kids and a wife was just like throwing a twelve stones in a deep hole, you don’t expect those stones to fill the hole do you?
So we learnt how to be poor because the church won’t even pay the salary most times until its almost a year or thereabout. The church was the enemy.
I seriously don’t know how dad managed to train my other six siblings throughout their secondary education. Most of them were even in the university then.
I used to see dad bring out an exercise book every evening from under his bed, he opens it, flips through its pages with this weariness etched on his face. I knew something in that exercise book must be making dad worried.
I was the only one staying with my parents since my other siblings stay in the dormitory and I, being the last child was in Junior school 3 then. Dad went out with mom for an outreach that day, so I had to bring out that exercise book under his bed. When I opened the first page, I saw figures older than I am written in there.
What! Father borrows money to take care of us? This huge amount? Father must be having a hard time, staring at those figures would make one’s head spin like a merry-go-round.
I carefully hid the book where it was before and went outside.
I was not going to ask dad any question concerning the book, he’d just stare at me and then tell me not to go about touching things I’m not meant to touch again. So I kept quiet.
One cold evening mom was away and as usual I was the only one at home with dad. The church at Obosi(on of the towns in Idemili) was going to have their annual harvest thanksgiving the next day being Sunday and mom being a pastor’s wife was to leave on Saturday evening. Dad supposed to go the next day, so when mom left, it was only father and I in the house. I’ve always loved Father more than anybody else in the world so it wasn’t hard staying with him.
That evening, something happened and I had no other option than to drink my tears. Dad was just going to the bathroom to take his bath(one of his evening routines) when he slumped at the pavement, hitting his head on the wall.
I rushed to the spot, tried carrying him up but I couldn’t. I was just too small to help father.
I cried out for help, a woman came and helped.
We took him inside, made him lie down on his bed, then the woman told me to call my mom which I did.
I grabbed my dad’s phone, dialed mom’s number and told her what happened.
She came back by 11pm that same day. The next day she took dad to the hospital, called the church to inform them of dad’s sickness with hopes that they’d help us financially since they’ve not paid dad’s salary for more than six months. The church didn’t even bother helping us, poor us. The church left us in the hands of fear and hope. Hope lost, fear won the battle and didn’t hesitate in pushing father into the hands of his closest friend, Death.
For some reasons, father asked mom and my siblings not to allow me come to the hospital to see him. I was sad because I wanted to see him, he had stayed more than two weeks there already.
Christmas was fast approaching and father was not yet back from the hospital, nobody to buy Christmas clothes for baby girl. It was the worst Christmas ever.
On the 23rd day of December, mom called and said dad wanted to speak to me, maybe they told him how I’ve been starving because of his absence. We always ate together since I don’t like eating with mom. I was excited when I heard his voice, that was the first time father was speaking on the phone since he became sick.
Hello? I said
Yes father, I said with excitement.
How are you?
I’m okay father, I said smiling as if I was seeing his face.
You have to eat something today, promise?
I cross my heart father, I will do more than eat! I yelled
Yay! Father is all well now and he should be coming home sooner or later! That was my mind at work.
I’m all well now Nnee, don’t worry I’d be discharged tomorrow, father finally said.
Yay! What should I prepare for you, father?
Rice, he said
All right! I’ve missed you and can’t wait to see you!
Father laughed so hard before he handed the phone over to my mom.
Hello, Nnee ?
Yes, we’d be coming back tomorrow by noon, take money from my handbag, go to the market and buy things for the rice.
All right mother, bye. She hung up.
I was so excited, I quickly went to mom’s bag a saw one thousand and five hundred naira there.
I took it to the market and bought things I’d be need for the stew since we have rice already in the house.
I even bought cabbage and carrots so as to make its special for dad’s return. I bought meat too before heading home.
That night I slept like a new lady whose wedding party is the next day.
I slept well and had beautiful dreams too.
The next day, I started by mopping the house, cleaning and wiping away the sins committed by the dust on our properties.
At about 2pm, I started with the cooking. Singing like a new bride, I didn’t notice I was all alone in the house.
I used two kerosene stoves to do the cooking so as to finish in time.
When I was done cooking, I didn’t bother to eat, I was eagerly waiting for father to come back and taste the food first.
At about four o’clock that same evening, tragedy struck like lightening.
I heard the sound of a car, I thought it was father coming home so I rushed outside to welcome him but he wasn’t in the car.
Though I was used to acting mature but I was still a young girl and not up to fifteen years of age.
Where’s father, Mother? I asked my mother whom instead of looking happy wore a frown. She was holding her head tie in her hands instead of tying it on her head. She looked worried. Also a woman followed her home, I couldn’t remember her going to the hospital together with mum and dad so I knew someth was wrong somewhere.
I didn’t bother to bring out the stuff from the trunk of the car, I was still standing there waiting for them to tell me where my father was.
You should know the car was not my father’s. A church member volunteered to go bring father back using his car.
So the woman who followed mum home, the car owner and my eldest brother who helped mum take care of dad while he was in the hospital brought the stuff inside.
Mother, why are you sad? I asked looking my mom in the face.
She beckoned on me to come, I obeyed.
She held my hands and squeezed them softly something she’d never do if she was all good.
“Your father is no more”. She said
“Uhm? No more? He left? Where’s he now ? I asked with all seriousness.
” Mortuary”. He’s dead and in the mortuary now. Mother replied and started crying
I sat down beside her and joined the chorus.
I cried till there were no more tears to shed.
Later on, mother told me how strong father was before they left the hospital and how he died on their way coming in front of General Hospital Enugwu~Ukwu, opposite their mortuary.
A Christmas without a father could be so really boring, filled with sad memories too.
Since that year, I never celebrated Christmas.