I just threw up. Honey irritates me. The sticky, nauseating taste of tumultuous dreams. False sweetness. Discomforting viscosity. I had to chew on bitter kola to get rid of the taste and smell - the pleasant after taste of truth following its initial almost unbearable bitterness. A familiar, bitter start to cure a discomforting, sweet ending. Sweet irony.
My grandfather systematically takes out and lowers his limp, wrinkled penis into the toilet seat. He needs to find the right angle so he doesn’t mess up the hospital toilet seat like he did yesterday. I can see because I am with him in his final days of pain.
I am patient. I will not descend to the depths of irritability and its attendant violence. Like my grandfather’s which happens not due to his age and illness but from seventy years of habit. It seems less now - he has little energy to be the man he was.
I was taught to revere age in spite of what oddities accompany it. So, I respect my grandfather and care for him, especially now that his proud heart is failing. Every evening I bring in his tasteless dietaries and escort him on his torturous trip to empty his inflated bladder and bowel. I am by him when he groans at night and when he cannot eat and when he shivers from the cold in his weak bones.
He has had his day. He once drowned in pools of sinister, cacophonous laughter, playing draught with his loud arrogant friends. Day and night. He would walk in just before midnight and wake my mother up with the heavy descent of his wide swarthy palm upon her back. The effective awakening was a reminder that even after twelve hours of working in the neighborhood bakery, a good daughter ought to wait up for her father. A good daughter ought to know that when her father has a night out, he needs some food. Grandma had died of a bad kidney and there was no submissive wife to lighten my mother’s load. Grandfather would scream and bicker to make the slightest point. He would curse and spit and slap. Effective communication.
I am patient. For the first time I understand mother’s brashness and aggression, her temper and delirious tantrums. I have seen that beneath it lays a good heart, battered by years of brutish treatment. When she loses her temper as she often does, I know that they are only echoes from a childhood gagged by filial piety. In these few weeks with grandfather, I understand when mum tells me that even an imperfect marriage became paradise for her. Instead of being irritable when she screams, I pity her as I would a person suffering from some hereditary disease.
I am learning patience.
These are his final days. It is a bit early for him, considering the history of longevity in the family. His pain is getting worse by the day and mother still refuses to see him as have his two older children. I see frustration lined up in every crease on his perpetually frowning face when his weak lungs do not allow him to raise his voice. He has not spoken for sometime now. Not that he cannot speak, but the pain in speaking is very great.
As he groaned last night, I looked into his jaundiced eyes and tried to see beyond the unpleasant phenomenon grandfather had become. I couldn’t see beyond the grim testimony of seventy odd years. But life has judged him and will go no further.
Mother has agreed to attend the funeral together with the rest of the family. They want a quiet funeral. They will not indulge the old man even on his way to the grave. They will shed quiet tears at the graveside. Not sorrow. Tears of freed slaves finally leaving a brutal master. At last, they will live their lives without crouching under the shadow of his heavy hand. I will watch it all, feeling vicariously, the new lightness in their crushed hearts and the numbness in their cicatrized souls.