Long Lost Sister

by Chidi Jas Onyia

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 Nigeria where, after a couple of years, he married Mama. I was the first of four boys; home in those days could only be described as a full house. Last year Papa’s health began to fail, it got worse and when the doctors had shaken their heads I put my parents on a plane to Germany, incidentally to the very hospital where he had studied medicine at all those years ago

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 Germany was not comforting either; initially Papa was responding to treatment, but things had turned about again. Finally the news I had being dreading arrived. They were returning, Papa had being given two months. By now Mama was on the verge of breakdown herself and with Papa getting worse, I had to bring them back. It was at the hospital that I met Her.

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 Caribbean descent. Mama left us together while she had her afternoon nap. In that time we talked mostly about my family, she was a good listener and asked a lot of questions about Papa, and the places he had sojourned as a younger man. It was late evening when she left. Mama asked if she would sign the condolence register, did I sense a moment of hesitation?

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.

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afro July 17, 2007 - 3:41 pm

In your dream!

mrskenna July 16, 2007 - 5:46 pm

Interesting story


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