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THE NIGHT OF GRIEF. MS/2021/01

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Ikeme just raised his legs off the ground and straightened himself in a half lying position in his special cain chair. It was a night of grief with heavy feelings soaked in the thick darkness. His large hearted wife had served his choice meal. Though it was still perfectly concealed in the plate, Ikeme’s senses retrieved the hidden content.

On a good number of times, Ikeme had bragged that he eats everything like his reputable father. But unknown to him, however, he had given out his secret likeness for roasted yam and special oil prepared with oil bean seed and bitter herbs “utazi”. Surprisingly, Ikeme had not eaten well since morning and he still felt no urge to open the plate set before him. His mind was heavily occupied with something. Ikeme felt robbed of his manly strength and courage.

From the front of his obi, he gazed into the sky as one tasked to record the number of the stars and their positions. His ears aimed at distant sounds beyond the present. It took three shouts from his wife to disengage him from somewhere. “Your mother has joined her ancestors, my master, gather yourself and take your meal”. Ikeme neither turned to look at his intruder nor uttered a word in response. He simply took a very deep breath and got lost again in thought. His wife got more worried. She had asked him to take his meal not just deep breath. The night of grief did not lose it’s grip on Ikeme’s  troubled mind.

However, it was the sudden nature of her mother’s death that actually shocked everybody to the marrow. In her early eighties, her mother was strong enough to visit their close door neighbors with her walking stick. Notwithstanding her age, her dried and wrinkled body could still respond to the rythms of the famous “Ayaego” dance. More so, in her discussions with friends and relatives, she would narrate very past events as if they happened yesterday. Ikeme had actually backed on her wisdom for many years. How would he resolve his doubt without giving himself off. Could his wife play this important role as efficiently as his mother? On this, Ikeme was highly sceptical.

It was really a moment of decision for him. “On which side of the divide will someone rely on  to protect his manly authority and control?” Ikeme thought this over and again within himself. He had the option of opening  up more to his wife with trust and love, or guarding his limitations with manly authority and intimidations. Ikeme was weighed down by these issues yet he had to move on. His mother’s funeral would be planned. And with the grave visible from his obi, he had to live with this great loss for a long time. Obviously, this night of grief will paint other subsequent nights with its grief coloration.

Then in a split of seconds, Ikeme forgot his grief and the event that led to it. He was seated in his obi with his aged mother in her usual sitting position. There is a question that bothers me, “Nne”,  Ikeme said. ” My son, l have no answers for you today. Go back to your wife,  she is a good woman.”

Ikeme once again opened his eyes to  another call from his wife. This time he felt more confused. Did his wife woke him from sleep? No, he did not sleep nor dream. He was simply trying to solve his problem when his dead mother came to his rescue. But there was a question he forgot to ask her. Why did she refer him to his wife rather than coming herself whenever she is needed?

Ikeme never got another opportunity to ask his question. Instead, as market days and weeks passed, Ikeme opened up in greater trust to his wife. He was surprised at the understanding and maturity manifested by by his wife. His wife, he was convinced, must have been influenced by the spirit of his dead mother.

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