I had been admitted into college that year when for the first time, I parted home leaving granny alone in the company of the relaxing sounds of natural chirping birds in the mornings and the peculiar buzzing sounds from true crickets that permeated the house and its surroundings on silent nights.
As far as my life was concerned, only two people mattered- granny and Adele, that is. After both my parents kicked, granny became my only real family. She was no spring chicken but her bones were yet firm, for she drew strength from the knowledge that she was all I had.
At the train station, on the day I would leave for college; the whole time she stood in the long queue in front of the booking window to get my train tickets and on top of that struggled to get me a really convenient seat. She wouldn’t let me be a man- to her, I’d always be her fragile little grandson no matter how old I got.
As the train whistled off the station, before the door beside me lapped, she had noticed the fear written all over my countenance and so moved put me at ease swiftly, between a low wave of goodbye and a scrunched expression; “I’m not bailing out on you without your permission”.
Fifteen weeks of that semester was the longest time of my life. Even more so was the last two weeks before vacation. I had left tons of messages in Adele’s voice mail, yet she wouldn’t pick any of my calls. I grew flummoxed by this abrupt and unprecedented indifference.
Had anything happened to her? Was she okay? These questions inundated my mind, leaving little space for anything else.
The first thing I did was to race to Adele’s home on my arrival. My chest rose and fell with quickened breaths as my fist met the wooden front door repeatedly. This was the first time I summoned enough courage to come to their front door. I didn’t care if her racist of a father was going to have my head on a chopping block.
I banged the door relentlessly until a neighbor’s voice chimed in; “The house is empty. They moved out a few weeks ago.”
“Please, do you have any idea where they went? Please, It’s important.” I inquired.
“Seattle. I’ve heard his daughter whisper it to mine a few times”
I plodded home yearning for a hug from granny, only to be charged with a forlorn sight of her on a wheelchair. She had been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism and osteoporosis- an age related disorder that causes the loss of bone density and strength and the former, a blockage of artery in the lungs. It started to feel like my perfect little world was coming apart from its core. For the first time since my parents, the possibility of being alone stared down at me yet again.
“I’m sorry” she apologized, her speech slightly impaired.
“I can’t be much help to you like this now, can I?”
It was painful to see her like that, even in sickness I was all that mattered to her. Words deserted me as I blinked back tears. Her hands clenched my upper back desperately as I bent to embraced her. For the first time, I could feel the uncertainty in her breath- for even about death granny was always assertive. I cruised her over to the window side, where we both had an exterior view of the prairie as my eyes caught the clingstone peach tree outside.
My eyes squinted between puckered brows, my gaze fixed through the window with my arms wrapped around me as I fell into an abyss of reminisce- like a splash from the running waters of a spring against a rock; memories of my amatory adventures with Adele bashed my mind – the sheer bliss of her warmth skin pressed against mine. Silhouettes formed on those nights when she’d leave home surreptitiously to meet me under the tree flanked by the low lights that illuminated from adjacent windows. That moment buttressed what I already believed. Adele surely wasn’t the kind to just up and leave.
Granny’s voice yanked me back to reality. “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other. You have to go find her”
“I saw them leave” she continued before I had to ask how she knew Adele was gone.
“You’re right” I faked a smiled, trying to cloak my sadness to lessen the brunt on her. “but I’m holding on to you first granny”.
“Look around son, I’m not the one who isn’t here. I’ve managed by myself these past few weeks. A few more days won’t make any difference. One thing I can’t stand is your unhappiness”
“I can’t leave you like this granny”
“You have to. I really want you to do this” she reaffirmed, squeezing my right hand in between hers until I bobbed my head slowly in agreement.
A flush of pride crept up her face when for the first time since my parents, I took to a wheel ready to drive myself from Portland to Seattle. The evening was a tad mild as traffic was slow. Thanks to the sorted itinerary planned in my head, the journey should be over before you could say Jack Robinson.
Twenty two miles off the capital just before Tacoma, a surge of anxiety billowed through my entire system. Anticipation began to build, my gaze steadied firmly on the onrushing asphalt beneath the car wheels, as i began to wonder what my reaction might be when I finally see Adele. Will I be delighted to see her again or mad that she left without a word?
After Tacoma, just a few miles into town, the corners of my eyes vaguely caught another road that connected with mine to form a T-junction. The compulsion towards Seattle weighed too much that I didn’t think to turn my eyeballs properly to get a perfect look. Spontaneously, I took another peek to my left. Like a flash, a truck came at me from nowhere leaving me too little time to react. It T-boned my car with greater impact on the rear than the middle, whirling the car around like the blades on a fan, before it went completely off the rails.
I felt the cold ground between the side of my body. As the car rustled, every movement pierced my body. I tried to move but couldn’t. I was wedged between the hood of the car and the ground. I pushed against the ground with every ounce of strength left in my body, but an intense pain struck my lower back. Gradually, a pitch darkness suffused the void as I lied still waiting for help.
I sustained an injury in my spinal cord below the first thoracic spinal nerve which resulted in paraplegia. Losing the complete movement of my legs meant I was confined to a wheelchair too. I opted to have my physical therapy at home where I could stay with granny instead of a rehab center. Granny died many times at the sight of me on a wheelchair. She wore over her face a hood riddled with myriad autographs of self-blame. Regret. Depression.
I on the other hand was enveloped by a feeling of failure; still fixating on how I was just a few miles from Seattle yet failed to reach it. I nabbed my phone as it buzzed on the coffee table beside me to check if Adele was the caller ID but she wasn’t. Days would turn to weeks as I desperately clutched my phone every moment of the day awaiting her call- yet nothing. Not even a single message. I lost that sheer enthusiasm to walk again and my physical therapist had made it clear that the physical exercises would only show me how to try but only I held the will power to propel myself out of that wheelchair.
We had exhausted the beverages in the fridge and simply ordering was becoming an uphill task. so I glided into the kitchen to see if I could manage to fix anything for breakfast. As I crossed the threshold, my eyes bored into granny on her wheelchair. She wrestled to get the remainder of the scrambled eggs in the frying pan while the other half spilled all over her dress. Granny was oblivious of my presence, as I watched her continuously try to get off her chair just to make me breakfast. I watched as she finally spilled the other half of the scrambled eggs because her hand couldn’t make it to the exact spot where the frying pan stood. I watched as her face reddened with disappointment; she beat herself up for spilling the only eggs left in the house.
The sight reminded me of how selfish and solipsistic I had been. It reminded me that I had no right to relinquish the will to walk again if granny could try to stand just to fix my breakfast. I couldn’t understand how she always managed to put me first. How she made even the tiniest fripperies always about me. Heck, would mum have loved me more than granny did? Perhaps or perhaps not, but I guess I knew better- mum didn’t really leave; she was here the whole time. Like a Lannister determined to pay his debt, I wiped Adele’s number, deactivated my Sim card and removed it from my cell phone.
Perhaps, someday on a dark and silent night; I’ll look in the horizon and find that ever glittering star that’ll lighten the deepest part of my wretched and thirsty soul but for now, I owe it to my dear ol’ granny to find the will to get out of this wheelchair and brighten her remaining days.
Damilola is a content curator and creator, he writes for the passion and the thrill. He has been published on Tuck Magazine, SGNT, VivaNaija and also shares some of his stories on jonathanoladeji.com. He has an eye for juicy content and loves to make brand ideas sell.