It was palpable joy when Taiwo Abiodun, a Nigerian journalist who recently relocated to America, met his brother, Professor Rowland Abiodun in Amherst, more than three decades after the brother left Nigeria.
The hotel room’s telephone rang and the receptionist informed us (my wife and I) that a visitor was waiting for us downstairs. We did not need a soothsayer to tell us who the visitor could be. Out of anxiety Ronnie and I ran downstairs, missing some steps. We completely forgot there was an elevator.
As I sighted him, I screamed: “Prof! Prof!! Prof!!! Brother Rowland! Excuse Sir! Daddy !” I prostrated and greeted him. He instantly pulled me up and embraced me. Like a doubting Thomas, he touched me, perhaps to assure himself it was me. Still curious, he asked me to turn around. ”Is this Taiye I am touching and seeing in flesh and blood?”, he asked as tears flowed freely down my cheeks. He released me and again clasped his hands staring at me while Ronnie looked on, shaking her head with emotion. It was like a movie.
I looked at him, his Afro hair had disappeared. His once dark coloured beard had been replaced by glittering white beard which is now as white as snow. Not only that; he is no longer chubby, but his handsome face retains its dark shine. He is agile and healthy. At 80 he does not wear medicated eye glasses nor use a walking stick to aid his movement. He was standing there erect! His sense of humour is high as he still cracks jokes that could make your ribs crack up. He still retains his smiling face while his complete set of white teeth are still intact. I knelt down and thanked God for letting me see him one -on -one again in flesh and blood. Yes, we speak every day on the phone; thanks to technology but thousands of video and phone calls cannot be compared with seeing each other face to face.
That was how I met my brother, Professor Rowland Abiodun once again at Amherst, Massachusetts. The last time I saw him was in 1988, that was 33years ago when my twin brother, Kehinde and I bade him Au Revoir at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos when he relocated to the United States of America.
AT HOME WITH MY BROTHER AND WIFE
As I held the cutlery and dug my fork and knife into the belly of the pounded yam, rolling it with egunsi soup and goat meat accompanied with soft drinks, I went down memory lane and said “Mummy (Prof’ s wife) I remember Daddy was the HOD in Fine Arts Department at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). I remember them how I lived with them and couldn’t handle cutlery properly and would be watching how they handle them. She laughed and said ”Yes it’s true Taiye I remember.” I spoke about how Daddy asked me to bring a mug from the kitchen and I spent over 30minutes in the kitchen looking for it until Daddy came to ask for what he asked me to bring, and he laughed as he took a clay cup from the kitchen table and said “This is the mug.” I told them about my past. I spoke about the Abiodun family, about what had happened over the years in Nigeria. I told him of those who are dead and gone. I told him how things have changed in the country. I reminded them of the station wagon Volvo OD 696 W Prof was using then and only the VC Professor Wande Abimbola had the type. I reminded them how I once dreamt that I had dinner with them at the same table. I told him about my sojourn in Journalism. ”Sir 33 years after I am here dining with you in a different environment. How glad I am.” Again, everybody burst into laughter.
As we sat down over our soft drinks, I continued my conversation. I reminded Prof what happened 36 years ago. I said, ”Sir, do you remember the meeting the family held 36years ago when our father died?” He replied ”No, please remind me.” I then delved into history; “Sir , when the burial meeting of our late father was in progress, you stood up from the table you sat upon, fiddled with your beard with your fingers, then you looked round, and in hushed tone dropped the bombshell, saying, ‘please look at these twins our father left behind, Taiye has just gained admission into the University while Kehinde is now in HND II. How do we assist them?’” There was dead silence. “You continued in a voice laden with pain, ‘you see, we will finish this Baba’s burial ceremony, our guests will eat and drink and at the end of the day everyone will go back to their respective places, please how do we assist these brilliant boys?’ For twenty minutes nobody responded and one could hear the sound of the drop of a pin. Sir, you repeated these words but the meeting that was bubbling had been punctured. The high spirits of omo oloku had been deflated as the environment became silent like a graveyard. Nobody uttered a single word, not even words of encouragement as mouths were sealed, while some dropped their heads as if mourning again. You looked at everyone’s face to be sure of what was going on and then shook your head and said, “Well, by God’s grace I promise to take care of Taiye and be responsible for whatever he wanted in life. For Kehinde, he has almost finished his studies and I will try my best for him.” As I was saying this Prof, his wife and Ronnie stared at me while I kept on talking like a tormented witch!
