I’ve Blinded Myself Writing This| Ohia, Ernest Chigaemezu

 

          

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it…”

Joan Didion, A Year of Magical Thinking

 

Isn’t it plain funny that most of us are blind to the truths about hurt and loss until we are faced with the unlimited forms and shades loss can take or the many shattering imprints grief can make upon us? This can be defined in the occasion of the loss of one’s home or job, the death of a loved one or a pet, an encounter with a rotting corpse or even self-denial in the face of depressive moments. In this state of loss, grief is sometimes the only way out. One is compelled to break down completely into an ugly, full-body-shaking type of crying and is overwhelmed with devastation and a roller coaster of spiralling feelings entwined with misunderstanding.

However long the emotional healing process of a griever may take, his or her bravery must be respected even as he or she faces distinct phases of self-denial, anger, depression or suicidism. Crying, the most generic way of releasing pent up emotions, is not I repeat, is not a sign of weakness.

I used to have a baby brother; Victor. He was a fair-skinned little pal with well-defined dimples and hazel-colored eyes. He had scant hairs on his scalp which earned him the nickname “Old Boy”. Victor could gravitate lots of admirers within seconds. I watched him grow from being the babbling helpless infant with pink gums to becoming an exploring toddler whose only zone for exploration was the basket of cutlery. He was the centre of our mother’s demure motherhood, the reason for smile on my face and on the faces of Ken and Joy: my two other siblings, and the feeling of responsibility that showed itself in the face of my Father. He was the little round chap who stole everyone’s attention. Even though I envied him, there was something about him that made loving him unstoppable- His somewhat joyful demeanour that seemed to cry out; You can’t stop yourself from loving me.

On the sixteenth of July, 2006, Victor suffered a seizure. My mother said she saw him staring at the wall and suddenly he fell back, began jerking around and gradually had his eyes rolled back into his head. She claimed he was running a temperature. It was extremely frightening as we watched Victor battle with unconsciousness there, in the bedroom, on the nurse’s thighs, naked and shining with palm kernel oil. He had a stainless steel spoon tightly fixed between the two rows of his teeth. He wasn’t crying even as the nurse slapped him hard on his backs and buttocks. Tears gathered in my eyes as I withdrew to the parlor. The whole struggles geared towards regaining his consciousness; mother’s disturbed state, my other siblings’ confused looks and my failing effort to wrap my head around the situation, all felt surreal because I never expected all what was happening on that hot Sunday afternoon. Within minutes, he was rushed to the hospital which was a bit far from where we lived.

The weeks that followed were filled with moments of prayers, hope, sympathy and encouragements from neighbours who cared enough. Those weeks were the most disturbing as he regained consciousness, had bouts of seizures and became unconscious again. I bit back my own tears. On the fourth day we visited him in his ward, we met him awake and lively but pale. He kept smiling a smile that relayed a message of hope; hope in his recovery and as his little voice filled the room which I thought was too tight and smelt strongly of antiseptic, I watched him idly with a sympathy smile. He changed, I could see. He ate less and got tired often. But I prayed for him. The next visit gave us the message that he would survive. We believed this, we believed him and we believed God. His eyes bore stories of experiences unsaid and his breaths, normal for a child his age was a proof that he had survived his ordeals. For a moment, I watched him stroke his soft teddy bear, I felt unsure that he would regain his air of liveliness.

On the day before he died, my mother had called to inform my father that Victor’s case had worsened and was more life-threatening than before. My father didn’t agree to take us along to the hospital. We watched him slip on a shirt and dash off. Few minutes past midnight, we were awoken by Mum’s loud cries that rent. The neighbours began to troop in. They asked what happened and soulfully gave words of encouragement spiced with stories of their losses as they reminded my mother of her other children and promised to help her whenever she called.

My whole life came to a standstill the night my parents returned from the hospital without Victor. His absence was heavily felt in our home and is still felt today, only that we spoke about him in hushed tones, not wanting to resurrect memories of him again. The brokenness of losing Victor did not ease off easily within months. Instead, it thawed my insides and made me bawl each time I saw his empty cot or sniffed his baby clothes or shawl that still smelt of him. In the shadow of losing him, I watched my father, with a marker, write the conventional “R. I. P.” on all his pictures and I heard Mum say “I lost my Baby” to all those who asked after Victor.

The grief still sits in my chest.

I learnt a lot after Victor’s death. Most of all is the ability to love sweetly and be loved. Even if there comes a time I will stop smiling, I won’t crush the soft memories I had with Victor. I will save them as I continue putting my life back together like those warm sympathizers during his wanted me to.

 

  1. S.

In 2016, while commemorating his death, I wrote a poem in his honour entitled “The Late Co-Keeper of My Childhood (For Victor Who Left When He Should Have Stayed.)”

 

 

About the Author

 

Ohia, Ernest Chigaemezu is writer and a poet who loves music, arts and photography. Currently, he’s a second year student of English and Literary Studies/History and International Studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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