My father lost his faith trying to heal me. I don’t know. I guess you could say it never really ran deep. You could say it wasn’t a firmly rooted faith. Maybe, maybe,maybe. What does it matter?
I remember the very first place I was taken to, a native doctor, a bleached babalawo whose house was within shouting distance from ours. His kids played football with my brothers and I. I still recall the don’t-worry-you-have-come-to-the-right-place look he gave my father when we sat in his funny-smelling divination room. Three days later. I watched him shake his head in a I-try-na gesture in response to my father’s dissatisfied look. I guess it was precisely at that point that I developed a morbid hatred for all witch doctors (that’s what I call them). Louts who made me drink gut-wrenching concoctions, poured hot liquid into my ears, made countless incisions on my body till I became somehow hardened to the blade nicks, not even flinching as the cuts were administered. Like the Robocop I so admired then.
I was even told not to touch okro and ogbolo soup! I obeyed the former and disregarded the latter. Sometimes nothing gives.I didn’t like the hospitals either, with the endless probes into my ears as if a toad was inside, the injections that I fought tooth and nail not to be given, the pills I pretended to swallow but hid behind my teeth and later spat out. I didn’t even like the churches with their funny tasting holy water, their three days hunger strike scheme, their chaingang of praying mantises whose spittle splashed on my head and face as they thundered prayers to a God they probably thought was as deaf as I was.
” Dem just dey shout for my head,” I complained to my mother one afternoon as she was taking me home from yet another deliverance session in yet another church.
“Dem dey pray for you,” she retorted. I think that was what I read on her lips. Well, I was getting tired and used to the routine at the same time. Hey, don’t get it twisted, u believe some of the places we went to were decent. In a way. The trouble is you only get judged based on what you get done. Trying doesn’t count. I remember, years later,backtracking to these days, I would wonder how come a man of my father’s education let himself get hoodwinked by anyone who said, ‘I fit do am.’ I thought, nobody could possibly be that gullible and definitely not my Unibadan-educated father. But I think I get it now. To start with, my father was raised with strong traditional beliefs. I learnt from my older sister that my great-grandparents were juju priests. Besides, my father was a desperate man who doesn’t care what it sounded like or looked like as long as there was hope in it for his son to regain his hearing. It doesn’t matter how many times he had had to shed secret tears of disappointment(not so secret,I knew.) My father would always get back up again in his search for that one place, that one man or woman that would make all the difference. Well, I am sorry to say that today, he’s still searching.
Looking back, I realised my father’s faith in God was conditional. To him, it was either God heals his boy or God takes a hike. I think I can understand that now. Except God isn’t the kind of dude you can threaten. One day, I will tell him that. It was 2001 when my father got laid off work. The company he’d served for nearly 13 years had been sold and he was among the hundreds laid off. it meant no more trips to doctors and bogeymen in disguise. It meant I was free. We were free. But it was a bitter freedom. A freedom that saw me go about in patched knickers, a freedom that saw me and my siblings sent back from school to get our fees. That saw my father temporarily take to driving a cab. That brought financial arguments to our home some nights.
Sometimes, on lonely days, especially when it rains, I would think of the times way back on our way to Doctor this or prophet that, of the times I wanted to shake the hands I was holding, catch my father’s eyes and say, “Papa, make we no go again.” I wanted to tell him in my weak voice- and through him, to the rest-to make his peace with whatever had happened to me. To take me home, take me as I was, to accept the fact that things do change. I wanted to howl thunder and cry rain. Anything to wake him out of his daze. But of course, I never told anyone about it.