Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Can There Ever Be Another…?

It’s often said that anyone who’s had a life-altering situation or experience never forgets that moment when his or her life changed forever. I guess this is true now for me too. I remember exactly calling Dr Abdulahi about seven times within ten minutes and following up with four text messages within the same period in the wee hours of that fateful day, May 30 this year. How time flies? It will be two weeks by tomorrow.

I had stayed awake all night and was constantly on the phone with my sister Azuka and also the lady we had come to know and call ‘Aunty TLC’. Intermittently I called my other sister Dorothy (  another sister, Florence having left for her US base just a day earlier and was yet to land) and wondered if she and my dad (God please keep him) could hurry over to the National Hospital in Abuja as my darling mom had just been wheeled into the ICU as she fought to stay with us. When I spoke with the Consultant, Dr Wakama at about 1.45am I sensed from his voice that the fight may not be going our way but that didn’t deter me. I kept the faith, prayed the Memorare as many times as I could and being in the month of May, a Marian month (this would make sense to Catholics) I left it in the hands of God. I had returned from Abuja just two days earlier and had hugged my mom before leaving for the airport and had told her I would be back to see her. I kept vigil and worked the phones with Dr Abdulahi, Azuka and aunty TLC. It was not a good place to be in, trust me. I paced my room, sat up on the bed, went to the washroom, knelt down and begged God to let my mom stay with us some more.
The unquestionable God had other plans and felt she had run a good race and fought a good fight and that it was time for her earthly sojourn to come to a close.

So in spite of our collective best efforts and those of friends and people of good disposition, by about 6.30am on May 30 this year, I became motherless. My life had changed forever. My mommy dearest had gone to be with God. For her biological children and her many ‘other children’, a light had gone out, the fire had been extinguished. For our dad, her husband of forty-nine years and ten months, he had lost a lifelong companion, an unusual confidante and a sister rolled in one. There can never be another. Our mother Theresa, our saint had gone marching…

On August 3, we would commit her to mother earth. Coincidentally, that day was to be the fiftieth anniversary of her wedding to my dad. Surely there can never be another like my mom. May the good Lord grant her eternal rest.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


If you are wondering what the title of today's post really is about or if it indeed makes any sense, you may not be alone. Had I not been involved myself, I guess I'd be in your corner as well. Before going into the story that led to the title of this post, let me put you out of your misery if you are one of them scratching your heads and say it shows how some things we take for granted may not be that simple after all. It also shows how complicated the English language can be (is that news?). I guess I'm feeling a tad generous and if I could invest a little in a lottery (spare me the lecture about how harmful gambling is) I'd have gone out and played the Lotto right away.

So it happened that about a fortnight ago (for you who speak the North American version of English, it means two weeks… lol), I was on a long haul flight from the most populated African country (some would add that it is the most populated black nation on earth) to the only country geographically on top of the US. I leave you to decipher what the two countries referred to above are. That’s some trivia for you. By the way, I hope it’s acceptable and politically not incorrect to describe a nation as black. In these days of danmed  if I do and still danmed if I don’t, can anything not attract some criticism?

So I was on this flight and on the second leg of it I was enjoying some banter with two African ladies (wow I hope I have not put my foot in my mouth with that description) while stretching my long limbs and hoping to stave off DVT (now surely that’s a recent addition to the street lexicon in Nigeria after the passing on of a creative musician turned reality show participant from what is alleged to be deep vein thrombosis).
We were standing by the aisle close to a washroom and some lady (events would later show she was a resident of North America) after reading the sign on the door of the washroom (‘loo’ to you Brits) in green colour (‘color’ if you are American) that read VACANT, asks aloud if that meant FREE? Now I’m wondering if that question was rhetoric or if indeed it was directed at us being that we were no cabin crew. One of the two ladies I was chatting with volunteered a reply that ‘vacant’ meant ‘unoccupied’. Four of us then chuckled and the lady that asked the question proceeded to push the door into the washroom.
I hope now you can relate to the title of this post. I hope also that you can now appreciate why some words that you may take for granted might indeed mean nothing or have a totally different meaning to persons who are from a different geography. That reminds of when I had newly relocated to the most culturally diverse city in the world (it is also the most populated city in the nation fondly referred to as the Great White North) and my son Papa had come down with coughs and a cold. I had taken him to a walk-in clinic and promptly told the doctor that he had catarrh. The doctor looked at me puzzled and wondered what that meant. I was more puzzled that a doctor did not know what catarrh was. Finally after describing the symptoms to him, he said ‘ oh runny nose…?’ That was an epiphany of sorts for me. So what was catarrh to me was runny nose to the doctor.
So when next you are in company of persons of different backgrounds, please pause to think if words that you use have the same meanings to them. You would be amazed that ‘trunk’ may refer to a part of a car that others would refer to (not the car please) as a ‘boot’ and not just a part of a tree.  So also is a ‘hood’ a part of a car which some would call ‘bonnet’ and not just part of a garb worn by priests and monks or by those who are either trying to keep warm or making a fashion statement.
If I had you reading to this point and I have not confused you, I say thank you because vacant may mean free or unoccupied. I welcome comments.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

