The last time I saw her, she laid on the bed as in a coma. She was unmoved by my touch stroking her wrinkled arm. I couldn’t fathom why she didn’t respond to my loving touch. It was in Oluyoro Hospital in Ibadan. Little did I know that it would be the last time I’d ever see her alive. My granny’s chest heaved slowly as she took in deep breaths. When she finally turned on her side and opened her eyes, she lacked discernment. She didn’t respond to my call. She opened her eyes unseeing and went back into deep slumber. I would leave the hospital with a heavy heart. My mission part accomplished. I had hoped to see her smile and talk to me. I had looked forward to having her sing to me my favourite song.
Granny Abigail Ogunyiwade Arokoyu passed on two weeks later in Ikare Akoko. She was my last surviving granny. She was the last connection I had with the past. That distant past which we all romanticize so much. She represented to me an image of a solid rock unshakeable and strong. She meant to me honour and morality. I had thought that one day when I would have been less busy I would have taken out some time to go visit and learn at her feet again because I still have much to learn.But that has gone now. Forever. Time, as they say, waits for no one. I should have done some things earlier. Now I rue my missed opportunity.
Mama, as we all fondly called her, lived an esteemed life worthy of emulation. She was my mother like she was the mother of many. But she was special to me. I went to live with her when I was about a year old. My mother had just gotten admission into teacher’s college when I turned a year. She needed someone to care for me like I was their own. Who better to do that than Mama? I was transported from Argungu in Kebbi State to Iyere Owo, my dear granny’s home. There I began learning the trade of life. So much is told about how I grew up in Iyere tormenting other little kids my age. I was the neighbourhood terror but Mama loved me. It is said that one day I disturbed Mama’s hoe on the shed where it was kept and it fell on my upper lip. I bled so much that Mama’s heart was greatly troubled. She took much pain to nurse me back to health. My paternal grandfather came all the way from Aisegba Ekiti to check up on me. I really was in good hands. I still have the scar on my lip but its now hidden behind some moustache.
Though I only spent a year with Mama, tales of my escapades in Iyere Owo abound till this day. And the scar of the hoe’s fall reminds me till date of my naughty childhood. I remember when Mama came to Akure to deputise for my mum. My sister had fallen ill and had been scheduled for an appendicitis surgery so mum had gone to stay with her in a Benin hospital. Mama had taken over the mantle of authority in the house. Instructions had been given that we shouldn’t stay awake longer than 10pm. Mama had effected the rule to the letter. I had tried to cheat her one night. It had been advertised earlier on TV that a popular kung fu movie would be shown that night. I think it was Above the Law. I had looked forward to watching the movie but Mama had said no way. She had chased me to bed at the usual time. My pleas of having an assignment to complete couldn’t weaken her resolve. Lawale, my younger brother, and I were sore angry. We then planned for a way to thwart her authority.Having realized that she had gone to bed, we tip toed to the sitting room and turned on the TV. Reveling in our successful coup, we sat back to enjoy the antics of Cynthia Rothrock and co. Just when we had thought all was well, Mama’s door opened and she came back into the sitting room. Quickly I had pretended to be fast asleep. Mama wondering how we had come to be in the sitting room with the TV on had switched off the TV and dragged Lawale to bed. She left me on the sofa and switched off the TV.
I had gotten up later to switch on the TV. I had my fill of the movie and went to bed. How I felt the next day at school? Your guess is as good as mine. That I felt groggy all day is an understatement. That would be the last time that I would disobey her.
I hold many great and interesting memories of her. I remember those times when I had gone to spend the holidays in the village with her. Those times I went to the farm with her always complaining about her speed. I always battled hard to keep up with her steps. She moved so fast for a woman barely five feet tall. And returning from the farm with produce on her head. She always carried stuff ten times mine. I remember vividly one day when I refused to move any further complaining that my load was killing. She had not said much but had told me to drop it and rest awhile. She in turn had dropped hers but instead of sitting to rest had gone about plucking herbs for her usual agbo iba(herbal formula for fever). So much was her strength and dedication to work.
Mama was not a rich woman. She had not money. What she lacked in money she made up for with a good character. All who came to know her loved her. Her wealth was in her children. Children who will make any mother proud any day. Abigail Arokoyu begat Dorcas Famuyiwa, Titilayo Adewuyi, Aunty Wande, Oloyede Arokoyu and Adedoyinsola Ibidapo. These are the descendants of Mama’s children. Dorcas Famuyiwa married Saidu Famuyiwa of Irun Akoko and they begat Bola, Bisi, Busuyi, Bimpe and Busola. Titilayo married Samuel Adewuyi of Aisegba Ekiti and she begat Bunmi Makinde, Bukola Adekola, Yetunde Tagurum, Folashade Adewunmi, Ololade Adewuyi and Olawale Adewuyi.Aunty Wande married Daddy Mata and begat Mojisola, Abiola, Yemi, and Kudirat. Oloyede Arokoyu, a customs officer, married Funmi Fadeyi of Okeho in Oyo State and begat Abimbola, Oyinkansola, Tolani, Timilehin and Oyindamola. Adedoyinsola, a London based medical doctor married Sanya Ibidapo of Iyere Owo and begat Dunmola, Gbemisola, Foyinsola and Fayosola.
Mama lived to see all her children prosper. She never had cause to bury any of them. She lived long enough to see her children’s children giving birth. She had the opportunity of blessing each and every one of them. I never knew Mama’s husband. My maternal grandpa passed on before my parents met. But I know how he must have felt being married to a woman like my granny. She was a woman of peace so I know she must have given him so much joy.
I don’t as yet have kids of my own but I know Mama would have been glad to bless them like she did all of us. She always had a prayer in her mouth for us. Plus she always was willing to give what she had. Whenever I had visited her, she’d always manage to squeeze some money into my hands when I was leaving. I was embarrassed by her two years ago after I had finished university. She’d put some money in my hands when I felt I should have been the one giving her money. One thing I would miss is the opportunity to have been able to give back to her a hundredfold all that she gave to me. The previous time I saw her before that fateful day in the hospital I had just passed out from youth service and was still trekking Lagos streets in search of a job. I was so broke that all I could give to her was the last hundred-naira note in my pocket. She had been so joyful on receiving the money that she had prayed that I’d secure a great job. I know that she must have given out that money to the next little child around the neighbourhood. Such was her spirit.
There was nothing like lack in her home. And when she didn’t have money, you could never go hungry because she would have gotten something from the farm. She taught me how to fry garri from grated cassava. I still hold the view that garri from Iyere is the best drinkable garri in the whole of Nigeria. Don’t mind if they call all white garri Ijebu garri. Iyere garri remains the best garri. I swear!
I didn’t shed a tear when I was told that Ye Wande had passed on. I knew she had gone to be with the Lord. I can’t tell her age because back then when she was born, there was no record keeping. One of my aunts had tried to find out her age by asking her some question
s about the things that happened when she was born. I can’ t now remember what the outcome was. It’s been a long time since.
Mama was not formally educated but she made sure that she encouraged her children to get an education. I remember a long time ago when Mama had decided to enroll for an adult education class. We kids had laughed on hearing that Mama was going back to school. And true to type, Mama had in a funny manner tried to impress with her newfound knowledge of English grammar. I had been secretly impressed at her speed at grasping the white man’s language.
I’d sorely miss my granny. But I know she’s safe in the bosom of her Lord and Saviour.