I couldn’t remember the last time I went to grandma’s house, No 5 Nwaniba road had become sort of a taboo after it happened. Faint memories still linger though, my cousins and I dancing awilolokoba at the backyard with our hands on her big calabash and our buttocks out, twerking is what they call it these days, we were ahead of our time. I remember her cats rubbing against my leg while we ate at the dining table, she’d tell us ‘don’t give them fish, that’s all they want’ in her raspy voice and thick AkwaIbom accent, cases of theft had been pinned on them and we went scout free. But that’s all I remember and as we watched her dwindle away, I wondered if that’s all she remembered too.
Grandma insisted on living alone in her house, she had raised her boys here, loved and had been at the mercy of her husband here and she joked that she’d draw her last breathe here. So when news got to us that grandma had been found lying on the kitchen floor numb, everyone shared the blame. Grandma had suffered from a stroke, If only we could have been there? Why did we ever leave her all on her own? Why was she so stubborn? But the truth was there was nothing we could do then and nothing we could do after, but we tried.
‘Grandma is sick’ we were told and she’ll be staying with us from now. I didn’t realise a lot of people would be staying with us from ‘now on’ Uncle Akpan and his kids came all the way from America, aunty Emem and hers too, it was a family reunion we rarely ever had stained with ‘Don’t give them fish’ and we’d stop and stare, the doctors said this was her remembering. Grandma had been probed, poked and damn right assaulted all in the name of diagnosing her, I wished they had let her be, let her wonder, re-know, re-member, re-claim her home, her boys she had raised, her grandchildren she had loved, me.
Grandma was laid to rest today, no 5 Nwaniba road will remain home to her even in her death. I haven’t cried yet, I will not cry ever. This was better, her gone than me watching her forget us. Dementia had ripped her of her, distorted her brain and robbed her of memories she had held dear and when she did remember, in those fleeting seconds, it had made off with her words. Strong and agile grandma had been reduced to feeble, bedridden stranger. Glorious exit, nothing glorious about the way she died, nothing glorious about us both forgetting.
I’ll be staying back when all this is over. Dusting old cupboard she was once dusted, going through books she never read and pictures she’d forgotten. Retracing her steps in her home, reclaiming her time for both of us.