Pastor Kentoroabasi’s mother had lived in the village all her life. No one ever knew her age, because she didn’t know it either. She was unschooled, but knew how to make palm oil, learnt from her mother. She also was a great business woman, and in all her seventy or so years of being alive because she looked in that age bracket, made a great living with her trade. Kent was her only child.
Mma Mmanyana was a favourite in the village, but we simply called her Mama. In previous years, she loved to see us, and would take us to her backyard where she made her palm oil from scratch, taught us what to do, and made us do it. Dad had somehow converted her thatched hut to a small brick house with two bedrooms.
My dad, being the only child, had a strong bond with his mum, as expected. After a sumptuous dinner meal of pounded yam Mama made herself with afang soup, Dad called her into the room, with me and Mum, and demanded to know who his father was.
Mama stared at Kent’s wife for a long moment, and sighed. “I had a vision.” She turned her gaze to Kent. “Your father came to me. Looking very young, just like he did in those days. I was only a young woman. Very beautiful. All the men in the village wanted me.”
Kent nodded. “You said so.” He always interrupted when he wanted you to get on with your tale.
“This young man came here. There were three of them. All from a far city. Two men and a woman. Your father was one of the men.”
“Hmm, Mama. So you lied to me. You told me my father sold palm fruits to your mother, and he died from a snake bite.”
I could have laughed if not for the tension in the room. Mama had the biggest sense of humour I have ever known, and could be as blunt as a fist.
“Ah, Mma Mmanyana! How could you?” Dad stood. “Why would you lie to me?”
Mama squinted. “He appeared to me in my dream. In the vision. It was so strange because I have not seen him since that day I told him I was pregnant.”
“Tell me the full story. Do you have a picture of him?”
Mama bared small teeth set in neat rows on pink gum. I wondered how young she was when my grandfather met her.
“I had just become a real woman at the time. Maybe three New Yam festivals. They came into the village. They were supposed to do research or so. Government sent them.” She closed her eyes. “He was very charming. Always helping me with palm fruits. My mother chased him away. Said he was no good. He wanted to marry me and take me to the city with him.” She opened her eyes. “He said I should pray for Anietie. What happened to her?”
Dad and I gasped. Mama’s switch from the past to the present was a bit confusing. Mum had not closed her eyes for two days. She didn’t eat or drink. Didn’t say a word, or show emotion. She had been frozen in time.
“She went to visit the wife of our late archbishop. We don’t know what happened to her. She returned like this.” Dad waved in her direction. His lips trembled. “Please, if you can pray for her to come back to normal.”
“I was asking your father, where have you been? Are you dead? How do you know Kentoroabasi? How do you know his wife?” She pressed her lips together. “I woke up. I closed my eyes again. I call his name. Nelson! Nelson!”
My hand shot to my mouth, and Dad bent over and cried. It was true. Archbishop Nelson was Dad’s dad. Mama did not realize what was going on.
“Your father wanted to marry me. My mother refused, and my father will do anything my mother said. So he said we should get me pregnant, whether they will agree. Mistake. The last time I saw Nelson was the day I told him I was pregnant.” She rubbed her stomach, and breathed through her mouth. “I vowed I will never marry another man. And I never did. Nothing my parents did to beg me. The only man I love was the father of my son.”
When she didn’t say anything more for several seconds, I blurted. “Mama, what happened to him? Did he run away?”
“Huh, not at all. We agreed we would go and tell my mother together. To our surprise, my mother was happy. She said he should buy wine and a he-goat, and bring for my father to announce to him the following day.” She shook her head. “That night, my mother carried me to her mother’s village eighty miles away. I never saw Nelson again.”
Dad was weeping so hard, I didn’t know what to do.
Mama reached out and pulled Mum’s hand. “I don’t know how Nelson knew you or even that Kentoroabasi is a man and not a woman. But he said I must pray for you.”
Mum’s eyes, now bloodshot remained as it was. Mama drew her into a hug and sang a worship song. Then she proceeded to prophesy. I knew my grandmother had at some time, through the ministry of my dad, given her life to Christ but I didn’t imagine she had such a prophetic gift.
Mama removed every curse from Mum’s head, and “returned to sender.” She prayed according to the instructions of my grandfather “wherever he is” and professed the blessing of God.
Mum was weeping by the time Mama’s prayers finished. I screamed and hugged my mum. Dad pulled in with Mama and we had a tight group hug. Anietie Etim asked for water, and food, and after she was satisfied, it was time for Dad to tell our side of the story.
Mama stared into space, unable to believe her ears. Archbishop Nelson indeed was Dad’s father. But if grandma had not seen or heard from him in almost fifty-two years, how did he know about his son?
Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/