I might look like the worst person on earth, I may very well be. But it hardly matters these days. These days I find that looking bad is considered awesome. You tell a girl she is crazy and she thinks its a compliment. In fact, if you don’t tell her she might be the one to tell you how people like her so much because she is crazy. Check Facebook profile pages and even CV’s. Craze is now a quality simply because people do not have dictionaries.
But I am rambling off.
Too much of everything is bad. Too much of life is bad. Somebody should please tell my grandma this. For the past twenty years she has been almost dead. Everyone keeps expecting her not to wake up the next morning. But she is too stubborn. She has decided that being half dead and a major pain to everyone is better than dying. I have nothing against her; there is no feeling whatsoever. I am just being truthful on the matter. I pride myself on being reasonable and objective. Anybody as old as my grandma should do the world and her care-takers a favour. I really think my grandma should die. But it is only my recommendation. I imagine how abominable it sounds; the whole family would see it as such. I would as usual look like the devil in all their eyes. But I know I speak for them too. I say the things they only think but cannot say. If they had any decency they would stop the pretense.
You may love your own grandma and want her to live forever. But your grandma is not my grandma, and yours is neither as old nor as painful. Someone is loved by the memories we have of them. There should always be these good and loving memories. Good memories are ultimately what makes us wish for people to live forever.
But what if there are no such good memories? What would someone miss? What memories do I have of my grandma? Some people have pictures of their granny with them on her lap, or recollections of when they went for summer at their grandparents. I have no such pictures because there was nothing like that. I know my grandma by association, and because my mum said the old woman is her mum. The pictures I have of my grandma are in my mind, in that corner where you bury scares, nightmares, dislikes and tolerances.
All I can recall of my grandma are not things I want to even recall. She has always been old and scary to me. As I grew older, she became excruciatingly annoying. I remember her as the disturbance to my peace and as the woman who hid my wallet in her dungeon of a room. I had suspected her, but to go to that room was beyond my powers. Only God knew what that wallet endured in that room. Of course I never used it again. I remember my granny as the person who spat everywhere, even on people. I remember her as the woman who never got tired of sliding the glass windows from side to side, just for fun, and as the person who would never cease from playing with light switches. Most painfully, I remember her as the body that scared off all my female guests. There was a particular event I remember most clearly.
I had invited a girl over one time when the coast of parents was clear. We were sitting on the couch and having the normal meaningless chats. But just when the chats got to that stage which naturally involved me whispering for effect and shifting closer to the girl, my grandma walked in. Who am I deceiving? That old woman didn’t walk in, she just appeared. It must have been so because I would have heard her stick tapping on the tiled floor, or her singing and I would have had ample time to protect the day, especially as it usually takes about an hour for her to take three steps. I know it isn’t so with other old people, but my grandma is different.
When my female guest spotted my grandma her eyes widened in fright which she tried very hard to hide. I could imagine how she must have pictured my grandma, all wrinkled and bent; a perfect picture of an old terrible witch. My guest must have concluded that she was about to be used for rituals. I knew that “runs” was ruined forever.
All chatting and thoughts left our heads as we waited for her to slowly pass by. I didn’t want to do anything that would create a scene and further frighten my guest; I just wished granny would pass in peace. But of course, that woman had set her mind to ruin that date. She stopped in front of us and slowly began to bend towards my guest. By this time I knew I had to intervene; I knew what would happen if I didn’t.
You see, in a previous time, I had been sitting in that same couch alone, and my granny had shuffled in, that day I had decided to actually keep quiet and watch what the old woman shuffling towards me would do. She had her walking stick and another long chewing stick in her mouth. I watched her move closer, and I watched her bend towards me. I held my breath at this juncture and waited. Slowly, slowly she used the crookest finger ever and poked my forehead. She poked my face the second time again and asked in Igbo, “Onye?… Ibu mmadu ko nmuo?”
For someone who had known me all my life, for someone who they said gave birth to my mother; for that someone not to recognize me in broad day light, and had to ask me if I was human or spirit…
I couldn’t subject my beautiful guest to that kind of visual and olfactory trauma. If I had allowed my grandma to come any closer to my guest she would have done exactly what she had done to me before. So I intervened by lifting the woman straight back to her room. The journey to her room didn’t go as smoothly as I have just said. There had been much witchy shrieking and curses involved.
My experiences with my grandma could be funny to an observer, but very annoying to me. At times, I would be enjoying a movie on the screen and she would shuffle in. Naturally she would stop in front of these really interesting movie, and peer with her face almost touching the screen. Then she would use her walking stick and tap the moving pictures. Sometimes she would even greet them. And of course, I will patiently wait till she finishes and then cackle her laugh at the screen before shuffling slowly away; all the while ignoring the fact that I was watching a movie. Sometimes I would endure this with a friend who would be dying in suppressed mirth. She is old, right? Old people are supposed to do this?
