Around 11 P.M yesterday, on my way back home from *****, my mind drifted to my grandmother. I remembered all of the things I should have when she died and in the backseat of a taxi – in all of the quiet and discomfort – I cried all of the tears I should have cried at her funeral. I might be a year too late, but I will always love you, Maame.
For Kwenortey, Happy Birthday.
She had always noticed a resemblance between her grandmother and herself. Even when no one else seemed to see it, she was certain. It was not in a physical sense. It was not the shape of her nose or the size of her ears; It wasn’t anything obvious. It was in the way they did things. How meticulous the old woman’s sway was, how lightly she laughed, how gently she held unto things, as if always ready to let them go. Even then, it was more than that, because in what was physical she was in equal measure the opposite of all of these things. Anyone you asked would say the same thing: Yeboah was a boy in a girls body. Rowdy, violent, loud like her brothers, or even more than them. Constantly getting into fights, speeding down the road on a bicycle much bigger than her, balanced between the frame because her little feet would not reach the pedals if she sat on the saddle. No one would believe she was anything like her grandmother. Not even if you begged them to. But she knew. She knew because they shared a bond much stronger than the physical, even if her grandmother seemed not to know this herself.
She had been on earth almost 12 years, and she could not remember a time when she was anyone other than her grandmother in her dreams. In vivid dreams she walked through market stalls and called all of her old friends by name. She climbed up the stairs of the Maggi building till she was on her floor and inside of her Obroniwawu store. And then she sold,
“Second hand clothes for sale! Jeans for women, neat trousers for men!”
Sometimes Kwaku Noah, the bus driver who claimed to be a Royal in Kwahu would visit her. He would sit next to her and talk and talk till he got her to laugh. She would rest her head on his shoulder and he would gently brush his hands through her hair. But not always. Sometimes she did not want to see him. Sometimes his irresponsibility stunk all over him so badly that she had to contort her nose and force him to leave with her eyes. Sometimes she had a child, sometimes she had children, all of the time she was in control of her own life, busy, travelling, providing, nurturing, happy.
Her grandmother would catch her staring sometimes. Maame would beckon her with a finger.
“Yeboah, come here.”
She would slam her armpits together and refuse to move.
“Yeboah, come to your grandmother.”
She would run away.
She never told anyone her dreams, but she knew they were real. She knew that they were her grandmothers memories passed on to her somehow. They were hers to experience. The little vignettes she meandered through whenever she was tired enough to dream. The good and the bad, the sad and the happy, they were hers. She did not understand it of course. Or why whatever it was had chosen her. But she was not opposed to it. Her grandmothers shoes were warm inside. They were loving; peaceful.
It was not until her second year in Secondary School that she had finally understood her gift. All of a sudden her dreams had become rampant and even more detailed, aggressively shifting from one incident to another. Her grandmothers Marriage to Kwaku Noah, their first child, their third, their fourth, the death of her parents, Kwaku’s coronation as chief, his reluctance to provide, her journey back to Accra – Within a matter of days they collided; and quickly. An entire life, an entire history – some painfully tragic, others glorious in their beauty rushed at her. She rushed to bed every chance she got, desperate to continue on some adventure that had ended too soon. To know more about this unassuming woman and the amazing life she had lived once upon a time.
Then her Dad had come to visit her in school one Saturday afternoon and for the first time she had toyed with the idea of divulging her secret.
“Daddy is grandma okay?”
Her father had turned towards her in surprise, his glasses dangling on his nose.
“The grandmother you are always running from?” His voice did not have the usual spurt it had when he teased her.
“Is she okay?”
He had a sad look in his eyes. He stared down at nothing when he spoke.
“Grandma’s memory is deteriorating. The doctor said it’s called Alzheimer’s or something. Its been barely 2 months and she hardly remembers anything sometimes. Her own name, us, she becomes hysterical when we touch her.”
“She cries sometimes.” His voice was breaking now. “She tries not to let us see but we do. I’m almost always with her nowadays. I’m afraid what will happen when I leave. She has all her old pictures spread out in front of her all the time, but all it does is confuse her when she has an episode.”
He stopped to look up at her, a sad smile on his face.
“Why did you ask though?”
She was quiet for a long time.
“I would like to see her”
Art Credit: Alix Beaujour – My Work is Done