For The Love of Motherland

I did promise during my last visit to share a bit about Danju's visit to motherland - Nigeria; his second visit in twelve years. This was no ordinary vacation and had begun with an invite by the Nigerian BasketBall Federation (NBBF) for him to join the under 18 national camp. The coaches and some FIBA agents and scouts had seen video clips of his shoot around and some game clips as well and were impressed enough to send an invite through 'yours sincerely' to him. You can imagine my pride to have my son being invited to the junior national team camp of his motherland. I was ecstatic.
When the excitement had worn off, it was time for business. He was writing his grade eleven last semester exams, I was not sure if his Nigerian passport was current and whether his Canadian passport was still valid and not expired. Furthermore I had my fears about being able to get him a seat on an airplane in time for him to make the 23 hour transatlantic flight from Edmonton to Lagos to make the camp. I also thought of the impact of jet-lag as he would literally be stepping off the airplane and straight to the national stadium for a selection practice. My excitement had metamorphosed into anxiety and concerns. And as I often are wont to do when faced with obstacles, I turned to prayers. And pray I did.
To the glory of the Almighty God, Danju made the trip and I was on hand at the airport to receive him. Once he was done with immigration and customs and stepped into the arrival section, I broke out in a wide grin of relief and love. I rushed over, hugged him, grabbed his luggage and we headed to the parking lot. I gave him his brief  which was to get some passport photographs taken and to head to the national stadium for practice. This was a 'baptism' of fire and a welcome to Nigeria.
We made the hour-long journey snaking through traffic to the stadium and he was thrust into the fray right away. Some of his initial shock (which did not surprise me) was about the state of the basketball court and how he could compete without risking injuries due to the slippery nature of the court and the very physical style of play, a huge departure from the style in Canada which was longer on skills . He quickly made some adjustments after taking a few knocks and was right smack in it 'dueling' for a spot. After three grueling days of two practices each day with each practice lasting three hours, Danju made the cut of twelve players who were to represent Nigeria on a four nation tournament in Africa.
For anybody who had ever worn his country's colours and represented his country, this is a feeling that lasts a lifetime I'm told. By this, Danju had added another page to his basketball portfolio.

Coincidentally, while Danju was on this trip to Nigeria, he was picked to attend the Milo "Giants of Africa" camp run by Masai Ujiri - the GM of Denver Nuggets, a professional NBA team. This was an icing on the cake for his trip. For anyone who may want to sneeze at this, Masai Ujiri is the first African General Manager of a North American professional sports team and the only one as yet. To have Danju be part of a camp run by Masai along with some local and foreign coaches and with tons of scouts in the stands, was huge for me. Perhaps a corroboration of this was that CNN Africa Voices recently ran a feature over many days of this camp and Masai Ujiri; and seeing my Danju along with kids who attended that camp being shown repeatedly on CNN made my day.

Danju has since returned to school in Canada for his final year of high school and is shopping for sports scholarships for university as I write. I hope I have some cheery news to report with time on this.

Talking of sports, Papa's junior high school football (not soccer ) team - the Bellerose Bulldogs had a fantastic run right up to winning the city championships without dropping a game. I understand from an excited Papa (and for good reasons) that this was a first in the school's history. Way to Go Bulldogs.

