SHE LIKES THEM OLD
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November 14, 2017 at 9:31 am #1125659
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SHE LIKES THEM OLD
“Hello, how are you today, sir?” I heard my little girl, Cynthia ask a passerby. “I am ne, Cynthia, thanks!” A husky old voice replied. Cynthia was perched on the balcony, hollering at passersby as she often did on weekends. I listened in as I worked away in the kitchen, making moi-moi and jollof rice, her favorite. “Are you talking to that scary old man again, Cynthia?” Ifeoma, her younger sister asked. She had dashed from the bedroom to the living room and then onto the balcony. “He is not scary!!!” Cynthia admonished her emphatically.
“He is scary – look at the lines on his face. Can’t you see them? They…they make me scared when I look at him,” Ifeoma protested. “He is not scary!!! Why do you talk like that about my friend?” Cynthia hurled back at Ifeoma. “He is your friend?” Ifeoma asked somewhat sarcastically; perhaps skeptically. “Yes!” Cynthia replied, her voice riddled with passion. “I will punch your mouth if you call my friend scary again!” Cynthia threatened. Sensing that the passion was about to boil over, I walked to the balcony to break the rising tension.
“Okay girls, it is time to come help mommy in the kitchen,” I said politely, pretending I had not been aware of the brewing hullaballoo between them. Typical children; they quickly shelved their differences and followed me. “Are you making jollof rice, mom?” Ifeoma asked. “Yes, darling.” “And moi-moi?” Cynthia asked exuberantly.
“Yes, sweetheart.” “Yea!!!” The two of them echoed jubilantly. Ifeoma darted through the living room with excitement while Cynthia shuffled behind me, dragging her legs in a limp. Cynthia, who was eight at the time, had fallen when she was just four. Standing on the balcony, she became so excited on sighting an older woman walk by. In her excitement, she wanted to reach out and hug her…hold her. So, she ran down the steps to meet her, but she tumbled over, breaking her right leg.
I was shattered. Doctors did their best, but she ended up with a limp that made her somewhat slow. She was not the type to complain though. Cynthia played football with boys and even beat them up at times. She played hard on the street and barely ever talked about her limp. In fact, the only time I ever saw my little girl complain was when her father, my husband passed away, some two years back. She had been very close to her father, so she would lock herself in the room and cry for hours on end, refusing to go to school or to eat. Ifeoma and I cried ourselves silly, in part for my deceased husband whom we missed terribly and in part for Cynthia who took our loss the hardest. One morning, Cynthia had locked the room while I was bathing Ifeoma. When we emerged from the bathroom, I could hear her sobbing in the bedroom. I tried every trick in the books in an effort to coax her to open the door, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.
Then, I sat on the couch in the living room sobbing my heart out, while Ifeoma sat on bare floor with tears oozing down her young tender face. I could not help but think that life had dealt me a horrible hand. I managed to lift Ifeoma onto my body, wrapped my arms around her as we both sobbed uncontrollably. Then, I heard that husky, old voice outside shouting “Is my friend around today?” It was one of the old men that Cynthia would normally chat up in the morning as they walked to Mama Ogechi’s akara stand to buy some hot freshly made akara balls. Hobbling along, he shouted with every might in him.
“Is Cynthia there?” Like a thunderbolt, Cynthia bolted out of the room she shared with Ifeoma, unlocking the door anxiously. Dragging herself, she rushed onto the balcony. The old man who lived a few blocks from us had not been seen in a few days, so Cynthia was eager to make up lost time. “I am here, sir,” she said exuberantly, briskly wiping tears off her face. “Where have you been? I have not seen you in some days?” she asked him eagerly.
“I travelled to the village to check on things down there. My son took me home for a while,” the husky old voice replied. Ifeoma and I remained quiet, wiping tears off our faces as we listened to the exchange between Cynthia and the old man. We were relieved to see Cynthia chatting again. “And you did not tell me you were going to be away?” Cynthia demanded. You would have thought the old man was her subordinate. “I walked past here the day before I travelled, but you were not anywhere to be seen, so I walked by.”
“You could have shouted my name. I have been looking for you? You know…you know I…I lost my dad, maybe I was inside crying. I wish you could have stopped by to…to console me,” Cynthia protested. “How are you holding up my little girl?” The old man’s voice was closer by now. He was right on the edge of our balcony from the sound of his voice.
“It…it hurts. I don’t know why he had to die,” said Cynthia. I could tell from her voice that she was fighting back a torrent of tears. “Come here…come here, my daughter,” the old man summoned her. She climbed down the few steps of our balcony – the same ones on which she had slipped years earlier. I stood up and peeped through the window, making sure that my little girl was not about to be kidnapped by the old man. I saw Cynthia wrapped up in the old man’s arms. It seemed as though she was at peace in his arms. Then, he let go of her gently… momentarily. She peered into his face and smiled through a maze of tears.
