NUANUA MY MATERNAL GRAND MOTHER WAS A MAN
(Stories of My Life: Victor Oyinkepreye Isereke)
At a tender age I moved with my mum and some of my siblings to Tuomo as my parents had agreed at that time for her to stay with her parents for some time while my dad left Ogulagha to find greener pastures; my elder sibling Roland did not come with us as he stayed behind with my uncle Nelson and his family at Ogulagha. This move by my parents terminated our chances of living together as a nuclear family under one roof ever again as my dad passed on in the year 1998 without fulfilling his pledge to come back for us with lots of goodies so we can live together as a family again.
My father did visit from time to time with lots of goodies especially during the Xmas holidays; we usually had two or three pairs of clothes for the yearly Yuletide whenever my dad sent his packages, one pair tailored by the then famous fashion designer Mr. Paul, who happened to be my dad’s best pal alongside “Dawain Teacher” and “Kolu Teacher”. My mum usually contract Mr. Paul to design cloths for us whenever she is not certain if my dad would show up or send goodies across as their was no phones at the time to speak with loved ones with ease; the other pair of clothes is usually some oversized or undersized but expensive clothes sent across by my dad usually on the eve of Xmas.
If such clothes are smaller than me or my siblings all we do is cry and forfeit same to whoever it fits but if they are oversized no one dear try to fit it to your size as you have to fold them to size and use them thereafter my mum would quickly wash them and put it in her special camphor laden cloths-case signifying the last time we would see those set of clothes until the next Xmas or a special church occasion within the year; as we ar never sure of the next delivery from my dad.
There was a year we were expecting my dad to arrived with our Christmas package from Portharcourt where he worked with Marine Department of Eagle Cement. It is four days or thereabouts after the day we expected him to arrive Tuomo he finally showed up to a huge celebration. The story is that there was an attempt kidnap him alongside other passengers of the vehicle he boarded but that they were able to abandon their car alongside all the clothes he had bought for us and escaped their intended abductors into the bush who trailed them into the forest making them miss their way until they finally made it out of the forest after about three days. Though my dad bought clothes for us at Tuomo but as a child I kept questioning myself if my dad was actually kidnapped or it was only a ploy to trick us to settle for the non special clothes he got for us at Tuomo. The only conviction I had was that my mum kept crying and praying for his safety during that ordeal.
The highlights of my stay in Tuomo were the times my dad visited us from the city as such moments brought the the best of feelings in me as a child as my soft spoken dad used such moments to tutor my siblings and I on who a man is expected to be and the need for a man to work hard to fend for his family.
Whenever my dad was not around the next father figure that filled the gap was my dear maternal grand mother, Nuanua.
While a few person called her Nuanua or Miyebranimighan everyone else both old and young alike, inclusive of my mum called her “Opuma” meaning grand mother. I keep wondering why my mum would call her own mum grand mother. But Nuanua deserved all the respect and love my mum accorded her because Nuanua acted as though she was the husband of my mum saddled with the responsibility to providing for us; as my grand mum treated us and all her grand children as though we were the very singular responsibility she has been saddled with from heaven.
She earned the respect of everyone including her mates who also called her Opuma. She endeared herself to the hearts of everyone by ensuring that everyone around her shared from her fish and and farm harvest each time she returned from the farm or from a fishing trip.
She stocked woods in ban-like manner in the rainy season which she shares with everyone around to use throughout the dry season.
She always had several “gide” (woven basket) full of smoked fishes and drums full of fresh fishes during the rainy season which she ensured everyone shares from until the rains return.
She had bans of yam, stored coco yam (mama coco), plantain and other farm produce from her several farms which she sell for our upkeep and shared with everyone around for our daily upkeep.
Nuanua my dear grand mother was a man because she inspired me like a father inspired his child to be hardworking and upright.
Nuanua my grand mother was a man because she protected and fended for me like a father would protect and fend for his child.
Nuanua my grand mother is my hero because she saved my life when I was born premature (7 months) without an incubator by an inexperienced mum at Obuguru Community; it was her sudden appearance from the blues that led to my survival (it’s a story for another day).
A couple of days before Nuanua passed she assured me when we spoke on phone that everything was going to be fine, appreciated me and all her grandchildren for the love we have shown her and in her usual manner thought me some life lessons stressed on the need to uphold our family ties and care for one another as a family.
Nuanua was a man and I am pleased heaven spared her to live for 104 years before she was called home.
Stories of my Life By: Victor Oyinkepreye Isereke