The time was about 4:45am on that morning of Friday, August 16 1991. Mum had taken ill suddenly about a week earlier and at times the situation looked very bad. However, the night before that fateful morning she had felt a lot better and we thought the worst was over. I heard the dog bark and I checked what it was; then, there was a knock on the gate. I wondered who it could be at this time of day. I called out and I got a reply, it was ‘Alhaji’, our neighbour. I went out, opened the gate and we exchanged greetings. He was accompanied by a teary-eyed lady, I knew who she was, and I had seen her the night before. She was a nurse at the hospital mum was admitted to and also one of her customers. I instantly knew this was not good. Then, in a shaky voice, she uttered one of the saddest sentences I have ever heard in my life, ‘I am sorry but mummy is dead’…………
It is hard to believe that it was twenty-one years ago!!! I remember it like it happened this morning. Life has not been the same without her, what a woman! We share the same birthday. She would have been 70 this year; I have counted her birthday posthumously. It is impossible to forget the fond memories, being in that salon (my mum was a hairdresser among so many other things; she sold clothes and jewellery too). I learnt how to help in the salon and discovered that ladies like male hairdressers, I don’t know why but I know they do and it was fun mixed with a lot of hard work those days.
Mum was very hardworking, she accomplished so much in one day that you would think she had more than the usual 24 hours. She took us to the farm; we planted most of the stuff we ate at home. I often wondered why we had to do that when she could afford to buy from the market. We could cook and do all the chores in the house. Yeah, I can pound yam and grind pepper on the stone; it was just something you had to be able to do. This may be hard to believe, but I was about to go to secondary school before I knew who my real siblings were! There were always a lot of us in the house. No one got preferential treatment; ‘cousins’ from far and near were treated the same. Her life taught us how to be accommodating; she always had room to help others and never complained or grumbled.
My mum had different streams of income, a virtuous woman she was. I remember her teaching me how to be innovative in ‘business’. I must have been 11 or 12 at the time and there was this estate being built close to our house, I hawked bread and soft drinks (yeah, I did) and the builders were my main customers. After a while, the competition grew fierce. Mum taught me to buy butter and give it for free to anyone that bought bread from me. The end result? I made so much turn over that the cost of the butter was insignificant.
Growing up without you has been hard. It hurts not having you around during my graduation, my wedding, the birth of my son, not to mention every single birthday I have had since then…….endless list. Hmmmmmm, it has been 21 whole years without you. The calendar is a constant reminder.
I love you mum.
Sun re o ‘mummy hairdresser l’ori okuta’