I grew up with my grandmother. I didn’t know my mother until she showed up one day after my grandfather’s death; I was 9 at the time. After that, she would come like once or twice a year; I never really missed her because I never bonded with her. But, there was something quite mysterious about her and her visit, she would come at night and often leave very early in the mornings and she avoided seeing people whenever she was around. It was as if she was hiding from someone.
I knew she was living with a man in Lagos and she has a child with him, she never told me, but I hear when she talked about him with Mama.
Mama never talked about my father, my mother never talked about my father too. I remembered asking Mama a few times, and she would just say, you don’t have a father.
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I didn’t understand it, I asked if he was dead, or abroad, I wanted answers but no one was ready to give me any. So I formulated one, I told my friends at school that my father was in Scandinavia. I had seen that name in a magazine and it sounded so gorgeous.
We lived in a family house, with many extended family members around, and the old ones would often look at me with pity in their eyes, and I could see there were many unspoken words behind their looks.
Some of the people in the compound have called me ‘omo ale’ meaning bastard to my face before. The other children gave me a nickname behind my back, it was ‘fatherless’.
Mama was everything to me, she gave me everything I needed and loved me unconditionally. But even as a child, I knew she was a sad old woman. She only had my mother and my uncle, who I never met until my grandmother died.
She died when I was 12.
I woke up to go to school and saw that she was still sleeping. It was really strange because I had never got up before her. I called her, I touched her, I shook her, but she was gone.
She was in the mortuary for a long time because the family was waiting for my mother and her brother to come for a family meeting so they could plan her burial. There were times my mother came but her brother did not show up, but the family insisted the two must be present.
Eventually, he came, the whole compound rushed out the day he arrived. Some talked in hushed tones, chastising him for neglecting his old mother for so long.
He only greeted me casually, he didn’t ask how old I was, or which class I was in school. He didn’t pay me any attention.
I was worried about what will happen to me after the burial. Where will I go, who will take care of me? I have lost the only person who cared for me but there was no one to console me.
After the burial, my uncle was getting ready to leave when Mama’s sister grabbed him by his arm and was crying out loud, saying he will not go until they settle my case.
She dragged him into a room and locked the door behind them shouting that her sister’s spirit will not rest in peace if he leaves without settling my case.
My mother and I were outside crying, I was confused. I was so sad.
After a while, some elders forced their way in and they later asked us to enter, and that is how the whole story was told.
My grandfather impregnated my mother when she was in her twenties. My grandmother insisted that they must cover it up, and she told people that my mother got pregnant with a man who didn’t want the child. After she gave birth, she dropped me for my grandmother and grandfather and never looked back until my grandfather died. I heard she was sending money for my upkeep.
An aladura told my uncle I was a child of doom, and if they allow me to live, I will bring destruction to the family. He could not persuade them to get rid of me, so he kept his distance from them all so that he will not partake of the evil I came to do in the world.
I thrived in spite of them all.