In all honesty, I can remember neither the last time I made a pinky promise nor the last person I made a ‘non-pinky’ promise to. I remember making promises… some kept and some still outstanding. I sat for a few minutes, trying to recollect the details but they all seem hazy. My mind wandered to the promise I’ve made to you and I set off thinking about the possibility of keeping it.
When asked what made me grow into a strong woman, I always tell them I was raised by strong women and could only turn out as one. You’ve been in my life since the day I was born and I’ve always prayed that you stay in it till I leave this Earth. When I do, you chide me, for it is your belief that the grandmother should precede the granddaughter to the next world. Of all the people I know, you are one of the few that talks about death with great comfort, almost making one look forward to it. As we grew up, you would always drop hints about what you want your sending-away to be like: the choice of songs, mourning colours for the family etc. When one of your peers takes the journey, you would spend that day wondering when your turn will come. As grand-kids are wont to do, we would keep reminding you that it was your trick to stay longer on this Earth. All we wanted to say was that we wanted you here with us for much longer and still do.
When I broke the news of my scholarship to you, it was with mixed feelings. I knew you were proud, as you’ve always made it known. The days leading to my departure were sad and I tried as much as possible to stay close to you. I was scared and your words didn’t really help much. While I tried entertaining you with descriptions of my new home, you chose to remind me of the inevitable. This had already become commonplace with anyone travelling, but I didn’t see it coming for me…or maybe I did, but still didn’t want to hear it. Your words ringed on to the final day when I picked my bags and waved goodbye. You looked at me and said: ‘Go in peace. I’m sure by the time you get back, I’ll be gone, reunited with your grandfather’. The waterworks came and could not be stopped each time I called and spoke to you. There I made a promise to you: that I will be back before you’re gone.
Three years have gone by; three summers too. Of these, I’ve come back to you twice and each time it was with a smile of a promise kept. The first time, you could barely recognise me and could only tell from my voice that I had indeed come home. I renewed the promise when I left that year again and by God’s grace, was able to meet that too. I look back at these events and wonder what confidence pushed me to make promises that serious, when the issues at hand were certainly beyond my control. You talked about leaving before my return. I equally thought about my own leaving before my return to you all. Each time I made those promises, I never really paid attention to the fact that ‘man proposes and God disposes’. I was blinded by my love for you and even further by the fear of losing you. I was led on by faith in the reality of seeing you again…and it happened.
Another year is going by and I know that with each day, you’re growing even older. However, age has never been a deterrent for you and you’ve got me anticipating a ‘youthful’ old age for me and the rest of your bloodline. I look forward to another chance to fulfill the promise; to see you again and to gain from your infinite wisdom. I miss your incessant calls and even the most recent complaints about my size, my outfits etc. Ayo, I pray that God keeps you here longer so you can see my babies and love them the way you loved us all; share your funny yet inspirational stories with them and be their living proof that faith conquers all.
I am what I am because I was taught well and I hope to live a life that reflects that of the hardworking woman who crossed oceans to make a life for herself, sacrificing everything and sharing whatever little she had with the people around her and bringing forth people I am proud to call my own. Thank you for being that woman. I’ll see you soon, if God so wills.