By Francis Ewherido
We have a saying in my place: “When will I get there? Before you know it, you are there.” Yesterday was my birthday and that marked another year into my 50th decade on earth. In the 70s, when my father started his 50th decade journey on earth, it looked like such an old age in my eyes.
I felt like it will take eternity for me to get there. Getting there is fleeting, not an eternity, after all. May be fleeting is a euphemism, but eternity certainly is an overkill. As has become my tradition, I spent much of the day in solitude, ruminating about life: its essence, beauty, pains, nothingness, follies, ironies and contradictions.
The 70s was the time of wide-bottom trousers (labuu) and high-heel shoes (three and five layers and platforms), which were later replaced by small-bottom and tight trousers (pencil) with stiletto shoes. As the 70s’ fashion evolved, my father stuck to his regular trousers and jackets.
I just looked at him and wondered: “what kind of bush man is this, who does not see what (fashion trends) happens around him? Now, I wonder what goes on in my children’s mind as I grow older because I have lost interest in fashion trends and some other trending issues among young people.
Even in music and movies, I am stuck in the 90s. When I hear and see any recent one I like, I call my children to get more information. Sometimes my eldest daughter looks at me, shakes her head and smiles wryly. I am sure she is also wondering, “What kind of bush man is this, who does not see what happens around him?” I am current with dance steps though, but the body, especially the joints, does not obey the brain anymore.
I also cannot understand what young people eat these days. My eldest son told me sometime late in 2017 that, “I have not eaten eba this year.” A young man of Urhobo descent; I almost had a heart attack. I run a liberal eat-what-you-like policy in my house and did not know that he has deleted eba from his menu. I then fully understood an incident earlier in 2017. I was ill and barely touched my meal of eba and soup. I called him to take the food away.
When I was his age, that would have been a bonanza, I would have feasted on the food, but guess what! My son asked me with disdain, oozing all over him, “what am I supposed to do with this?” I wanted to tell him to pour it on my head, but I was too weak to make trouble, so I whispered, “Put it in the fridge.” The next day, when I was much stronger, I refreshed and ate my food! For me, a day without “swallowing” is incomplete. I feel uneasy as if something is amiss.
But all that many children of these days eat are: noodles, rice, spaghetti, biscuits, cookies, bread, chips and pizza. Even when they take plantain and yam, they fry them. Yes, sometimes they join you to take eba and soup, ukodo (yam/unripe plantain and peppersoup cooked together) or other indigenous meals, but they will not take the initiative and prepare the food themselves.
I have been tempted to do imposition, but I refrained. My father’s favourite then was yam; he could eat any species of yam in any form three times a day. He could barely eat eba, but I hated yam. My favourite was eba and any delicious soup and I could take it three times a day.
So, if my father did not impose his choice of meals on me, why should I impose mine on my children? That is why I am liberal on food matters. But I do tell them that once they get into their 30s, they need to cut down on fried stuff and take more of boiled food and vegetable. But for now, their metabolism and organs can cope with the meals they take.
Another thing, these days I often get amused when people tell me I do not look my age. I politely say thank you, but how old I look is not even an issue to me. If I had my way, I would prefer that my inner body and organs did not act my age. Are you in your 50s? In your teens, you could target and hit the roof while urinating.
Try it today and see how far? You will certainly fail, but you know what? It might just tell you a story about the state of your prostrate. Also, even though I am not 60 yet, I follow the rule for people in their 60s while climbing the staircase: hold onto the railings. There is no time for foolhardiness.
For about 10 years now, I noticed that the number of people who greet me, “sir” is increasing. I then decided to swell the number of people I greet “sir” and “ma,” but the younger people do not find it funny. I do not have problems with greeting them “sir” and “ma.” After all, some of them give me the jobs that bring money to pay the bills, but they are uncomfortable. How I go do am?
When I resumed work at a new organization in 1990, one of the vendors called to plead with me to retain him. He said, “I am a young man like you o!” He was a man in his 40s while I was in my mid-20s. “How can this old man be calling himself a young man,” I said to myself. Now I understand his fears.
Many younger people prefer to “help” people of their generation when it comes to giving out jobs/contracts. Some people in their 50s and 60s have lost contracts and retainerships, not for any other reason, but age. The new man on the desk is younger and would rather deal with a fellow young person instead of “an irritating old man!” No worry, e go soon reach your turn.
But I love the maturity, wisdom, experience and knowledge that come as you grow older. If your aging process is well balanced, you become like a veteran prostitute; no size of manhood scares her. She has seen and taken in all. You just pray to God to deflect from you crosses, whose weight will crush you.