By: Wonuola Lawal

 

*** Part 2 (Link for Eid Al-Adha Part 1)

 

It’s been thirteen years since Grandfather passed. His death was sudden. One night he was standing in the kitchen holding a cup of tea and the next thing Grandmother hears is a crash in the kitchen. She opened the door and found him on the ground. She isn’t the same. She’s no longer bubbly and her smile no longer reaches her eyes. Everything about Eid changed when grandfather passed away. The visitors stopped trooping in, the cheery laughter vanished into thin air, and there were no longer cousins and aunties helping out with preparations. The meat no longer leaves a sweet taste in my mouth no matter how hard I try. Despite his death, my immediate family still comes together to celebrate Eid, because that’s what Eid is all about. Luckily, his death doesn’t hang in the air like it does over grandmother and we’re able to do what we’ve always done. As I walk into the compound, I smell the familiar air of flesh and blood and the smell of jollof rice cooking over firewood. These familiar sensations bring a wave of nostalgia that leaves me lightheaded. The scents are familiar but the lack of sound is foreign. If I could paint what the sound looks like, it’ll be the painting of a desert with nothing but red sand and a bundle of hay rolling past. Quiet. A quietness that is uneasy, considering the sounds the air used to hold in the past. It’s funny how things change from something you’ve been familiar with to something you cannot recognise.

 

This is my first Eid-Adha in ten years. If I’d known the last one I attended would be my last maybe I’d have savoured it more. Shortly after Eid, I was shipped to boarding school in England because my father was elected Governor of Ondo state. He wanted his children to grow up in spaces where they were unknown and decided England would be the best option. My sisters were shipped there when they each turned ten some years after. To add to the change, we moved houses. Therefore, we moved from being fifteen minutes away from grandfather’s house, to an hour away and as a result, were unable to pray with the family today.

 

As I walk into the compound, I glance over to the women to see if I can recognise any of them. I only recognise Mama Ibeji and I run over to her in excitement, curtseying to greet her when I’m in close proximity. She exclaims that it’s been a long time since she’s seen me.

O to ojo meta.

Yes, it’s been a long time, but she doesn’t look any different. I express that and she blushes before I ask about the twins.

They’re sixteen now.

Sixteen! I cannot imagine how the little girls running in my mind would look today. I try to imagine what today would have been like if grandfather was still alive. Would everything have stayed the same? Would the twins have been telling their secrets to Mama Joju because of her kind, you-can-tell-me-anything face? Would they have felt free enough to talk to me about boys and the rest of the drama that comes with being a teenager? I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that if everything had stayed the same, that there would have been a stronger family bond so that when grandfather eventually died, we’d mourn him but carry on like we’d always done. I’d have preferred that to the lack of visitors and distant family members that I don’t think I’d ever see in my life again. The only constant thing in life is change and in order to continue living, one must embrace it with open arms and befriend it so they are never caught unaware by life-changing events.

I leave Mama Ibeji and walk into the house, five of my immediate cousins rush to hug me in the kitchen and I chat with them before heading to the living room. In order to walk into the living room, one has to pass the dining room first. In the dining room, my parents, uncles, and aunts are huddled around the table discussing their lives. I greet them all and my ears are flooded with a variety of comments.

She’s so big now

You know she drove here by herself.

I hope you have a boyfriend.

 

I smile through it all, walk past them and into the living room. I see my grandmother sitting in her favourite chair watching a Yoruba movie.

‘Grandma,’ I say as I walk towards her and curtsey.

‘My baby,’ she says as she embraces me. ‘O to ojo meta.’

Like clockwork, she leans back and I sit on her lap and rest my head on her chest. Her soft breathing sings songs of sadness and the sound is deafening.

Grandma it’s time to move on, I think to myself.

‘I know,’ I hear it even though she didn’t say anything.

I sit up and look at her.

‘I want you to go back to being happy. You’re more than this,’ I say.

She avoids my eyes and mutters that she knows.

‘It’s just hard. He was my everything.’

‘I understand, but you are everything to me and it makes me sad to see you crumble. Please just let this go because he’s at peace now. He’s been at peace for thirteen years and you haven’t.’

I see the wheels begin to turn at the dawning of this realisation. There’s an awakening in her mind and there is life in her eyes that I haven’t seen in a long time.

O to ojo meta, I say to the woman I recognise. It’s been a while.

‘You’re absolutely right. I’ve kept my life on hold for thirteen years while he’s been resting peacefully. What a joke!’

She’s back. I can feel my heart smiling.

‘I will make some changes from today. I will,’ tears are falling from her eyes and she’s inhaling and exhaling out of her mouth to calm herself down. Tears are falling down my face and I’m also breathing the same way. We cry the same.

There are no more words to be uttered so I resume resting my head on her chest while she puts her arms around me and we sit there pretending to watch the movie as we inhale and exhale in unison. If the scene was a painting, it would be that of a twenty-something-year-old in her grandmother’s embrace with both figures exhaling loss out of their mouths and I would title it ‘Letting go’