by Daniel Nkado
She walked with a stoop,
supporting her bent self on a tall stick. Her face abounds with wrinkles, folds
and folds of aged skin.
She wore always a wrapper, tied firm above her sagged breasts and allowed to
flow down to her legs. There was one she particularly adored. It was green,
patterned with flying black birds.
When she smiled, her black-stained teeth showed. She has lost a few; two in
front and one at a corner.
Grandma no longer ate meat.
Grandma smelled differently too, of local pomade and scented oil. Mum bought
her some toiletries on our last visit.
She did a few dance steps to show her
gratitude. ‘If not a child, who will give me?’ she sang.
Mum asked her to sit, that it was okay. That it was nothing. Grandma deserved
more than the bags of rice, packs of toilet paper and cartons of soap.
It was holiday so I asked Mum if I could stay behind with grandma for some
‘No,’ Mum said. ‘Get into the car.’
My face crumpled.
Then I saw grandma. She looked furious as she tottered toward us. She raised
her tall stick, wanting to strike Mum.
‘Okay,’ Mum said, ‘you can stay.’
I screamed and hugged grandma. She patted me on the back.
‘But make sure not to go to the stream or play with dirty neighbours,’ Mum warned.
I nodded. ‘Yes, Mum.’
‘I will come for you next week.’
I bade them farewell; Mummy and Ozioma. I had wished Ozioma had agreed to stay
too, so that both us would stay with grandma, enjoy her old-ways cooking, her
folk stories, her peculiar scent.
But Ozioma wouldn’t. She said she did not
like grandma’s house. There was no TV or AC.
But I liked everything about grandma’s house. The large clay pot sitting by the
corner of the wall produced cold water.
The mud walls cooled the skin. In the
evening, the goats and the chickens made lovely noises. Not very musical in the
actual sense of it, but never any less pleasing to me.
In the night, grandma and I ate yam. She gave me four cubes and took only two.
I protested, but grandma did not listen. She said, ‘My son, eat, inu?’
I smiled and enjoyed the yam. She had made a kind of sauce with bitter leaf and
ogiri. I enjoyed every bit of it.
After the meal, grandma excused herself. She entered her room and came out
shortly again. ‘Nna m, take,’ she said, extending a big dark lump to me.
I took it from her. It was dried meat. I couldn’t thank grandma enough.
I munched on the hardened meat while grandma told me a story.
When grandpa was alive, he told us stories of the war; stories of shellings,
Ojukwu bucket and armoured cars.
He told us how they ate grasshoppers and
roasted cassava to survive. ‘War is terrible,’ grandpa always said.
But grandma did not tell such kind of stories. She told stories of fair maidens
of the moon, moon maidens she called them. Ever so beautiful and charming,
protectors of mankind they were.
Of all the stories grandma told, the story of Ola was the most enchanting.
Ola-edo, young, fair and beautiful. Grandma told me of her adventures in the
distant Uwoma forest.
How she had battled strong witches to get the moon stone, the
mighty stone needed to expunge evil from the world.
‘You must sleep now, my son,’ grandma said.
‘Can I hear another story, please?’ I begged.
Grandma smiled. ‘Tomorrow is another day, my son.’
Grandma opened her box and brought out a neatly folded wrapper. She gave it to
me to cover myself with. She said it gets pretty cold at night.
I took the
wrapper and thanked her. It smelt good, the crisp scent of camphor.
In the morning, I didn’t find grandma on her bed.
‘Grandma!’ I called. I rushed
There grandma was, long broom in one hand, her stick on the other. She
smiled and asked me if I had slept well.
I said yes. I made to take the broom from her, but she gently pushed my hand
away. She said I did not know how to sweep. She asked me to watch her instead.
Later that afternoon, I asked grandma to change into something nice so that I
would draw her.
Grandma agreed. She sat on the big armchair, smiling at me as I drew.
see what you have done?’ she asked me from time to time.
‘No, not yet,’ I told her.
Grandma would say okay and relax back into the seat. She filled up the seat
like a container and its cover.
The pregnant goat bleated then. Grandma stood. ‘Let me go and untether her,’
Grandma started toward the backyard and I picked a razor to sharpen my pencil.
When she returned, she asked me to allow her go find some ogbu for the goat in labour. She said we would continue tomorrow. I
picked the machete and we entered the bush together.
The goat had delivered triplets. Grandma said she had known all along that she
was carrying three.
But I didn’t finish drawing grandma. The sound of Mum’s Camry woke us the next
morning. Mum said I needed to start summer school right away, that the
registration would end soon.
I had refused, but grandma called me aside and told me to go with Mum.
She said that I could
always come back, that she would always be here. I nodded and entered the car.
But grandma had lied. She was not around for the next holidays.
Mum had said she was sick, that she had malaria.
But that evening when she
returned from the village, she told us that grandma was almost okay. That we’d
all go and see her together by weekend.
I prayed for grandma that night. I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come.
That Saturday had come. But grandma was not around. Grandma was gone. I didn’t even
finish drawing her. I had come along with the paper hoping to finish it on the
I tore the paper when Amobi told us what had happened. I ran to the backyard.
Everywhere was still. Even the goats were silent.
Then I saw the large mound of earth where they had laid grandma. I dropped on
it and cried my eyes out.
Later in the night, Amobi told me my name was the last word that escaped
grandma’s lips, that she had called, ‘Obinna nwa m’ and asked for where I was.
A trickle of warm tear ran down my cheek again. Mum pulled me close and held me
For Mama Sophy Omumuewenam Nkado, a wonderful woman.