I must not fail to mention, that Danju travelled to various parts of Nigeria during his down time while visiting and was able to squeeze in a trip to the UK (his first trip to that country) and did so during the Olympics and had good bonding time with his aunt (my youngest sis) and his cousins - Jaaziel and Marjon and their dad in Nottingham.

I'd share more of Danju's trip to Nigeria when I return.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Catching Up 2

I have just finished going through some photos Danju shared with me on whatsapp of what he termed a crazy weather in St Albert-everywhere and I mean everywhere is covered in snow. Is that news and should it be news? Well, the great white North, as us Canucks fondly refer to Canada, is famed for her winter and cold weather so ordinarily having lots of the white stuff around should be familiar to Canadians as tea should be to the Chinese. To have Danju then make this a discussion item should be some food for thought. Just in case you are wondering, this was recorded in the first week of November and winter in St Albert is known to last until late into April. Phew! Crazy indeed.
Just a week earlier we were dealing though not directly in St Albert, but down in Ontario ( our home province for almost a decade) with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Are these signs of the end times or are we paying the price of a depletion of the ozone layer? Perhaps it's a result of a clash between El Nino and La Nina. Whatever it may be,I pray God to spare us the inconvenience and heartache.
As a dad who dotes on his kids, you can imagine my anxiety at the times such as I have described above in trying to connect with Sampi in St Johns, Newfoundland (where her university is) as well as Danju and Papa in St Albert ( where their high school Bellerose is); and doing so from Nigeria where the need to make a living and earn some dough has brought me back to. Life indeed can be a challenge.

Between the last time you read from me and now, so much has happened in the lives of my little angels: Sampi in addition to her undergrad program had become a certified home painter; Danju had come to Nigeria (invited by the Nigerian Basketball Federation) to play basketball for Nigeria's U-18 national team. That was some experience and a subject for another day. Papa had completed his junior high and was now at Bellerose Composite High School where as part of the junior football team was riding an undefeated season (the first in the school's history if my records are valid). Their championship game comes up next week Tuesday- November 13. Go Bulldogs Go...
Even though I'd be physically unable to attend, I'd be rooting for you in spirit from Nigeria.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Return to Eden for Papa ( accompanied by Danju )

I am borrowing the title above from a movie I watched many 'moons' and 'ions' ago but which was very profound even to my then much younger mind.
If I have yet to mention it, permit me to say so now - Papa (if you have been reading my musings here, you probably know whom that is) was born at Parkland Memorial hospital in Dallas some fifteen years ago. For students of history and politics, this was the same hospital that JFK - John Fitzgerald Kennedy was rushed to after we have been told he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald.

So it was a 'return to Eden' on April 7 (holy Saturday) for Papa when he and Danju arrived Dallas to spend Easter with my sis Flo (who is also Papa's godmother). Their journey had begun a day earlier (they were coming from Canada) and just in case you are wondering if a journey from Canada to the States takes that long, please stop wondering. They were traveling by air but West Jet and American Air chose not to talk to each other even though the flight was one booked by West Jet but operated by AA. So my boys left Edmonton and landed in Calgary to take the connecting flight to DFW only to be told the second and final leg of the flight had been cancelled due to the tornado that had ravaged Dallas days earlier. Good reasons yes BUT why were the boys not informed by either of the airlines? And we live in a digital age where almost everything is at push button stage right?
To cut to the chase, after some talking-to by my sis -Flo, the boys were put in a hotel in Calgary for Friday night and then flown early Saturday to Dallas by the airlines.
Sampi is away at the university in New Foundland and couldn't make the trip as she was right smack in the middle of her exams.
So to Dallas the boys went and enjoy the trip they did, not just the toasty warm weather at a time when St Albert where we call home at the moment was still dealing with snow and sub zero degrees climate, but because Flo and UB made sure the boys had fun.
Yours sincerely did fly in from motherland (where I work at the moment and) first to Houston and then drove down accompanied by C who was kind enough to make out some time from her other family responsibilities. I must put on record the kindness of my brodas in Houston for their warm jolly hospitality topped by being given the Avalon for use during my stay in Houston and Dallas. Awu...
The boys and I have since returned (on separate flights) to Canada but it was a lovely Easter break and a good bonding opportunity for all.
Trips by families are useful in many ways and where the pockets and more would support it, should be done.
As I try to keep instilling some deep sense of values , responsibility and obligation to my children, I ask that you take a moment to watch the video below which I think is soul stirring. If this video doesn't get you thinking, i don't know what will.
Enjoy and be inspired.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Scratching My Head - SMH

