Even though it sounds cheesy, the trip was really all about family for me. I wasn’t expecting a wild, excitement-at-every-turn time and I didn’t get that. What I got was lots of laughter and good memories that will remain with me for a long time.
With the exception of two nights that we spent at the houses of other family members, we stayed with my maternal grandmother. My grandmother is such an inspiration because she is living proof that you can survive difficult situations if you make God your strength and don’t rely on your own power.
Don’t let her narrow shoulders and slight frame fool you: this intrepid woman had 11 children, including three sets of twins. Eight of those children survived to adulthood, including one ‘complete’ set of twins. My mother is the oldest child. More remarkable is she raised these children on her own, and managed to send them all to school. Although her own education did not go past primary school, she saw the value of education and made sure that all her children were able to get at least secondary school education. Though her laugh is husky and her voice a bit so, she can turn up the volume and raise her voice when needed. And apparently it’s needed very often. ;)
She has had a few jobs in her life, from owning a buka (a small restaurant/food stand), to running a mill for grinding plantain and yam into elubo flour, to her current job where she makes and sells cement blocks used in all sorts of buildings.
My grandmother has faced a number of challenges in her life: when she was young, she had a really bad fall that resulted in the growth of her right arm being stunted. She also had a stroke before I was born I, and walks with a limp as a result. Last year she fell off an okada (motorcycle) and broke her right arm. It was not set properly and she now uses her left arm for tasks requiring fine arm movements. Yet through it all I’ve never heard of her complaining and she hasn’t let any of these things slow her down one bit! She’s still the first one up, working her butt off, and the last one to go to sleep. She overdoes it, actually (something my mother inherited from her).
My grandmother is a typical mother, the kind that surely inspired the song Sweet Mother: too busy sacrificing and giving to her children and grandchildren to give much to herself. One of the things that she had never had was a party. Even though she had passed plenty of milestone birthdays, at the age of 72 she had never had a big do that was all about her. So, it was decided (by her female children primarilyâ€”men are generally useless in these sorts of things!) that a bash should be thrown for her and she would be the guest of honour for once.
It was a lot of fun! My sister and I got to get dressed in traditional wear for the event (we wore lace and with the lining it was really hot!). There was lots of food, and even more dancing. I discovered that my love of dancing is completely inherited from my mom’s side. Good heavens: they just dance and dance and won’t stop, not even when sweat is pouring off their faces and soaking their clothing throughâ€”they just keep going!
One of the other ways my grandmother supplements her income is as a landlady: she rents the majority of rooms in her house out. Fourteen years ago, I remember being charmed by one tenant’s daughter, Ola. This time there were other youngsters to capture my heart. I think my grandmother only attracts tenants who give birth to adorable children.
My grandmother is generous to a fault, and would do anything for her family and anyone who happens to be a member of the human race. Unfortunately, that has led to her being taken advantage of. While we were there we tried to tell the family to go easy on her and let her enjoy her senior years instead of having to keep working so hard to support her family. I hope the words sank in. Of course step one would involve her putting her foot down and refusing to do things for every person with a tale of woe. Yeah right.