I told Prof that I keep remembering the above episode every day and I have been advising my friends and children not to have children at their old age or children they cannot cater for or else iya a kan je won ni (they will suffer).
I reminded him of how he used to send money to me to augment my salary as a reporter while I was working and how he used to encourage me. ”Don’t look at the immediate rewards, since it’s your passion please continue”, he would write. In fact, I have changed one American dollar to seven naira, 15 naira, 30 naira, 120 to 300 naira before leaving the Nigerian shore.”
No matter how heavy your problem is, Prof would use proverbs to counsel you and say there is nothing difficult for God to do.
Two years ago, I called to inform him that I was going for a major and life -threatening surgery where I was under the surgeon’s knife for four hours. I called him to inform him that my end was near but he replied ”That is not God’s plan for you. Believe in Him and you will not die. God is the greatest doctor and healer. You will not die before me, omo adiye kii t’ese ku’‘ he said.
After the successful surgery he called my African-American wife, Ronnie to thank her, in his words he said ”Ronnie, I really thank you for taking care of Peter (my Baptismal name) God used you to save his life. And it is not his life you saved but my own life, if anything happens to him, I wouldn’t live.”
HIS WORDS ARE PHILOSOPHICAL
His words always echo into my ears and as a guide and lamp to watch my feet to avoid stumbling in life. I discovered that I don’t need to go far to meet any Solomon to counsel me. The professor counseled me in three sentences pregnant with words. ”Don’t take anybody’s chicken. Don’t rape. Don’t fight, and always thank God in any situation you are in. If you can stick to these you will have no problem. Yes, there could be some challenges but you will overcome.”
As I sat down with him to drink from the fountain of his knowledge and wisdom, I asked him,” Sir, do you get offended?”, he replied “I have no space in my heart to keep malice”. Asked what could make him angry, he replied “Nothing!”
When I reminded him that some are envious of my relationship with him and tried to infiltrate into our relationship, he said ”Taiye don’t mind them, just be focused and face where you are going like a dead Muslim who faces where he is going (Qibla -Mecca), that is how human beings are. Nobody can come in-between us. You have made me proud.”
As we were walking in his garden, I asked ”Sir when you were told that they call me Babalawo of The Nation (BoN) and about my bling, bling dressing and also saw them what went through your mind?”, he smiled, shook his head and said “Your Boss who nicknamed you BoN appreciate the work you are doing while your dressing is your trademark like my beard.”
At J.A. Skinner State Park the summit of Mount Holyoke in Amherst, while it was raining and under an umbrella, I asked ”Sir, what about friends?”, he replied ”Watch the type of friends you want to walk with because it matters.”
SECRET OF HIS MARRIAGE
At home in the living room I found peace and love radiating in the air while he calls his wife her first name, his wife in return also calls him his first name. I said “Sir, your wife said you have been married for 53 years, what is the secret of your marriage?” He smiled and said ”Put God first, then you should have perseverance, patience and be honest.”
His words are witty, kind, prophetic, full of wisdom, poetic and proverbs back up with stories and myths. I likened him to Tao, Kahlil Gibran, Socrates and the Biblical Solomon
TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
The Professor, my brother gave me some parting gifts: Books and African fabrics. He embraced me and his wife embraced me too. The couple stood at the entrance of their house waving at us and bidding us goodbye. The professor cried on top of his voice saying “Taiye, don’t forget the three pieces of advice I gave you.” Ronnie started the engine, and I was waving too as my eyes became misty with teardrops streaking down my cheeks, my voice cracked as I kept looking back while Ronnie turned at a corner and the trees and shrubs covered my sight until I could not see them again.
It was a nice reunion; meeting my brother three and a half decades after we said our good bye in Nigeria.