I was so worried about the fast growing grey hairs on his head, the way he staggered while he walked, the way he stammered for a while before he began a sentence. I knew old age was here, how time flies. Suddenly, my super daddy that was filled with so much agility becomes this weak and fragile.
But he still flogs our last born child when she does something silly, when she skips her homework or misbehaves. He still looks into her eyes and tells her "I am still strong enough to give you thirty strokes, you think I am old?"
My father never agrees he is old, this makes me smile.
Some years ago, our conversation used to be quite interesting. Whenever he shared his childhood stories with my siblings and I, we listened with so much attentiveness. I imagined every scene he created in my head; the ones he would fight his peers for plucking mango in his father's compound without his permission. Or the one he did rehearsals on how he was going to toast this young pretty girl, who worked at Calabar airport, that pretty girl happened to be my mother.
My father describes my mother with so much love in his eyes and his tone. He still says "I am still in love with her now, just like I was yesterday." My siblings usually give a shy smile whenever we saw the two of them talk about each other so passionately.
My father talks differently now. His stories are now boring and lacks interest. But he keeps telling me, even when I pay no attention. I might be going through my phone, while he tells me about how life as a biafran soldier was difficult. He tells me of how he pretended to have died when he missed a bullet shot from an Hausa soldier. He tells these stories and then laughs at them all by himself. I had stopped laughing about my father's stories, because he'd told me of these same stories uncountable times. But I still listen, I still look at his face while he narrates the boring lines. I still giggle and hold his wrinkled hands.
Now, when I see my father, all I see is a baby in an old man who is a grandfather. He now eats meals he never used to like. He calls me on the phone and reminds me to get him Complan milk and strawberries on my next visit. He tells me, "when will I carry your baby?" And I will whisper "soon daddy."
I have been daddy's girl since I was born. Daddy's girl to this very moment.
My father still serves me breakfast when I visit home. He wipes my mouth when he sees food stains beside my mouth. He would tell me "eat and add weight, you're looking slim." He tells me this even when millions of people advice me to go on a weight loss exercise. My father has never seen something amazing about my look, he thinks I am always slim.
I miss him so much. I miss growing under my father's shadows.
One night I woke up and wept terribly, my husband wondered what was wrong with me. And when I told him that I missed my father so much, he was confused. Most nights, I still cry. I cry because old age is gradually making my father sick and weak.
This year, he fell terribly sick. I was so scared I was going to lose him. I kept calling his name to God, to keep him alive for me. I cried to God and he heard me. God always hears me.
My grandfather, his father died at a hundred and twenty one years. I watched my aunty Bibi, my father and his elder sister aunty Theresa weep helplessly by his graveside. And I imagined how I would cry the day my own daddy would be gone. By then, he would have carried all his grandchildren, great grandchildren. By then I would have fulfilled my own dreams and presented to him excitedly.
2017 my father lived. He won sicknesses, he pushed them aside and stood to walk. He walked me down to the main road with my handbag on his shoulders. He told me 'byebye, don't enter keke, enter taxi."
And those words still ring in my head whenever I see myself in a kekenapep😀.
2017 was a great year because my daddy survived it. He will survive more years and he will live for me.
I love you Chief Bonkon.