Chasing Shadows

Chasing shadows

My dad died when I was six. Well, six and a half; I was big on halves then. Anyway, he died. And whether as a result of too much TV or an already over-active imagination, I used to “see” him sometimes. Always at night. Always in dim-lit rooms. He would just stand there, half-smiling; male Mona Lisa. And I would stare with eyes saucer-wide and tiny heart swollen and pounding furiously.

I don’t know how the mini obsession started, but start it did. I was suddenly convinced that he hadn’t just gone, convinced that I was more special to him than everyone else. Convinced that there was a hidden love letter from him, some kind of message in a bottle, if only I’d be smart enough to figure out where.

And then I remembered. There had been a day when he showed me, to my surprise and awe, how to record with a radio cassette player. So he’d recorded our voices saying nothing in particular. I raided the house for weeks, months, years. Till this day, seeing a radio cassette has me wondering if it’s The One.

I asked everyone if they’d seen any tapes around. I would gather up lots of them and spend my time playing, fast forwarding, rewinding, changing sides and trying all over again. Breath bated, all real logic gone. His voice. I would hear his voice. Maybe even his laugh? Anything. Breathing other than mine. Anything.

I never found it, needless to say. Maybe, somehow, this explains why I can’t write anonymously. I want to say stuff that can be traced. Stuff that can be found. *shrug*

I went to the same Uni he’d taught in. I remember, during my registration, piled in an office with a bunch of others, and I’d laughed, a good belly laugh. Looking down from where I’d flung my head back, I realized one of the lecturers was staring at me rather oddly.

“Are you Ayo?”, he’d asked simply.

I’d nodded. He said, still rather oddly,

“I knew it. You laugh just like him. I remember, Ayo would laugh and everybody would know he was around. So full of life.”

I stared at him, knowing I couldn’t cry, not here. I nodded tightly at him and worked on controlling the goose pimples.

Recently, a man “friended” me on Facebook. I vaguely knew I’d seen his books in my dad’s library, so I accepted. Shortly after, he tentatively asked if I was Ayo’s daughter.

“I knew it”, he said, “the eyes are unmistakable.”

Later, he went on to say that my dad had once said how much I reminded him of himself.

“I’m sure he’d be very proud of you.”

Cue spine-wracking sobs.

I know that, had he lived, things would’ve been quite different. I would be quite different. Spoiled (more so than now), maybe less likeable. Maybe he wouldn’t have let me jump from Primary 4 to JSS1. Maybe I would never have met my friends. Maybe…


I love him endlessly, hopelessly, desperately. The missing him hits mercilessly now and then. Like the first time I watched Bridge to Terabithia. I cried for hours. I was swollen and hoarse with the empty, aching grief.

Seventeen years does nothing to the sense of loss. Rest in peace, Ayo Mamudu.


I’d like to share this song. It doesn’t really relate to the post, but I was listening to it on repeat when I wrote this, so it feels right.

I Won’t Give Up

26 thoughts on “Chasing Shadows

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  1. Joy! This is a beautiful piece. You should have read english language… Pls keep up with this writing prowes…I’m proud of you.
    RIP Prof. Ayo Mamudu

  2. Hey Coz, am so proud of you and am sure he is. You are a female copy of him and everytime I read your work, I remember my Uncle Ayo. You had a great father, an enigma and he lives on in you. I shed a few tears before sending this.

  3. I gues i am almost your opposite when it comes to anonymity then.. but i can always be found..
    “..17 years does nothing to the sense of loss..” that struck a chord.. ‘cos i thought with time i’d stop missing ma Grandma but her abscence came alive instead and grows. Touching tribute. You write well.

  4. U may not remember me but dis is very good writing. I’m quite impressed, keep up d good work. The Lord is ur comfort. Take care.

  5. *wipes tear* This is a very touching piece. Ayo Mamudu is definitely Resting In Peace, and smiling in pride at his girl.

    Sometimes, I have nightmares of my parents dying. Anytime I listen to or sing Luther Vandross’ “Dance with my father,” I’m filled with such love, fear and trepidation. 😦

Spill the tea, sis.

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