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.