“When my father died, I was very young…just like you,” the old man said, looking into Cynthia’s face. She listened with a rapt attention. “I cried and got mad at God, but you see, there is nothing you can do to bring back the dead. The world is a harsh place, so when the ones we love die, they go to a better place to be with God…a place that is free of pain and troubles. Stop crying for your father, my little girl. Love those you still have around you, including yourself. I know it takes time, but try…every day my dear. It gets better with time. Your daddy is looking down on you from heaven; asking you to cry no more…cry no more, my little girl. People ask every day, what is love? Love, my child is appreciating the people in your life, right now!” Cynthia leaned in and placed her head on the old man’s gentle shoulder. I could tell she was sobbing, but when he finally let go of her, I saw relief in her eyes. “Thank you, sir,” she said. “I won’t cry again. I…now I know daddy is in a better place.” “That is it my little girl. Now this is for you,” he said handing her a pack of akara balls wrapped in old newspapers.
“All for me?”
“Yes…and your sister.”
“Of course I will share with her.”
“Remember, love those around you and love yourself too, my little girl. Your mommy must be hurting watching you cry like this. Make her smile once again. Remember, she too lost a husband. And your little sister; you ought to be strong for her.” I wanted to run out there and hug the old man too. “I will do what you said, sir,” Cynthia said still wiping her face with one hand as the other hand held the huge wrap of akara balls. Slowly, the old man hobbled away. Cynthia climbed onto the balcony and watched him admirably as he left. “Thank you Mr. Isiguzo!” She shouted with a teary smile on her face. He turned, smiled and said, “I love you my little girl.” “I love you too, sir!” She shouted out loud. Cynthia returned to the living room and shared the akara with her sister. I did not see her cry or lock herself away again. From that moment on, she was a different person. The girls helped me finish making jollof rice and moi-moi. We had our fill and left for our weekend shopping at Shoprite at Polo Park, Enugu. While I shopped, the girls played behind me, yapping and bugging me to buy things we did not absolutely need. Shoprite was buzzing as ever. Kiss Daniel’s song, Mama was blasting on the loud speakers. I could not help but think of my late husband, Emenike as I listened to the lines of Kiss Daniel’s song – if I’m to choose, girl I’ll choose you. If I’m to lose, girl I want to lose with you…
I made sure to go slowly so as not to lose my girls. Ifeoma had formed the habit of walking slowly too, to make sure that Cynthia who limped following her leg break was not left behind. All of a sudden, I looked back and my girls were nowhere to be found. My heart sank into my stomach. I ran from one aisle at Shoprite to another, looking for my girls. Shoprite staffers joined me, sensing my anxiety and desperation. After about ten minutes, I found them both chattering away at a chair in one of the major lobby areas. They were seated with an old woman, perhaps in her late eighties. She had a pair of glasses on her face and her teeth were mostly gone. Her headscarf was large, sprouting up from her head with elegance. She had made an attempt to mask her grey hair or what was left of it with a headscarf. Relieved, I dashed to the couch and grabbed Cynthia and Ifeoma.
“Why did you walk away from me?” I shouted, focusing my attention on Cynthia, the older of the two. “We were talking to Mrs. Amadi,” she replied calmly. She already knew her name. “And I was looking for you all over the place?” “I yelled. “They were looking for you too, my child.” The old woman said. “I saw them looking for their mother, so I asked them to sit here with me, because we knew you’d come looking for them,” she explained gently. I realized how rude I had been to her. “My son and his wife are shopping, so I am waiting for them here,” she added. “Thank you mam,” I said, pulling myself together. “It is okay my child,” replied the old woman. “She is my new friend,” Cynthia said. “Already?” I asked. “Yes mom. I like old people the very best, mom. Can’t you see? They smile from the heart. They speak gently too. They are…soft and loving. And, they walk slowly…just like me, mom. Mom, soon they die, so I have to love them with all my heart, now that they are still here.” I looked at the old woman, short of words. A line of tears began to drizzle down my face. I suddenly became giddy. Slowly, I sat on the remaining slot on the couch.
Fumbling through my purse I dug out my handkerchief, but not even that would drain the flood that was jangling down my face. “It is okay, mom,” Cynthia said. I looked at the old woman again and wondered how many times I had failed to pay attention to older people. It all changed that day…Cynthia gave me a whole new perspective to live by.
THE ENDNovember 14, 2017 at 9:32 am #1125662
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Just reminded me of my late grandmother!
so friendly n playful with meNovember 14, 2017 at 10:38 am #1125694
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This story touch me gan, but some of our Nigerian old people are not to be trusted, if not i wuld have emulate from cynthia but all the same. I LOVE OLD PEOPLENovember 14, 2017 at 11:09 am #1125703November 14, 2017 at 11:25 am #1125707