Every time I think of my grandfather, I feel cheated by “time” for not allowing me more time to enjoy the blessings of his company. My grandfather died eleven years ago today and till this day, I have never ever felt any deeper loss in my life. He had a very kind and loving spirit which people were naturally drawn to. In all the years we spent together, I never once heard him raise his voice at anyone. When he smiled, his dimples radiated so much love and tenderness, his laughter was infectious and brought joy to anyone around. He always concluded everything he said with a proverb which could have you pondering its meaning for days. He treated all his grand children with the kind, gentle and loving tenderness only a grandfather could give. As kids, nothing hurt my cousins and I more than being caught acting mischievous by grandpa; we did not want to upset the nicest person in the world. He loved his grandchildren deeply and showed it through countless acts and we loved him more for that. It did not matter how tall or big you thought of yourself, he would sit you on his lap and rock you back and forth in his old arm chair.
My grandfather was proud of his children and grandchildren. His life had been full of hardships and few opportunities that it pleased him so much that his children and grandchildren were blessed in more ways than one. He grew up in a small village called Lewoh, in West Central Cameroon in Africa. To provide for his four kids and wife, he grew cocoa and coffee in a small piece of land beside a two bedroom mud hut he called home. While struggling to deal with the emerging cultural and political effects of a new post colonial order, he realized education was very necessary for his children. There were many challenges he faced being an illiterate trying to navigate a system whose establishments required knowledge of French and the Queen’s language.
He worked hard to send his children to boarding schools established by catholic and Presbyterian missionaries. Even though he chided his grandchildren for taking many things for granted such as having running water, light at the flip of switch instead of an oil lamp, a comfortable bed instead of floor mat, he was none the less happy that such was not part of our reality. When we had our summer vacations in the village, he would gather us round the fireside in the smoke kitchen every evening, and as we roasted corn, he would tell of stories of the early German encounters with the village. He would tell us about his father fighting the Germans and the beheading of a famous general who dared to underestimate the resistance mounted by the Chief of a nearby village called Fontem. We would be so captured by the stories that sometimes our fresh corn turned into coal under the heat of the fire. Ahhhhhh, the good times!!!
The saddest part about knowing grandpa, and being around him, was to watch his health slowly deteriorate and his memory eroded. In less than no time, a mysterious disease rendered him almost functionally dependent. He grew faint and weak each passing day and then became bed ridden. I started longing for the days when his laugh would overwhelm everybody in the room, when he could lift me up high in the air and place me on his shoulders, when he would give us advice on life etc. Every time I saw him lying on his sick bed, I would sit beside him and place my little head on his chest, hoping by some magic everything would return to the way it used to be.
When he left us that fateful day in August of 1998, I had never lost anyone so dear to me. I cried my first heart torn tears for him and attended my first funeral ever. For the first time, I knew what it meant to lose someone so dear to the heart. I will always miss him!! In loving memory of Talieh Achheanyi, for all the love you gave your children and grandchildren.