The project attempts to take you on a journey that is planned around how the life of a man is at different stages of his life. We use the lives of different men, some of which are intertwined to paint this picture. The stages are in ten-year intervals, hence the name project name.
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Pa Segun Jones lay back in his reclined lounger, on the verandah of his bungalow house — a building which cement block upon cement block had been laid with his very sweat and blood. He let the copy of City People he had been reading flutter to the ground at his side. He was not one for gossip at his 70 strong years, but the name Ajifolawe had jumped out to him from the random page that Morenike must have been reading the last time she was around. Ajifolawe had been one of those new entrants that got bullied the most, while Segun had worked briefly as a fresh faced teacher at The King’s College. He found it funny that he could remember young Ruben Ajifolawe after so many years. He had been quiet, unsure but precocious young man. Under different circumstances, he would have been interested in what the years had done with his former pupil.
His attention was drawn to the present as he looked out at the little boy making his way beyond the gates and running toward him with such joy. His heart swelled at the sight. The boy skipped and avoided the puddles with a fervor and energy spurred by his youth. The man looked on and beamed with joy beyond explanation, and as swiftly as the joy filled his heart, his gut was filled with bile of sadness. Pain seared through him, reality had a way of doing that to him. He looked at the little boy again and forced a smile, the little joys of life made it all worth it in the end of the day. And then as quickly as it began, his joy got deflated by the bile of sadness. The pain seared through his chest and he felt it squeeze the air around it.
Oluwasegun the little boy had been named. He named after his granddad, and true to type, he was the spitting image of Oluwasegun Sr. He had the strong nose and thin spindly legs that Yorubas believe are a portend of a tall man. The boy was barely 3 years old and he had already started to manifest the Jones gene – lightheartedness. Oh, if he could bottle some of the boy’s carefree happiness.
“Gwanpa!” he shouted.
Pa Jones only looked on with tear stained eyes. Little Segun jumped in his lap without regard for his creaking bones.
“Segun! What have I told you about jumping in Grandpa’s lap?” His mother shouted from across the big compound, as she herself had only come through the gates.
He and Ashake, his wife had given birth to Morenike in their early forties after living without children for 20 years. One year had turned to two, two to ten, ten to fifteen. On and on, until they had given up all hope of any child to complete their unit. . They made a conscious effort to love each other irrespective of whether they had a child. They were content to take their blooming love as the only offspring they’d have. Then like the heavens chose to smile on them, Ashake conceived, his heart soared every time he looked at her. She was his “Sarah” and he playfully teased her all the time.
He sighed as he had many times before.
The tears flowed freely.
“Papa mi!” Segun groaned as he was awoken by his daughter’s shout of joy as she jumped in between himself and his wife in her usual manner. Being their only child, they didn’t find it odd that she was very playful. She would always be that little girl in their eyes. He woke up with a wide smile on his face. “Morenike….” He tried to make his face up into a mock frown, but it wasn’t working. His two favorite women in the entire world were in the same space and time as he was and he couldn’t have been happier. He rested his weight on his elbows and he smiled at both his women with happiness he could not hide.
“Happy Birthday Daddy” Morenike and Ashake both chorused as if on cue.
“I cannot be happier and more grateful for the two of you” The smiles his face seemed unending.
“I know something that can make you happier o, Papa mi” Morenike perked up as if suddenly having an idea.
“That doesn’t sound good” He said as he looked over to Ashake for some kind of hint, but got none. Sometimes he felt like they were sisters rather than his wife and his daughter.
As if to further complicate things, she added:
“I have a boyfriend” Morenike said.
“But, how old is she now?”
“How old were we, when we married?”
“That was a different time now, Ashake!”
“But, how old is she now?”
“Mama, I told you he wasn’t ready” Morenike chimed in, as both women laughed at his obvious discomfort.
“Morenike, he’ll never be ready. Somewhere in his head you’re still his little girl skipping puddles in the yard when the rain falls.”
“…and the little girl that jumps in my bed to wake me up” Both women laughed again.
“So who is this boy?”
