What if you discovered that someone once stole your father’s senses? No. Seriously. What if you stumbled upon a letter that more than reveals that your daddy was once a victim of heartbreak- or better still, a ‘sense theft?’
Two weeks passed, after my encounter with Isioma, and I had done all I could to forget about her. Yes I had forgotten about her and was well on my way to the road to totally erase the memory of her, when I had another experience that reminded me of her dealings with me. And this time, I hate to admit ‘cos it is funny, my dad was the victim!
It was going to be the last Saturday of the month and, as was the norm, thorough clean-up of the house had to be done. Everyone, from me to the rest of my siblings, had their own responsibilities- toilet and bathroom, living room, kitchen, cobwebs. The list had no end. Our house was such a bee hive of activities on such days as everyone got their sleeves rolled up and set to work, I mean, to ‘cleaning work.’
I was the leader of the pack, so I was always made the leading cleaner and given the most demanding tasks to execute. So much for being the first child, huh?
On Friday night, daddy called me and said “ehen, That store at the backyard has stayed too long without a touch. That should be your port of call tomorrow morning. You can leave the main building for the others to take care of. And, be very careful with the things there.”
My Dad asked me to go clean up the store room that was at the back of the compound. Now, this store room held a lot of memory for him. His books from secondary school, the articles he wrote as a young man (Now you know where this writing thing started!) were all there.
Not to be missing were his terribly old clothes (he was that nostalgic. He called it ‘keeping up with his history’), his shoes, magazines, bags… the store was one hell of a shop. An auction of items there could fetch us a fortune.
But I wasn’t happy about this task. The store had not been opened for as long as the last earthquake in Nigeria (I don’t think there has ever been any). And now popsy was asking me to go clean up this store room? Alone and unaided? I grumbled secretly. But no matter how much I grumbled, the verdict had been passed and I was left with no room for an appeal. You know, daddy’s word was always final. And yes *my dad was a military officer. Now you know why I couldn’t protest.*
I slotted the key into the keyhole of the padlock. Rusty. Dirty. The lock wouldn’t budge. I tugged and tugged until finally, ‘snap’, it gave. As the iron door swung open, the heaviest stench of a caustic mix of dust and heat arrested my nose, melted the hairs that lined my nostrils and choked my brain. It was awful.
Where was I going to start from? The cobwebs were as thick as knitting thread and ran everywhere from the ceiling to the floor. The species of the spiders I saw here could not have been discovered on NAT GEO WILD! This was going to be a rough clean-up.
I tied a handkerchief over my nose, fetched a long stick and started at the cobwebs. Swipe, swipe, swipe… they all clung to the stick. As I got rid of the webs, I killed different colours and sizes of spiders, cockroaches and ants. Anyone who studied zoology in this store could pass any biology exam, ‘cos the species of insects were strange. I also killed a medium-sized, pointed-mouth rat. Na wa o, wetin I no kill for this store? I taya!
Having cleared the webs, I started bringing out the bags and sacks that filled the room. The task was to empty the store, sweep and mop the floor, rearrange the items of the bags and sacks and pack them back in, as orderly as I could. In less than 30 minutes, all the bags and sacks were outside. Don’t ask, my entire body was snow-white, sorry, dust-white!
Another thirty minutes and I was done with sweeping and mopping. Now to the most interesting part of the task.
I always craved to have a peek into my father’s past, into his life as a young boy, as a student. Although this job was tedious and ‘dirty,’ It availed me the chance to get a sneak peek into Mr. Daniel Ighodalo’s life gone by. I was ready to explore. I didn’t know a shocker awaited me.
I emptied the first bag. All manner of books, From Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart to works by Wole Soyinka, Niyi Osundare, Ola Rotimi and many more. Ah, I saw his note book from secondary school. Don’t ever mention I told you his hand writing was not too fine.
Second bag, third bag and the fourth bag.
I SAW SOMETHING AND I FROZE!
It was a box that contained letters. There was this one that was dated 16th July, 1988 (I hope that’s not your birthday). I can’t describe the contents, so I will simply put it up:
I don’t know where to start writing this letter because my heart is shattered. I have tried to gather the pieces, but they are not all complete. And all this for your sake. I had thought that the marriage plan was what you always wanted. But why did you do this? Our relationship has grown a year strong and we both knew marriage was in the pipeline. Why did you do this? Walking away, saying you can’t put up with me because I have no money. And of all the persons you could go to, Darren, my own friend because of his wealth. Well, I wish you well and hope that you get to live happily. But I want you to know that money doesn’t make a happy home, responsibility does. Fancy dates and colourful weddings don’t promise a thriving marriage, but commitment and love do. I still love you.
Yours in love,
I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. I was stupefied beyond sanity. I closed the letter, and saw a bold print on the lid of the box: UNPOSTED LETTERS OF THE HEART!
Immediately, I burst into laughter. So my military dad had a soft ‘lover boy’ heart. I laughed so loudly and hysterically without knowing that my dad had been standing right behind me! JEEEZ! I-DON-DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!