Chika had flown in from Pennsylvania for the 50th birthday celebration of her daddy Mazi Ikenna. Life had been a haze and a maze for Chika since she left home for the United States to study at Carnegie Mellon University. Chika was born in England and moved to Abu Dhabi with her parents when she was nine years old. This was the family’s first international working experience. Many adjustments had to be made. Overall, in Chika’s eyes, the family had made considerable progress over their 10 years stay in Abu Dhabi.
Mazi Ikenna lost his job after barely a year in Abu Dhabi. Chika’s mother, Lolo was a chartered banker and was holding forth the fort for the family. Things didn’t seem to get any better for Mazi Ikenna. Soon, Lolo lost her job as well and the family was in a dilemma. The questions that faced Mazi Ikenna were: where next and what next?
Before they left the UK for AD, they had rented out their house and sold off their stuffs. The move even though dilatory in nature was a move that the family did not know where it would land them. Mazi Ikenna had a very good job for a start with lots of opportunities for international travels and this was truncated at infancy. No wonder the saying, you never know what life has in store for you down the road.
Chika and her only sibling Kalu had to be moved to a more affordable school. Then the hard work began. Ikenna was more keen in instilling into the children what he called core survival skills that will enable them access life in the future. He knew clearly what they needed and he prioritized these needs for the family. First was hard work, he made all of them to realise that hard work will never run out of fashion neither will it lose steam. Secondly, anything you have an opportunity to do in life, do it to the best of your ability because that may be the great platform that could open a bigger door for you. Lastly and more importantly, embrace the divine element.
Church going to the Ikenna’s family was initially something that gave the family the opportunity to socialize with other folks and try to form bonds. Chika always doubted the sincerity of these meetings after church. To her it all seemed too fictitious. Everybody was smiling at their best. Everybody wanted to show case how well they were doing. When people invited you to their homes, they were all out to impress. Chika was always puzzled why people’s lives were so perfect. No errors, no mistakes. Her daddy Mazi Ikenna was a realist to the core. A practical man to the best of his ability. She hardly ever heard her parents quarrel or disagree; however, anytime they did so openly, it was based on Ikenna questioning about the functionality of a supposed family agenda like “why must we buy this washing machine as opposed to the other one which does the job and is sturdier?”
Mazi Ikenna had always told Chika that life was not a bed of roses. But how could life that they had been witnessing be such a bed of roses? Every weekend after church, they would be out at the food court for some meal or visiting some family or some family visiting them.
Ikenna was such a likeable person. He was that kind of a guy that you would be cool with. He could get along with anybody regardless of race, tribe or religion. However, he picked very carefully those he would call friends.
When he lost his job, things changed. The invites for the parties got less and less. People didn’t hang out with them as much as before because finance was very scarce and tight. The family had to tighten up budget. Outings cost money and money was not there for frivolities. The things that mattered to them were food, shelter and education. This Ikenna called essentials. Every other stuff could be worked around.
Chika being the older sibling was always at the forefront of showing good example. She was always tasked with that responsibility of showing a good example to her younger brother from chores to academics and other aspects of life. Kalu was a little disorganized. He needed a lot of support from the family and this sometimes was quite draining for the family. He was so forgetful. He needed to be reminded to do almost everything. Chika was so worried for her little brother. Every morning when they left the house for school with their fat school bags, Chika wondered, of how much use those big books in the bag would be for them apart from showing that the school, they attended had such a broad curriculum and the students were learning.
Looking into the ceiling from her bed, her mind went through a journey of all the scenarios in the house and the impending birthday party for her daddy the next day. Her daddy was her hero. The man who could hold the family together regardless of the situation. He instilled calm into the family in crisis ridden moments. Having left home for two years now, anytime she came back and opened her bedroom, it all seemed like she hadn’t left home for a day. Nothing had changed. Things were the same way she left them at the end of each vacation. The greatest worry that she ever had was her little brother. However, coming back home this time around, she couldn’t fail to notice the transformation that had occurred in the life of her brother. He was a lot more confident about life. He spoke with such an energy. He loved whatever he was doing or pretended to love it and was getting ready to go to university in the next couple of months in the States. This would be the first time he would leave home and live all by himself. Ikenna and Lolo would have to no doubt get back to living alone like it was, before kids came.
The ballroom was well decorated. The colours of the day were gold and orange with a tinge of purple. The tables were all labelled and last minute checks were made by Lolo. The company who handled the decoration of the ballroom did an outstanding job.
Guests started arriving the hotel by 7pm. Outside the ballroom, a booth had been set up for photo clicks. Guests stopped by for a quick snap shot with the celebrant before being ushered into the ballroom.
It was fun, relaxation, music, food and reliving of all the good works of Mazi Ikenna during the entire duration of the event. Then Chika was called to say a few words.
“How many of you in here see my daddy as a father figure?” she asked.
A couple of folks raised their hands.
“That is what I mean. I have a bone to pick with you guys. You guys made me an extremely jealous child. I never seemed to have been able to have my daddy to myself. It was always people coming to see him and bog him with problems and issues that he never had enough time for me.”
People chuckled and paid more attention to her.
“I was particularly so worried for my little brother even more so, after I arrived America to study and saw the dearth of culture and how men have lost it in life. I thought to myself oh boy, so this is what my brother is coming to face. I wished I could tell my parents please don’t send him here. But when I remembered the type of father I have, I was consoled.”
By this time the hall was pin drop silent. All eyes were focused on her and all ears wide open.
“I have been so scared for my brother because of how men have been made so redundant and you hardly have men who are men now”.
Coming from the mouth of a 20 years old girl, this was considered profound and written all over the eyes of the numerous guests, you could see “I wish I could engage you on this great topic.”
“However I am so happy for how my brother has turned out to be such a fine gentleman who can in my opinion withstand the Jannes and Jambres of our day. All thanks to my father who taught him to be a man. I am so proud of my father and I love my father so much because he also taught me what to expect in a man and has set the bar so high that any man who falls short of that standard in my eyes needs help.”
Uwem Mbot Umana©2018