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THE AMAZING CAREGIVER (MAMA)
AKOLE BANJI

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Warning! This is not a literature class...might not be too grammatical....

Like some of you would have known...about some level of "hardheadedness" that's in my makeup. So, while every child goes to school those days (Nursery), I wouldn't want to leave "Mama" alone. Any attempt to make me cooperate at school will end in futility, as there is nothing the teachers (Tough or Tender) can do about it. So the deal was, Mama must be on the school premise with me before any form of learning could take place as far as I Akole Banji Mayowa is concerned, the proprietor Late Prof Olofinboba agreed to that. So, Mama backs me to Bobas Nursery and Primary School, she waits while I file up with other kids. At will, I would peep to confirm that she's still around, else, hell lets loose for the day.

We have to march to the classroom to commence the day's academic activity, but she can’t go. She would sit where I must be able to confirm by merely looking out towards the classroom door. If I ever assume that she's not there, being an assumption doesn't change the fact that learning just ended for the day. She must be there till short break when playing with other kids would have eaten deep into my emotions enough to forget that Mama has left. (I am sure the teachers would watch me and give her signs that it's time to disappear). By 1pm she's back to pick me as I ride home on my Mercedes Benz, her back. Did I forget to tell you that the day starts for her when my dream start getting interesting? 4AM as she prepares the morning meal, Wakes me, Baths me, and feeds me with food. Reminds me it's time to go. I am "happy to comply" as long as my compliance shall be rewarded with our going together. This was a routine for years.

Sometimes I become a mock of many big mouths as she backs me till I was 6...shameful it is...a lot of people call that "Akebaje", but for her, She has a "philia" for her children and grandchildren, and cannot look away when they need her tender care and touch.

Should I talk about how I follow her about everywhere she goes...even when she wants to go to the loo at night...she can't leave me there...we have to go together...cos I will hold-on tight except if she was lucky and sleep got the better of me already. Sometimes I trouble her until she would fake a faint. Okay!, I would scream around the neighborhood and break the news, crying that she is dead, that my lover is gone...crying to the last drop of my tears, while people rush out of their respective houses, rooms, kitchens, toilets as the case may be. When they come, to find out it was just a drama, all in an attempt to let MAMA rest. I have to take an oath that I won't trouble her again, as they would ask repeatedly, "Would you disturb her again?" I respond if my voice is not gone already, "No! I won’t disturb her again", and if my voice is gone already, I shake my head sideways and profusely to their outmost confidence that I meant it this time. Even if Thomas was there present, he wouldn’t doubt my promise, seeing the confluence of many rivers at my chin, whose source is barely traceable as they come running from the mouth, nose, two or one of the eyes. But trust me...that's not a good one because for the rest of the day, if she sleeps...I would touch her to confirm her "Live Status". I would watch her for the rest of the day to ensure she doesn't faint again, making promises every 10 minutes about how I would never disturb her again. That in itself is another disturbance that I am sure she never anticipated, but she just got herself into that anyways. My mum once tried such theatrics to fake a faint. I am sure she would wonder why "kolewerk" was what she got. It was obvious that she was faking it, the reaction would only work for Mama, with her, I can never take the chance of thinking it was a joke cos it happened more than once and people would be like...”Chai..Mama and this boy again”. So our audience reduced overtime cos someone cannot come and have hypertension because of "One Troublesome Boy and His Grandmother" Season 3.

Mama would always keep special food for everyone to eat after school. This special food is not to the awareness of “Mum”. Cos she still wants us to get extra preparation from that side. So we would eat that before mum comes from work. This wonderful afternoon, Mum came earlier than I did. I met mum and Mama at the sitting room. Mama would not want Mum to know she kept food for the child when Mama didn’t offer anything to Mum even if she asked, cos she was not considered for the preparation. As I entered, greeted both of them, surprised that mum is home by this time. Mum’s arrival used to be after 4pm, but what changed? Notwithstanding, Mama gave me a sign. I decoded the sign to be “GO TO THE USUAL PLACE”. So I hurried there, confirmed that it’s really there. I was so excited, it was too much…so I hurried back to whisper to Mama’s hear, “Should I eat everything?” and she whispered back, “Yes!” So, I went back eating and Joyful, a lot going through my mind, “Wao! Today is a great day, I feel blessed and honored...”ALL OF THIS WONDERFUL? Oh My God! This is life of my head that I am eating”. Only to suddenly hear a scream of “Eepa, inyomoo(Ekiti Dialect)” meaning, “Yeeh! Look at this child”. I didn’t know I got the wrong package. It was a combo (Groundnut and Popcorn) that someone who came around gave to her to deliver to someone else. It was so much that my conscience was telling me, “Oh God! This can’t be me”. She kept on pondering the particular statement, “Have I given you this kind of food before?” But, as for me, I came to ask if in should eat everything? And she said “yes”. What we were keeping from mum could no longer stay so, we had to bring her in. Guess what? She gave me the original package that was meant for me and I enjoyed it altogether.

This care was not just a thing of my younger age. She continues to wake early morning till the last of us finished at least 3rd year of junior secondary school. But she continued to care till this present moment. I can't recollect the number of Chicken-Turned-Tinko (Dried Meat) that I ate. She would smoke the chicken or any kind of meat every day, just because I was not around During Sallah or for Eid-de-anyone. Till I come back from Lagos, Anambra or wherever I was. No one dares touch it, even to promise a replacement. If she has mentioned that this is for "Mayowa", so be it. She knows how to keep it away from the awareness of the minor residents, the four legged short fellows, the custodians and sole occupants of cupboards. She would keep it anyways, till I come knocking, she would have prepared meals to welcome me back home. "This is rice...would you eat roasted corn...I just boiled plantain...would you eat?" While I struggle to finish the many different kinds of desserts I said yes to, here she comes..."I am about to cook yam, would you eat." "Eeehhh? O ti to"...I would respond with a mouth full of whatever was next on the agenda. All of the time, all of it, the next question after "welcome" is "Have you eaten?", and after eating, it would be "Are you okay"...and after a yes response...there would be a promise of the next one that might come in a couple of hours.
One would have asked, am I the only Grandchild child? NO! Did she care for the rest this way? Thunderous Yes! But theirs is not the story for this time.

Why have I taken time to write about this many stories? I just realized that all that I am today and about to become in future, there is an unmentioned causative agent. Someone who was there from the "pre-natal" period till date. The best person whose face I have hardly posted on my social media. The rear gem. The amazing caregiver who was accused many times of wanting to “spoil the child”, but she never did. She was just extending her loving kindness towards ensuring that the child gets the best of care in life. She is still much with us and I can only pray that God in his infinite mercy should preserve her for us in good health, so that she would continue to eat the fruits of her labor. Mama Mi, I will never forget your love and care for me, your love from here to the moon and back. You will enjoy more and more peace forever.

 

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