by Nk’iru Njoku
I was there for him when he was a boy. I saw him grow up, nurtured him like mine. I called him ‘my first born’ even though in truth he is the last born of my parents.
On his journey to manhood, he did things that broke my heart in a good way. When I was struggling with my career and my income was irregular, many times I would open my wallet and see five thousand Naira stuffed in it. I’m talking about when five thousand Naira was real cheese. And it would be courtesy of my brother and the design business he was doing at the time. Done with secondary school and waiting for uni to happen, he used to make hand-crafted inscriptions on clothes and shoes. Beautiful, original, loads of hard work. Even though our flat looked like a factory because of him, we were so proud – he was showing us that being young didn’t have to mean being dependent.
I used to cry a lot then. “Emy why are you giving me money?”
“Nky, but you give me all the time naa…”
Then there is the fact that this brother is happy to go hungry until his sisters have all eaten. We find it ridiculous but he can’t help himself apparently. Before putting food in his mouth, he’ll ask “what of you, have you eaten? Where is your food, abi are you on a diet?” Many times he would wait for us to all be home before he would eat his dinner, so that he could be sure everyone else had eaten.
Oh, he also used to fancy himself our wardrobe consultant/chaperone, so to speak. “Nky this blouse is showing too much cleavage”, “Aky not these shoes abeg”, “Ngo, are you wearing that out of the house?” Of course we rolled our eyes at him a lot.
When my dear Simba wanted to ruin my bank account and my peace of mind, this brother said to me, “Nky this week alone you’ve given me forty k for your mechanic. It’s always one thing or the other. I think you can buy a new car, don’t be afraid – you can do it, Simba is guzzling too much cash…”. That was all the push I needed and I haven’t regretted it since.
He was there for me throughout my pregnancy. Going with me for ante-natal clinics, staying in my house with me and helping me with heavy-lifting. In fact he never understood why I would clear my own dishes or pick up my own shoes when I could just holler at him to come and help.
He was by my side through labour. Was one of the first to hear Didi cry. When we found out about Didi’s sight, before Papa-Didi flew into town, this brother of mine was my rock. In those first few days, I saw the man in him like I’d never seen him before.
He held me, rocked me, told me we would be alright – “Nky, you gave birth to her, but Didi is not your child, she’s OUR child. She will be fine, I promise you”. I would then look up into his eyes, to see if he was patronising me. Did he mean it? Was he just consoling me?
Then I would see the eyes of my father. Intense eyes, with fierce love burning within. I would lay my head on his chest as he squeezed me and passed on some of his strength into me.
He would cradle my little Didi in his arms, looking like a giant awkwardly handling an egg. And he would sing to her. Night and day. He would sing songs from our childhood. He would sing songs that held layers of meaning to us.
There were the nights when he would play his piano and sing love songs to his dead friends, filling our house with music, and his life with comfort for his own personal losses.
I call him my bros-band. My brother who is like a husband. Not just to me, but to his other sisters.
He is precious. He is handsome. He is sensitive and kind. There are not many like him. Gifted singer, gifted artist. Yet so humble.
He is closest to my father in resemblance – of face and spirit. Sometimes I think God permitted my father to die because He knew we had one in our midst who carried his spirit anyway. Quiet. Homebody. Earthy. Wholesome. A lover, a giver.
Let me blow your mind – this brother buys us little gifts whenever he’s coming from uni in Akure. “Nky I saw this hand-band, I knew you would like it.” “Nky next time I’m coming from school, I’ll bring yams”. “I bought these curtains for the living room – saw them in a market in Akure and they looked nice”. I just shed a tear. Sometimes I just cannot believe how thoughtful he is.
And people wonder why we ask his preference before cooking. We treat him as he treats us. If he wants Oha soup everyday for two years, I’m sorry but na so e go be. I shit you not – we haven’t made Ogbono in over a decade because he doesn’t like it. That’s how we roll and we are not sorry!
Today another year has been added to your life. Njoku Emeka, “Enyi daddy”, as Old Roger used to call you…
You know I love you for the wonderful brother that you are, cherish you for the good friend that you are to me, and respect you for the man you have become, the man you will grow to be.
When you were in secondary school, every single day before you walked out the door you would come to my bedside, bend your neck and let me lay my hand on your head… I would then say a prayer for you.
“May God take you to school in safety as He always does, and bring you back to us in safety too. From the crown of your head to the soles of your feet, it is well with you.”
Today, I say that prayer again, edited, to reflect the here and now.
“Emy, for every unit of love you’ve shown me, may you get it back from the world in trailer loads. Go and excel in all the ways God has blessed you. Your light will shine. Your voice will not go to waste, neither will the beauty that your hands know how to create ever fade. All the deep thoughts that you laden yourself with will evolve into goodness and goodness alone. May you find the right woman who will truly deserve you. May your spirit always grow. May you have your own family and continue to be the man I know you want to be. May all your good dreams come true. It will be well with you.”
Have a happy birthday my bros-band. As you know, I love you die.
Nk’iru Njoku is a writer and television producer. She is on Facebook where she first published this piece.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.