Today is International Grandparents Day, and as a child, I always celebrated this day with my grandmother in church. In the morning, we would go to her church, Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos. While I went off to Sunday school, she’d go to the adults’ church.
During the service, I’d join the kids to go to the main church for a presentation. It would either be a song or a play about grandparents. Later, the grandparents would stand, and they’d be given presents. It was a special day for me because I loved the opportunity to celebrate my grandma. It pains me that we’ll never get to celebrate together on this day again.
My paternal grandma raised me for nine years of my life, from age nine to 18, while I lived with her and my dad’s younger sister. As much as I loved my aunt, I was always more fond of my grandma. She knew it. Everybody knew it. I spent more time with her. My grandma was the one who dropped me off and picked me up from school on most days. She was at every open day and school event; she never missed any until I graduated. I would go with her everywhere she went: church, owambes, charity events, her friend’s house, the market, etc. People knew me as her handbag. As long as you knew Ayodele Eneli, you knew Damilola Eneli and vice versa.
I was her precious only grandchild, and she always showed me how special I was to her. She ensured I never lacked anything and always tried to give me whatever I wanted and needed. I remember once asking her to buy me this diary that could only be unlocked with voice recognition. It came with an invisible ink pen. She mentioned it was expensive, but the next time we went to that store, she told me I could have the diary. I was so elated.
She’d tell me I deserved the best of the best in everything, and that’s why instead of enjoying retirement, she worked hard so I could go to the best primary and secondary schools. She always put me first, no matter what. In everything I wanted to do, my grandma always told me to go for it, even if I wanted to fly to the moon. She never discouraged me or made any of my dreams seem unachievable.
I admired my grandmother for many reasons. One of which I realised as an adult, was that she was a 60-something-year-old woman taking care of a child entering her teenage years. It definitely wasn’t easy for her. I constantly stressed her by coming back late. I’d tell her I was going to my friend’s house down the street, she’d tell me to be back by 7 p.m. and I’d come back by 9 p.m. She’d get so worried and upset. I’m who I am today majorly because of my grandmother. I speak the way I speak because of her. I’m ambitious and career-oriented because of her. I’m independent because I saw how independent she was, and it was badass.
She was my role model. I admired every bit of her; her fashion, the way she spoke, the way everybody loved her and the friends she had. I think I’m social because of my grandma. Everybody knew her and liked her. I remember when she was voted as the president of her church association, Ladies League. Everyone wanted it to be her; it was a unanimous vote. I also remember times when she’d walk into an event and be greeted by many people. They’d greet her with so much joy, and shout, “Sisi Ayo”. It was amazing to see as a child.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my grandma extensively without crying. So I’m not surprised I’m writing this article in tears.
My grandma’s death broke me. The world took my best friend away from me. I call her my best friend because I bonded with her more than I could with most people. I spoke to my grandma about a lot of things. As a child, especially, I would gist with her and ask her a million questions. And she was always willing to answer.
Her death wasn’t the “sleep and not wake up” kind. She had a brain tumour, and I had to watch her health deteriorate over the span of about two years. She went from a happy, strong woman to one who struggled to utter simple words. I had to helplessly watch her be in pain.
I was in uni for most of her sickness, so my aunt was the one who took care of her. But there was a summer when I stayed with her at my grand-uncle’s house. At that point, she couldn’t move by herself, couldn’t speak, and she had a live-in nurse. My heart broke seeing her like that.
She couldn’t even speak to me, her grandchild. I would speak to her, but she couldn’t reply. I honestly prayed to God for a miracle to happen, and she’d get better. But she died after a major surgery. She was 76 years old. I lost my grandma at 18, and my entire world crumbled. To date, I haven’t been able to set foot in the hospital where she died.
It’s been seven years since. And every September 1 is a sad day for me because it’s the day she was taken away. It reminds me of my amazing memories with her. Like when we both watched “Deal or No Deal” at home, and tried to guess what amount of money was in the boxes; it was our favourite show to watch together. I was so blessed to have such an angel on earth.
For the longest time, I said my first-ever tattoo would be her name. And the day I got it, I felt like a special part of her had become part of me. Her name was her identity; having it on my arm constantly reminds me that she’s with me.
Grandma, I really do hope I’m making you proud. I hope you’re proud of the woman I’ve become.
Sun re o, Ayodele. I’ll always love you.