I’ve battled demons that won’t let me sleep…
Every night, I have the same reoccurring dream which I embrace.
I look forward to it because this is the only way I can see mama once more.
Just as it was back then, so it was in my dreams; she’d sit outside by the corner of our mud house on the tattered bamboo bench while staring at the stars.
On that particular night, it was a full moon. The ray of moonlight fell so beautifully on mama’s face thereby causing her to look younger and somewhat beautiful. She just stared.
All she ever said was “until death do us part”.
She’d constantly repeat those words till exhaustion would take her and then I’d carry her into the hut only for her to repeat the same ritual the following night.
Mama had become a shadow of herself after papa left, never to return.
To some, mama wasn’t pleasing to the eyes but to papa, she was everything because he loved her for the beauty beyond her skin.
Papa had always said of all the damsels he had to pick from when time came for him to take home a wife; it was never up for debate, it just had to be his Adaeze.
Papa would always say “Odinaka my son, marry for inner beauty. You see your mother, I don’t joke with her. My Adaeze, my Asanwa… she has the strength of a thousand hunters and I know if anything should ever happen, she’d survive and raise you to be the man I can proudly call my son” and then he’d chuckle while telling me the story of how he managed to court mama while beaming with pride that he was able to tame her.
This story, I know all too well but sadly the irony is today’s reality.
Not only did mama loose the strength of thousand hunters but now reflects the pain of a thousand widows.
It turns out that papa had been her source of strength and I was a far cry from being the man papa could be proud of because I had ran. I escaped the pain.
Today, I am a nameless man with no identity and a past I have refused to come to terms with.
I no longer go by Odinaka of the house of Obiorra “the handsome palm wine tapper” but now I am Oscar the unknown…
I chose to part with my true identity because I felt I had no right to be called that. At the time, all I felt was shame and so, I kept running till I could run no more.
It was a few days to my eighteenth nameday. Mama had informed papa that it would be a disgrace for us to run out of palm wine at the party.
It would also be the day I choose my bride so papa decided to go tapping. He was determined to make sure it would be a day to remember for the entire village.
I had my mind set on choosing Ifunaya, the daughter of the village priestess.
She was beautiful, kind and ripe for a man’s needs but mama had put her foot down and said no. She favored Amaka instead because she was known to be responsible.
Papa as always, supported mama’s decision but my mind was made up. I had given Ify my word and my heart. My parents would just have to understand.
Papa set out a day before my nameday with Mazi Emeka.
That was the beginning of the end…
Nightfall came but papa never returned. Days passed, still no sight of papa.
Two market days later, Mazi Emeka returned – bruised.
He had claimed that they had been attacked by bandits from the neighboring village but papa had fought them off while he ran.
A fortnight passed, still no news of papa.
At this time, the people of the village had began coming around and pressuring mama into performing the widows’ rights but still mama stood her ground. She refused to accept that papa was dead.
I remember her clearly saying to the priestess “Obiorra promised to never leave me. I did not give him the permission to die so he is still alive”.
The priestess shook her head and said “the gods have called him home, perform the rights so he can rest” but mama refused to bury her husband whom she believed was still very much alive and for this, we paid dearly.
The villagers turned against us because they thought of mama as evil.
They couldn’t comprehend why a woman would refuse to bury her husband. So, they cut us off.
Still, mama was adamant. Her love never faltered.
These days, I’ve relaized that papa never really died or left because he was always in Mama’s heart living happily.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into years. Mama did the same thing every night – wait and repeat her vows.
Still, I was unmarried; Ify had moved on to marry Ukwa the warrior as mama and I had become outsiders in our hometown. Her family had forbade her from marrying me.
I did the most logical thing I could think of then; which was to pack up my bags and go.
I left for the city.
I had told mama I was leaving to secure a better life for us and she had all but whispered “go well Odinaka my son. Your father and I are behind you. Always”
Little did I know the true meaning of those words.
I left and returned a few months later when I had found greener pastures.
On arrival, I had met Ify by the village entrance. She ran towards me and all but flung herself into my arms.
Shock took over me momentarily but hugging her felt like home so I let it go on until I realized she was sobbing.
“Ify what is the matter?” I said and she replied with tears in her eyes “I have been taking care of your mother because of the love you and I shared but I’m sorry Oddy… mama passed away last night”.
I fell to the ground, feeling all the emotions at once – anger, pain, fear, shame, regret!
Why did I ever leave?
Ify knelt beside me and said “Mama said to tell you to go well. That she’d be with you till you meet to part no more. She and papa will continue to walk with you from the heavens above”
Today, I have reclaimed my name. I am now called by that which I should have been called “Odinaka, son of Obiorra and Adaeze”!
I have taken a good wife, one as strong as mama and I have a son named Obiorra – as magnificent as papa.
Truly, they both walked this life with me. I was favored more than most, not because I possess better abilities but because I lucked out with the parents I had.
These days, I dream of mama no more. I too sit outside my mansion on that same bamboo bench staring at the moon and conversing with my chi.
Till death do us part…
DEDICATED TO MY AMAZING PARENTS WHO STILL WALK THIS EARTH WITH ME!!! ♥️