Monday, September 20, 2010

The things some fathers do

My father loves meetings to a fault. And I can't say I blame him; he inherited it from his father.

Grandpa was the oldest man in our clan, and a red cap chief to boot, so he held sway as the convener-cum-judge of the daily meetings of the clan. I am afraid it turned him into a lazy fellow.

Can't say I blame him either; I blame the society. You see, the traditional Igbo culture encouraged, nay, demanded dialogue. So much so that grandpa, and most old titled chiefs had to build out houses (obi) within their compounds to serve as venue for these meetings. I suspect this was done to keep the wife happy.

Everything was matter for spirited discussion among the men folk; from genuine matters of communal development, to marital issues. I was once privy to eavesdrop on one such occasion, where an indignant uncle asked that he be allowed to send his wife packing because she made too much noise while performing her conjugal obligations. I remember the men shaking their heads solemnly.

Father hasn't gotten round to building his 'obi' yet. Maybe he is waiting for his tenure as the oldest man. And he has been practicing for that day; with his children. And so, while we were still living with him, we had these meetings daily. Sometimes twice a day.

Anything was fodder for a conference. If the electricity bill came unusually high, father called a meeting. If his 1981 Peugeot 504 refused to start in the morning, father called a meeting. If the food supplies ran out before the month's end, father called a meeting. Sometimes, father even called a meeting to inform us that we will meet later in the day.

And then, father woke up one day to realize that we were no longer living with him. It is killing him. Not that he misses us; it's the meetings that he misses. I pray nobody teaches him how to make conference calls. But he grabs the advantage whenever any of us visits. And so we try not to visit individually. We accompany each other to go and visit father, so as to share the agony.

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