Today, two years ago my granny died.
I spent the day thinking about her passively while putting my hair in twists and I could kind of hear her voice in my head gingering me with her wisecracks in that almost frail yet powerful voice, as I would occasionally stretch my arms and they would crack at the elbow joint. I could hear her groan about her arthritis and in a way, I kind of related at this moment.
Fun fact: the middle finger on my right hand is actually struck with the damn thing.
Tonight, after getting off of the phone with my mother, I stepped outside and looked up and there was a full moon and no clouds in the sky. A perfect full moon.
In the distance, a neighbours dog was barking, crickets chirping into the night, mosquitoes feasting on my lower legs and I, Eno, was standing leaning on my brothers’ boot, looking at my phone propped against my laptop screen with my ___ (ex? not really sure what to describe our relationship at this point) face on the screen as he, in occasional silence, keeps me company and allows me to be in my feelings.
I’m standing outside at 11pm, writing this. Well, not writing literally, typing more like and my chest feels heavy.
There’s so much on my chest and in my mind. When she died, I was put together, I remember receiving a call from my mother between 1am and 3am that day telling me “granny just died. Don’t wake your father” or something of that sort.
Of course, I did exactly just that. Wake my father up I mean. If I were in her shoes, I’d want my partner to be there for me.
I left the room after a while, allowing him to have some privacy with her. I don’t remember it clearly but I know I went straight to bed.
When I went to Nnung oku for her burial, I felt detached. Like I was walking in a haze. I majorly spent the time catching up with my cousins whom I hadn’t seen in a while and with Ejiro, one of my best friends, who put everything on hold and showed up for me. I didn’t see her throughout and I don’t know whether that would have made it more realistic if I did.
I watched as they put her in the ground and her children performed their last rites, throwing dirt into the hole and I still could not understand.
I wanted to scream at them, “That’s granny you’re putting away! Why?”. I know, that would have been silly but, emotions almost always defy logic.
I saw her the last time I was in Calabar and when I was leaving, like our tradition, she pressed a mint N1000 note into my palm while whispering a prayer over me. How is it that she is gone? She, with whom I shared a room with for years, constantly argued about the temperature on the AC and lost dozens of ludo games to, is no more??
I didn’t cry at the announcement, or when I went home to help out in the burial preparations, or when I got hugs from strangers who expressed their condolences, or when I went back home and went into what used to be her room, adjacent to mine and could still smell her scent, a mix of mentholatum, vaseline and books, or when I sat in her favourite chair in the dining room for lunch some days later. I was almost always at the brink of tears. Even now, 2 years later. Yes, a tear or two will roll down when my eyelids can no longer hold it, but I have still not grieved I think. When I heard of my paternal grandmothers passing, I wept so hard my roommates were scared and a classmate joined in. The good days.
I spent a lot of time with her, fell asleep and woke up to the sound of her existing in the same space as I did. Listening to her transistor radio and its sound filling up the space that was our 3 bedroom apartment. Singing old Ibibio and Efik hymns with her and my big sister. Watching her get dressed in her Sunday’s best when we prepared for mass until she could no longer attend.
But with all of these, I didn’t truly know her as a person outside of as my grandmother. I didn’t know her favourite colour, or who her best friend from her teenage years was, or what dreams she had for herself growing up, whether or not she enjoyed crocheting or she just did it because she could.
Looking back, I wish I was older and had time to pick at her brain. To engage her in deep conversations and to just know her outside of what she was to me. Today, I will allow myself to acknowledge these longings and will get to know her through the stories her children will tell, and from the tons of photos left behind.
I know she loved me to bits and pieces and I her, and that will have to be enough for me.
Love and light,