Hey Diary,
Here we go again. It was Mothers’ Day yesterday. Sorry I
guess I should be more specific. It was Mothers’ Day for non-Catholics in
Nigeria (not sure about other parts of the world) yesterday. Which yet again
makes me wonder why Catholics and non-Catholics can’t seem to agree on a
harmonized day for celebrating Mothers’ Day? I hope someday there won’t be a
different day for celebrating Christmas by Catholics and a separate day by
non-Catholics. Now if that ever happens, would it really be a surprise? I leave
you to your views. Feel welcome however to share those views if you feel so
compelled to. After all in this age of democracy, we shouldn’t be seen to agree
on all things all the time.
In order to err on the side of caution therefore, I sent out
goodwill messages to the female members of my family, friends, acquaintances, ‘fans’
and associates not discriminating between those who are Catholics and those who
are not.
So as a Catholic should, and especially during the Lenten
period, I was at Mass. Talking of Mass,
anyone who has attended Catholic Mass in Nigeria in the past 5 years (or
perhaps for longer) would have become familiar with a “Prayer against bribery
and corruption in Nigeria”. I have often wondered why that prayer is said. If every
Catholic in Nigeria refrained from offering or receiving bribes, inducements
for undeserved and preferential treatment, perhaps we would have (going by the
sheer population of Catholics in Nigeria) caused enough positive ground
swelling to lead to a rebirth and may thereafter not have need for that prayer.
So while we still say the prayer for the time being, we should also with the
same zeal, just stop encouraging the scourge that the twin ogres of bribery and
corruption have become in Nigeria.
Just before you start wondering if I have something against
praying or against Catholics, please perish the thought. I am a committed
Catholic (was born a Catholic) and I expect to practice the faith until I
transit to eternal glory at a time that the good Lord chooses.
I get the feeling that if any of my blogs would elicit a
debate, this may be it. I stand to be proved wrong.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How Far We Have Come

In a couple of hours, Sampi would be turning 19. Let me rephrase that because she has already turned 19 if we are to go by the local time where she is at the moment. Interesting, how much we have grown and how far we have come. If you are wondering what my 'rambling' is all about, my only daughter and first child, is in a university in far away St Johns, New Foundland and today's blog is about her 19th birthdate.
She's been away since September 1 accompanied by Siya to help her with settling into a distant and new environment (three and a half hours ahead of us who are on the MST). God I miss my baby so. Today I walked into what used to be her room and my worst fears came true. My daughter doesn't live at home now. Almost all that reminded me of her physically had gone and I cried. I cried out of a realization about how much she has (and by extension us have) grown and how far we have come as a family. I cried because this is a reality check. As parents, we are blessed by God with children (biological or not) and at some point, those blessings leave to pursue their dreams and to discover themselves. My Sampi has just reached that milestone and that made me cry out of joy. I have exchanged no less than fifteen text messages and phone calls with her since that September 1 day when she left for Memorial University.
Danju and Papa are still home but I am overcome by anticipatory grief of when they too would embark on their own journeys. The wheel of life indeed is cyclical and it is always spinning.
The term 'Empty Nesters' now has a personal meaning to me. Not too long ago (that is if you called twenty years ago recent), I was a newly wed. To the glory of God, I became a new dad three times over with time. Soon I was a father of a teenager (phew that came with it's own excitement and challenges) and now one leg away from wearing an 'empty nester' badge of honour.
I continue to count my blessings and ignore the scars and if I were to come this way again, I would want it same way where my children are concerned. So as my Sampi celebrates her nineteenth birthdate, I ask the good Lord to guide her every step and to bless and keep her in HIS hands.
Thanks a lot for keeping faith with my diary and though it has been a while since my last blog, I appreciate that you made out time to visit with me. You are welcome to post a comment and while at it, if the spirit moves you, say a prayer for my Sampi. God bless you.