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Birthday reflections

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By Francis Ewherido

Last Monday was my birthday. Usually, I do not do much of personal post on social media, but I make my birthday an exception. I post my birthday on social media. I love the avalanche of prayers and goodwill messages. The prayers of many righteous people will surely avail much and the goodwill messages on my Birthday achieve their purpose: they make me feel good. What is life if, apart from you, no one else prays for you or wishes you well?

My other ritual on my birthdays is reflection. I usually sit or lie down and reflect on my life, life generally and the essence of life. There was work pressure in the office on Monday, so I had to get to work early, but I still did my reflections. I reflected on the cycle of life. I look at my boys and remember my teenage years. I tell my last boy, who constantly squeezes the pimples on his face to leave them alone. They will disappear forever just as they came and his face will be without blemish. That was my experience.

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I look at the lean bodies of my sons and remember mine when I was their age. The era of a lean body is gone forever for me; only a major ailment can drive the fat away from my body and I do not wish anybody, much more, myself, that. No exercise can bring back my lean body. I see my very fit contemporaries, who jog non-stop for 30 minutes, or do 40 laps in the swimming pool, carry fat, especially in their mid-regions. Staying as fit as possible is what is important. I cannot come and go and kill myself, I beg.

The other thing that can make the body grow lean (and shrivelled) is age, very old age. I have my extreme views on extreme old age (100 years and above), but God is the giver of life, so I surrender. One thing I beg God for though is that I do not want to live a day more if I lose my faculties.

I will continue to do the exercise that suits me and use strict diet to manage the weight. These days, I eat both to drive away avoidable ailments and hunger. Food is real medicine and I am digging more into the foods that take care of specific ailments. My baby girl complains that onions are everywhere in my food, especially beans. Most times I do not bother to explain. She will understand when she grows up, just as I now understand certain actions of my father when I was growing up.  People of my generation should take it easy with food and alcohol. Let us save ourselves avoidable ailments and death. The way some of them lose their senses when they see food and/or alcohol is worrisome.

Age is making me become more patient with myself (do I have a choice?) and others, and I am learning toward even being more patient. I used to be very angry with slow people in front of me on staircases and on the road. These days, if you like, take all your time; I no dey hurry go anywhere. I also do not run up and down the staircase any more. Some of my contemporaries still do and good luck to them. I simply walk holding firmly to the rails. I once fell on the staircase at home; I was just lucky I was holding the rails, so it was not so bad. But it was a painful experience. I hear of people who suffered spinal cord injuries, dislocated hips, broke or sprained ankles as a result of a fall on the staircase. Some have died as a result of the injuries. My wife was lucky; she sprained her ankle while hurrying down the staircase, she survived it, but the pains still come up on the anniversary of the fall. In public staircases, and even at home, I give way to those who want to run up and down. Na where my hand reach Idey hang my hat.

It is not only on the stairs, but I am now also patient on the road. As a bachelor, I did Lagos to Warri well under five hours at between 140k/h to 170k/h; rarely would another vehicle overtake me throughout the trip. Even within Lagos, on Third Mainland Bridge and on Lekki-Epe Road before the armada of residents, I did 140k/h to 170k/h. Not anymore. I have responsibilities and the reflexes are not what they used to be. Above all, speed kills, it has killed many people; I was only lucky to escape with my foolish speeding. Another reason I now avoid speeding, especially on busy roads, is pedestrians who cross the roads. Some of them are my contemporaries and others are older. If they run, they can easily “malfunction” and fall and God help you and your speed. These days I slow down when I see my generation or older people so that they can take a stroll across the road if they choose to. Call it solidarity and you are right.

One thing that saddens me about my generation is debilitating ailments such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney failure, among others. These ailments have rendered some men mentally, spiritually, economically and physically impotent and it is not pleasant. Hardship has also messed up some members of my generation. It is painful to see some of them look like septuagenarians. The thought that it could just have been you are very sobering.

It is very comforting, though, to know that you have made some progress and you are not where you were in many respects a year ago. It is also heart-wrenching to realise that relatively speaking, you are worse than you were last year. The progress brings joy and satisfaction, while the challenges give you the kick to jump out of bed every day, willy-nilly, and confront the challenges ahead. The challenges notwithstanding, nothing compares to being alive because it means there is hope. As I was flipping through the papers on my birthday, I saw the one-year remembrance of a certain Francis. It could have been any Francis, including me. We take our being alive, our health, family and many other things for granted because of the things we are chasing or things that we feel we need but currently do not have. Lord God give me a sense of gratitude to appreciate what I have even as I pray for those things I need or desire. Amen.


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