20thJune 1965.
It was a Sunday morning; Agboola reached over to his bed side table for his glasses and wore it. He was a light sleeper and had heard every turn his wife made during the night, her distress had become his own.
He had never been around for the birth of any of his children, when it came time for the heavy duty part of the pregnancy, he was always unavoidably absent. For the birth of his first son he was away in London on study leave and for his second son he was away at a conference he couldn’t get out of attending, on the 5th day of the conference that his wife gave birth to their second son.
By some weird stroke of fate he always named his children before they arrived, but this pregnancy was different, he had seen every trimester and watching the whole process left him in awe and gave him a new appreciation for the creative power of God.
He hadn’t picked a name and though he had made a number of lists over the course of the last eight and a half months, no name on the lists felt right. He felt it kick, turn and respond to the sound of his voice and he couldn’t help wondering how it felt in the confinement of the womb.
He was looking up at the white high celling; his wife turning again distracted him from his thoughts. He always wanted to ask how she slept with the huge bulge where her stomach used to be. Agboola’s memory from the last time he asked one of his many questions was still fresh so he quickly learnt to keep his questions to himself.
He turned on his side and watched his wife sleep. He decided to wake his sons up and get them ready for the church service. He got out of bed after one last look at his sleeping wife and walked out of the room.
He supervised his sons morning bath and helped them get dressed in their Sunday bests, served them a breakfast of corn flakes and milk before returning to his wife. She was half-way dressed for church, already wearing her ‘’buba’’ but couldn’t get her ‘’iro’’ into a fine knot around her bulging stomach, he suggested that she wore one of her long dresses to save the stress of the ‘’iro’’, as he walked into the bathroom.
He came back to meet his wife sitting with her ‘iro’’ unknotted on the bed and he couldn’t help wondering why her stubbornness heightened during her pregnancies. She turned to him and said ‘’we need to get to the hospital’ she said calmly. ‘’She is coming’’ she finished.
Agboola looked down at himself in his towel, he wasn’t ready for this; he wanted to be prepared when she arrived and he didn’t feel in anyway prepared. He got dressed in a hurry and helped his wife change into one of her maternity dresses. He then carried her overnight bag on one shoulder and supporting her weight on his other shoulder.
He helped her into the back seat of their Peugeot, his first son sat in the passenger seat next to him and his second son sat in the back with his mother and through the review mirror, he saw him clasp his hands around his mother’s hands.
They arrived at the hospital and his wife was checked in while he and his sons were told to take their seats in the waiting room.
He was never good at waiting.
He couldn’t keep his eyes off the huge clock located above the nurse’s station; he had counted more than a thousand counts of the second hand of the clock and then the minute hand. At that point he decided to take a walk and find something to keep his mind occupied.
He noticed a bookshop across the road from the hospital, told his sons to sit and wait while he went across the street and they should come find him if anything happened.
Books were his home, they were words written, begging for understanding, words written to be interpreted and words that helped him understand life better.
He crossed the street and walked into the bookshop, he went straight to the poetry section; he ran his hands over the various collections of poems and smiled as he recognized the names of the poets. He had studied many of them. Recently he’d started teaching so he analysed the poems and gave them his own spin when he was in his class room.
He settled for a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, he bought a note book and a pen and sat at one of the reading tables located near the front window of the bookshop. He began to write his name on the book, changed his mind and settled on writing the day, 20/06/65.
He read the introduction of the book, highlighting with his pen, lines he wanted to make reference to later. He dropped the book after a few pages, opened his notebook and started to write a new poem for his daughter ‘’Orin Fun Aderinola’’.
As he finished his poem he saw his older son walk out of the hospital door and he packed up his purchase, walked out and called out to him not to cross the street.
He walked briskly over to his son ‘’the baby is here’’ he told him , ‘’they wouldn’t let us see the baby and mummy’’ he said agitated.
‘’we will go and see them both now’’ he replied
They walked into the hospital and straight to the nurse’s station. They were guided by one of the nurses to the maternity ward, a long room with large windows and hospital beds lined up against the walls as well baby cribs located at the end of the beds.
He saw his wife as soon as he walked in, ‘’she is here’’ she mouthed at him and his sons walked closely behind him, they made their way to her bed located at the middle of the room. He hugged his wife and carried his daughter. She was all pink and her little fingers were struggling to hold on to anything. As she yawned he whispered ‘’welcome Aderinola’’. ‘’come and meet your sister’’ he called out to his sons.
20thJune 2015
Agboola went on buying new books every year on the 20/06, and he had a special row on his book shelf where he stored all the books according to the year he purchased them. He and his wife went on to have two sons after Aderinola but this tradition he did for only his daughter.
Since his age didn’t grant him the luxury of frequent travel he invited his daughter to visit on her 50th birthday and she was downstairs waiting. He put the finishing touches to what he had written all those years ago, although he swapped some lines but it stayed true to its original form.
He made his way downstairs, greeted his waiting daughter and handed her the poem. He saw tears form in her eyes as she quickly wiped them off with the back of her hand ‘’this is really beautiful daddy’’ she said.
‘’I have two boxes of books for you in the study’’ he said with a mischievous smile.