5, or maybe 7, 1 or 3

When your grandfather died I was still around the age of 5, or maybe 7, I cannot recall timelines according to the year as much as I can recall memories vividly. We were together on the couch watching Sonic the hedgehog when your mother came from work crying, “Your grandfather is dead!” she said as if expecting us to understand but only the maid seemed to, and then she went into her room and shut the door behind her.

When your father came back from work that day he looked sad but did not cry or show signs of strong emotions. But after he took off his clothes and skipped dinner, he went outside to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes, rubbing his head back and forth, shaking it slowly.

Almost immediately a preparation for the burial was underway and trips back and forth your village was common in your house until it was time for the burial itself. I was not there in your village because I had school to attend and the ceremony was during the school period. I saw the preparations for the burial though, your mother bought cans and cans of drinks, soft and hard, and even those that were just being tested on the market by the producers. The coolers for food were numerous, almost like she was trying to feed your whole village at the funeral. I remember this particular juice, Orange Fruitty, it was in a pink can. Your mother bought so much or it that a whole freezer was filled with it and some even exploded from spending too much time in a freezer. Your father used to make jokes about it because we liked drinking it, especially you, and if he refused to give us because of excess sugar, he never refused you, and whenever you drank it you squeezed your eyes and squirmed and then licked your wet baby lips. You always had your hands outstretched for more, blinking your tiny pudgy fingers back and forth to express your interest.

“Orangey fruity!” he always quipped, and then you began laughing.

He always gave you more. More juice, his beer, his food, his love and his attention.

The burial ceremony was a blast, I guess. like I said I didn’t attend it but I watched it on the video cassette your mother made of all the process, behind the scenes and the ceremony itself. They killed two brown cows, the humps on their backs were so big and the horns so long that I feared it will charge and attack its killers but they were skilled men, they used a rope to fell it and then killed it, saving its splashing blood in a white basin. If I suddenly like photography and documentation I think I learned it from your mother, she made a lot of documentation and loved pictures, and maybe writing, she wrote and talked a lot although I doubt anyone but me noticed it. While watching the video of your grandfather’s burial you were everywhere, on your father’s arms, on your mother’s hands, on aunties and on uncles. You had a kind spirit as a child because unlike me you let everyone and anyone carry you and you didn’t cry as much.

I say this because I remembered the last time we spoke about having a father figure in your life, you told me you never had a father and it sort of hurt me but I understood your point of view.

Your father left early enough for you to even know he was there for you, maybe when you were 1 or 3, I cannot remember, but he was there for you a lot and loved you. You were the only one who took the look of a distant relative, your mother’s late father, so to everyone, you were sort of special, which was why your mother always called you papa and brought you so many toys on your magnanimously celebrated birthdays. I can remember all of your birthdays like it were just yesterday, there were always too many festivities, like a funeral, like it was a prince, and your father was always there with you on his hands, beside you in pictures and sharing a cake with you. When he drove us neighbourhood kids to school he had you on the driver’s seat on his thighs pretending to be a tiny driver, sometimes he let you control the wheel and laughed when you swerved to the kerb, he was that kind of guy.

If circumstances and death didn’t snatch him from you then you will have known him better, he was really an okay guy and everybody loved him like a brother and a friend.