There was this time I woke up in my own room, on my own bed, and opened my eyes to find her face peering intently into mine, and real close too. I tell you, sometimes even men scream in fright. I know it was my fault; I should have locked the door. But would someone seriously tell me what she was doing peering into my face while I was sleeping?
Again, I remember waking up one morning to hear my grandma and little cousin fighting over…wait for it…
Unfortunately for me, I was the only one at hand to judge the matter.
My little cousin said “we” should warn mama to stop wearing her panties and that mama was fond of doing that. I turned to grandma to ask if the allegation was true; the old woman simply started singing one of her ancient songs, adding a beat to the tune by tapping her stick on the tiled floor.I turned back to my cousin and the singing stopped. I turned again to grandma and the singing resumed even louder, and this time granny accompanied it with a fake faraway look to show she was completely enthralled in the song. If I knew her, in some minutes, the song would acquire characters with my name in it.
I turned to my cousin and asked her how this crime was detected. The little girl said to me, matter of factly, that when she couldn’t find that particular colour of panties, she asked mama to show her the panties she had on.
Apparently, my grandma had shown the child the panties she had on. I shuddered at the picture.
For someone who claims to have bad sight to know that the person at the other side of the table was eating Turkey while she was given Chicken was simply witchcraft. The same old woman would reject Turkey for beef because beef was softer for her teeth. If you catch sight of those teeth, you would lose sleep. I was told that when my grandma was in her teens it was fashionable to have ones teeth sharpened to a sharp point. Hers are worse than a vampire’s because vampires have white sharp teeth. My grandma’s teeth have the unique colour of rust.
Sometimes she would wake up in the night and disturb the whole house by saying “they” were calling her or that she can here singing. Rubbish. It was all attention seeking. I usually looked forward to the next morning after these declarations because usually in movies and in stories, when someone says “they” were calling them, they mostly don’t wake up the next morning. But my grandma’s walking stick would be heard the very next morning and she would pretend she didn’t disturb the house the previous night. When someone starts hearing singing voices which no other person hears, it means they were about to go to Heaven where the wonderful singing emanates from. But, between us, we know Heaven is too beautiful to accommodate someone as old as my grandma. Think it, you will have to agree.
I have thought about it many times, there should be time for everything; time to die especially. Courtesy demands that people keep to time. If it is your time to die, then keep to the time. If you are not sure of the time, others should tell you, or even circumstances. So check the time. Is it your time to die? If we are acquaintances you could ask me. I am always honest.
I will write in my will that if I get too old to do anything for myself, someone should kill me. If I start constituting nuisance or become an embarrassment due to old age, someone should kill me.
In good kingdoms and territories, people send the old somewhere they can disturb no one, or constitute any nuisance to the society. But in Africa, the old move in with their children. And the other spouse just bears in silence. My father’s mom was old and lived by herself till her death. No long stories, no annoyance. My father has been swallowing and looking to me for help. I help him. So it is usually me that gets angry and vibrates when the old woman starts spitting on the living room sofa, or turning the lights on and off, or opening and poking her hands inside the pots in the kitchen. We have suffered, my father and I. Who knows what those old crooked fingers had done? And through all these my mum keeps saying, “Your grandma will live to declare the goodness of God.” When will Christians know that scriptures don’t always rhyme with reality? My grandma is over a hundred, but she looks two hundred. How long is she still supposed to declare the goodness of God? And even God knows she has not been glorifying him by her disturbances. If it is left to my mum and some other sympathizers, the old woman would live forever. But they have a bias; their judgements are not to be trusted. Once again I will be the voice of reason.
They say she was the village belle once, and that she was the leader of the female dancing troupe. That is no longer of consequence; she is no longer such. What she is now is an old body ripe for the grave. I seriously think she should go and rest or trouble some other beings in the other place.
When my mum dies I would be devastated. I have wonderful memories of her. I would suppress memories of her very Christian annoyances, she is my mum. But a mother and a grandmother are two different things, and elicit two different memories. I didn’t spend any time in my grandma’s womb; she wasn’t the one I remember worrying over me. What I remember of my mum would be what would sadden me at her death. What I remember of my grandma, however, would make me sigh in relief at her own death.
A grandma is supposed to be fun: Someone to tell you stories, and gossip about your parents; someone who leaves you a fortune or a cat when she dies. That is what Hollywood says. But in my own reality all anyone would inherit from my grandma would be her walking stick and chewing stick, and maybe a few cowrie shells and some Wrappers (the one they call “George”) that were expensive back in the sixties.
In the mean time, as only a favour, since she has nothing else to bequeath, she should go to the other side and pray for us. It is the right time.