I had always known that I had a half-brother, Papa’s first child by his German girlfriend in his college days. Papa never spoke of him and probably because the house was always alive with the patter of little feet; it really never bothered me to get to know more about him. Our half-brother existed for us in a small black and white photograph of a seemingly overweight, bad-tempered looking baby with a shock of fuzzy curls that ran Mohican-like down the centre of his scalp. Only the words, ‘Chris ‘64’, gave him a sort of identity keeping him from getting lost among the hundreds of sepia shots overflowing from Papa’s old school picture album.
When they parted ways, the infant stayed with his mother and Papa returned to
My job as an engineer in a Warri-based oil company was in limbo thanks to the continuous tribal conflict between indigenous groups resulting in an indefinite compulsory leave for all employees. News from
Tall, taller than me probably older by a couple of years as well, Dr Schmidt, Papa’s doctor was by far the most competent and compassionate than any that had treated him. In a quiet conference she outlined his treatment and entrusted me with his medication. Plainly she told me what to expect. Most of it I already knew: with so little time left, make it the time of his life.
It took three months; he left us in his sleep. The days that followed were hazy, I remember drinking a lot. The federal government ordered a curfew and stationed troops in the Delta. I returned to work. Never had I felt so elated going back to a job I was not particularly ecstatic about.
One afternoon, I received a call from Mama with some interesting news. Dr Schmidt was in the country for a conference and would visit at the weekend; this was about nine months after Papa’s passing. I was happy that Mama had found a friend through all the heartache and not wishing to upset her I readied myself for a weekend at home. As I stepped onto the veranda I once again marvelled at her height as she stood next to Mama. In a flash it occurred to me that despite her obviously Caucasian complexion she possessed some features that could be of an African or possibly
Later that night I solved the thirty-odd year old mystery, with the help of a dog-eared German English dictionary I translated her brief entry. I didn’t have to, as soon as I saw her full name; Christina Schmidt, it was clear and I knew then that if that photograph of the baby, tucked now so snugly in the old album, had been in colour, the woolly coat would have been a baby-pink and not the little-boy-blue that, for some unexplained reason we had all assumed it to be.