Mum…The Calm To My Storm, By Funke Aboyade

My earliest memories of mum were of me being a very clingy child and never wanting to leave her side. This usually resulted in a two-year old me bolting from playgroup and finding my way home to my stunned parents. They would sing, “Isa nsa ma tun de, a le ko lo ko le lo!” I would cry, but simply do it again.

I also remember constantly pressing mum’s upper arm as a child, deriving much comfort from it. She always allowed me.

Growing up with mum was, well, rather interesting. We did so many house chores we could not but wonder why, given that we had domestic help. Sweeping, scrubbing, dusting, kitchen chores, polishing the wooden stairs with a coconut husk, you name it. As I grew into adulthood, it all made perfect sense. And I’m very grateful for that training.

If mum asked you to clean her bathroom, you were best advised to go over it with a fine toothcomb. Her eagle eyes would unfailingly spot that area that you’d carelessly – or perhaps lazily – overlooked and she’d make you clean it to perfection. I got my eye for detail from her. We would grumble under our breath and wonder why she was nit-picking. Today, I’m grateful.

Mum was a disciplinarian though not in the physical sense – as to the latter at best she might use her slippers, but the truth was she was no dab hand and couldn’t beat anyone to save her life! We would usually just pretend to cry so she could let us go, whilst we ran off to have a good laugh.

My mother was strong-willed but calm and patient. And I, well, I was just plain old stubborn and impatient to boot. There were some, uhm, memorable fights, but generally, she was the calm to my storm.

My parents encouraged us to read, read, and read. Books, Encyclopaedia, comics, magazines, you name it. We got our love of literature, poetry and history from them, especially mum. English Literature was one of my favourite subjects, as was History, no surprises. From Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to The Iliad and The Odyssey to Soyinka’s The Man Died to Achebe’s No Longer at Ease/Things Fall Apart, to poetry The Journey of the Magi, to The Renaissance, she broke it down effortlessly for me.

Without consciously realising it, my mum was my first female role model. Seeing her just get out there and doing it meant I never once thought of myself as a disadvantaged female. She gained her Ph.D. in Literature in English after her first three children were born. She became a professor (one of the first five female professors in Nigeria) and reached lofty heights all of which I took for granted and thought was the norm; indeed, as I grew up and entered the world of employment, it was a rude shock to realise that the reality was far different for many women. By then, it was too late for me to think of myself as anything but able, unhampered by the little detail of being female. For that, I am thankful.

Mum was an intrepid traveller and, together with dad, and sometimes alone, visited far flung places. Funlayo and I inveigled ourselves on to some of those trips. I am glad and thankful to God that in the last few decades of her life, I also was able to take her to new places.

She was my greatest cheerleader, supporter and critic, especially after dad passed. I am grateful to God that she lived to see me elevated to the Inner Bar.

Mum was extremely generous and would constantly beg us, despite our protestations, to let her know if we needed anything even till she breathed her last.

She lived life on her own terms. She did it her way.
Mum, it’s so long, but not goodbye.

You now belong to the ages…

Requiescat in pace.

Your Afunkus.
Funke Aboyade, SAN

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