“He’s a man o, Baba Morenike. A fine young man. His name is Bolaji”
“Ah so you even know his name? You these women will not plot the coup of my death o. Se gbo?”
“He’s coming to dinner tonight gan”
“Ok o. Mo ti gbo o” I’ve heard
He had woken up without his wife leaning into his shoulder. He knew because her spot on the bed was cool, the sheets bore the evidence that she had lain right next to him.. Panic washed over him for no reason in particular. Worry quickly niggled at his insides, habit dictated that she’d always be by his side when he woke up in the morning.
“Ashake!” Jumping out of bed with the as much purposefulness as his limbs would permit him he called out to her..
“Daddy, kilode o?”
“Who is your father?” He retorted, only slightly beginning to calm down.
“Well since the day you married me, Baba Morenike, you became my father”
He walked into the bathroom to find her in front of the mirror with her wrapper around her hips. She had left arm raised and right massaging her aged breast in circles.
“Ahnahn, Ashake ko de le to yii o. O ba de ti ji mi. Okunrin meta mi oi tii ku o” Ahnahn, Ashake it’s not this serious. You could have woken me up. My youthful strength is not totally gone, you know?
She cackled in the way he found soothingly familiar.
“It’s not that Oluwasegun mi” She said, as her smile slowly became strained.
“Then, what is wrong?” Concern began to cloud his face.
“You know, since we went for Fadeke’s burial , it has been on my mind ever since…”
“Ah soro, ye ja mi l’aya bayii” Talk and quit scaring me like this
“You know it’s breast cancer that killed Fadeke; apparently the other women check their breasts regularly like this, and I hadn’t the foggiest of ideas.”
“Ka ma ri! God forbid it Breast cancer is not your portion!”
“I know, but one is never too careful”
“Three scores and ten, Fadeke mi… That’s the minimum”
She sighed heavily in response.
He pulled her close to his bare chest in a bid to hide the apparent concern on his face.
“Come, let’s move on to other things. Have you wished your husband a happy birthday today?”
“Ma binu olowo ori mi. Happy Birthday” Don’t be angry, my husband
“Thank you, jare”
“Have Morenike and Bolaji called?”
“Ani, I didn’t even check my phone before I came looking for you”
With his grandson in his lap, his eyes misted with tears. Tears of loss.
“Aaah Papa mi” Morenike cooed as she came within a few feet of him and knelt down in greeting on the cold tiles. Then she rushed over, and she held her dear father close to himself
“Ashake” he continued to chant like it was a mantra that kept him alive.
The little boy was confused but was still content to be in the middle of the group hug between granpa and momma. Soon he began to cry as well, without understanding why.
“But Segun, if you call my name one more time, I will sneeze”
All three of them looked up in surprise, to see Ashake at the door. The combination of the mastectomy and radiation had taken a toll on her already aging body. The mastectomy had left a space where her left breast used to be. And it made her already gaunt frame even worse. Only a few wisps of white hair were on her scalp where she once had a full head of hair. She had not been able to get up from her bed in weeks. The doctor had given her 3 weeks left to live, 3 months before. But as if by some sheer determination, she had stayed alive through the pain every day.
“Happy Birthday Oluwasegun mi” She said as she made an effort to walk from the door. Somehow, as a group they had gotten off the lounger and each held her close. Even the little boy saw some significance and held close to his grandmother’s leg.
With a sigh, she took her last breath.
She loved him. She had waited.
SO THANKS FOR READING AGAIN. THERE WOULD BE TRYING TIMES ON LIFE, WE ALL KNOW THAT, AND GROWING OLD IS ONE OF SUCH TIMES. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THAT GOLDEN TIME OF LIFE?
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS? YOU! YES YOU!! YOU OWE ME CHANGE FROM YESTERDAY!
FIND THE ART OF @JibolaL here
N.B. The project still goes on for one more day. Tomorrow we have The Eight Decade by @tomboxe and a surprise feature by @_thinkthank_ and @awizii.
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The Decades Project II (for women) coming soon…