When I got your note about your wife expecting,I cried – you know how I get very emotional sometimes. What joy I felt,what happiness, but at the same time, I know I won’t be alive that long to see your son.
Your note made me go down memory lane. I remember the day you were born. It was the most beautiful day, I remember hearing your first cry; oh, how I wept. When I set my eyes on you, I forgot everything else. You were the most beautiful child on earth. The pride that filled my heart, I couldn’t help but kiss your mom and thank her.
Ibilola left us when you were just 3 years old, it was the darkest day of my life. I was lost, tired and dejected. What do I do with a toddler? How do I care for you? How do I console you when you cry? Then you started crying for mummy, and I cried with you. How do I tell a 3year old his mother just died? I didn’t know what to do with you but one thing was certain; I wanted to take care of you by myself. I promised myself, and you, not to remarry and that I would live for you. I couldn’t imagine being with another woman. For me, there was only one woman, it would always be Ibilola.
It was very tough at first, juggling you with work. I asked our neighbor to help babysit you after school -you were in kindergarten then- and then I picked you up from her place after work. It went smoothly for a few weeks, until I started seeing sores and scars on your body, and I noticed you were losing weight. I wondered,what has happened to my baby? I asked Iya Lola, the neighbour, and she acted surprised and told me it could be from teachers at school, or the other kids. This continued for a few more weeks until I got home early from work one day and saw you on the floor,dirty and crying hard, while Iya Lola whipped you. I saw red. Her two missing front teeth you always ask me about was the result of my actions that day and I do not regret it.
That incident strengthened my resolve to leave work and start my shoe business. I had little savings I could start with. When I left work it was hard, sometimes I couldn’t get customers. There were days where I fed you garri and biscuit to school, and days I wouldn’t eat for you to eat. But after a while it felt like your chi was tired of garri, so business started booming.
Remember when you were in primary 4? When you came home very sad because of an essay you were asked to write about your parents and their occupation. You told me “how can I write about my parent when I only have a father?”. I remember the tears you shed that day and how I asked you to write it that you had a 2 in 1 parent and he is a shoe maker. That night in bed I cried for Ibilola, I missed her so much.
I’ll never forget your adolescent age,you had lots of questions to ask me. Some I could answer easily, some I couldn’t. I remember the day you took fancy to one girl in your class,you didn’t tell me directly but I knew; call it parental intuition. I knew how you struggled all by yourself to handle her rejection. Do you remember what I told you when I found out you hid her pen and notebook so she would be punished? Always remember anybody can reject you, you don’t get to have what you want all the time and you being mean to her would only drive her farther away from you.
Remember I told you never to forcefully take things that aren’t yours, that love can’t be forced.
You finished secondary school with the best grades in school and got admitted into the college of your choice, I had never been happier. And I couldn’t help but cry for your mom, because this time, I truly would be all alone. Your college days was when the loneliness became pronounced. I remember the day you came home, reeking of alcohol and weed, I remember the day you came with bruises from a fight. I’m sure you’ll never forget my words to you “these things don’t make a man“. I advised you to live a life worthy of emulation, a life your son would want, and be proud of.
Another memorable day of my life came when you graduated college, you finished with a 2.1. I remember when you got a job too, and the day you left home to be on your own. My own son, Obinna, became a big man. I realized Ibilola never left me throughout this journey ,she was there with you, and in you. I remember when you brought home your wife, my beautiful daughter in law. I remember how we cried together on your wedding day. I hope you still remember all I told you. Always be patient with her, always ask questions, don’t jump to conclusions, love her like it’s the last thing you’ll do. Be the man.
I’ve reached the end of my letter,and I’m sorry if I bored you with the reminisce. But don’t forget to pass on everything I taught you to your son, or daughter. Correct in love and be firm when the need be, teach him that he matters, put him first, be an adult. Show him you’re proud of what you do and also happy to be his father. Teach your kids, when you have more, that failure is part of life, teach them there is nothing like gender roles; every person is equal. Raise them to be full of opinions and tell them their ideas matter. If you do this, their opinion, much like yours, will come from an informed, humane and broad-minded place.
May your child be healthy and happy and fill you with so much happiness, like you did me. May his life be whatever you want it to be.