When my friend’s father died almost 2 years ago, I wrote a poem in his memory called ‘The Landscape is changing’.
The clear picture of my childhood that included my parents, her parents, my aunts and uncles and our homes has never left. Sadly, a lot of our family members including my parents and her parents have all died. My childhood house still exists but with different occupants. Same as hers. The little dirt road that led from our estate to the closest market is now even narrower and more buildings seem to have been stuffed in between the old ones. The last time I walked down the road, no one recognized me. In the past, I knew the occupants of almost all the houses.
The market which was a small one with known faces dotting the railway track is now a big overcrowded one with no one familiar.
I drove to the church that my family had been a part of from the early 70s before I was born and I was a bit glad to see it had remained the same in the last, at least, 20 years. But no one I knew worked there any more. I was pleased, however, to recognize members of the congregation. But things were different too. The ushers were unfamiliar. A lot of the older people were no more and the bulk of the church were now families of my contemporaries. People from their 30s upwards. Those with small children when I was a teenager were now in their 50s and older.
When I was a child, I wondered how generations die off. I would try to imagine a hundred years against that moment. How did all the people go until there are a totally different set of people remaining? I know I was a weird child because I was 8 and thinking of life and death. And it wasn’t as though people around me were dying every day. Things stayed the same for a very long time.
Then I hit 30. Parents got older. Dad was falling sick till he eventually passed on when I was 32. And then the domino effect kicked in. One by one we started burying parents. Then parents were retiring to either their villages or to personal houses away from places they had lived their whole lives. Those who lived in their personal houses eventually either sold off when parents moved/passed on or rented out because they the kids were starting their lives elsewhere.
And that is another thing.
I grew up in a family of 8 children. None is in our family home in Jos at this moment. 1 is in Abuja, 2 are in the United Kingdom, 1 is in USA, 1 is in Kaduna, 1 is in Abeokuta, I am in Lagos and the other 1 moves from place to place. We are scattered everywhere and we have not been in the same place, all of us together, for over 10years.
This thing that makes adulting hard is when you are literally taking over from the generation that raised you. When you are making decisions about who will care for an ailing parent, when you are processing estate issues. Even trying to safeguard their investments when your life is fully rooted elsewhere.
I recently had a breakfast date with 3 of my primary school classmates; we talked about past and present. One of us casually spoke about sending his father pocket money and being apprehensive when his dad calls because it may be a medical emergency or need for money. It was surreal.
I recall going through my father’s documents one by one and seeing a part of him I had never seen before. He was a record keeper. My mother’s bride price and list of things to bring he did not throw away in 40 years. There it was for us all to see. His bank statements and details of his earnings. It was really odd going from a child who knew nothing about the serious things that parents handle to handling their businesses.
The last leg care of ailing parents does things to the mental health of the kids caring for them. When you persuade them to take their drugs and they refuse like toddlers. Or when you even have to take care of their physical hygiene. It does things to you.
It is no wonder that middle age is really no fun.
One parent dies and then you start trying to fit your life around the surviving parent. You sort of understand why oyinbo have communities for the aged and old people homes. But this is alien here and I pray it does not catch on. It is a thing of honour to tend to a parent in the last leg of their lives.
So, the landscape has changed and suddenly we are the adults. My contemporaries are middle management inching towards top tier positions. Right at our heels are the generation that was just a blur of pinched kindergarten faces a while ago. They are now fully adults.
- Time still stands stretching ahead of us deceptively. But when we travel, we take a bend, a curve and go uphill suddenly we will see that the end of the road is not far off.
The landscape stays still for a long time it seems. But a tree falls, a seed sprouts, hedges are trimmed and branches are hanging low with fruit. It is never truly standing still. The landscape changes till everything old is gone and everything is new.
Rest in peace Mrs Yemi Adebesin. Your spot does not lie empty; closed petals are stretching towards the sun perched on full bloom.