A Friend in Need
Fathers are different from mothers in many ways. One of the most significant expressions of the otherness is exhibited in child training. Fathers, unlike most mothers, do not always say the words. They ask questions indirectly, warn with looks, and correct with the hand. Even when they talk, you have to decode their messages inferentially. After Tayo had Ben, I heard the unspoken words of my father each time he called: “Don’t allow what happened to Tayo to happen to you. You know the kind of father you have, don’t you? If you are passing through anything, you can tell me about it. I call often these days to tell you that I am available…” He didn’t have to say the exact words before passing the message.
“Hello dad.” I sank back in the chair behind the desk prepared for general questions.
“Hello, Oluwafemi. How are you doing? And how was today’s service?” His voice carried no special tone than of a father asking after the welfare of his son.
“I’m fine sir. And the service was glorious.” I checked the watch. It was noon already. “How is mommy faring?”
“Your mother is faring well. She mentioned that she felt weak and that she needed some rest. It must be because of the sanitation we did in the compound last weekend. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”
“I’ll call her later in the day. Hope she ate well before sleeping?” I knew my father was a great cook and mother usually let him prepare some special delicacies. He told us his mother once ran an eatery where he had helped learnt a lot about cooking, while he was helping out. Sunday brunch was one meal we looked forward to in the family because dad was the cook.
“No, she couldn’t eat before she slept. I made herbed potatoes but she drowsed off before the fish sauce was ready.”
“I trust you dad. I’m salivating over it already. I miss your food.” I swallowed the saliva that had formed involuntarily in my mouth and cleared my throat. “I’ve been meaning to call you sir. There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“I hope it has nothing to do with these potatoes. I’m not sharing my wife’s potatoes with you.” Father had a light sense of humour too.
“I’m not after your potatoes, dad. But I will be when I come home.”
“Are you coming home? Is the matter that serious?” The tenor of his speech translated from humour to curiosity.
“Yes, dad. It is serious and it’s not something I want to discuss over the phone.”
“In that case, we’ll be expecting you. I hope it is good news you’re bringing.” That was an indirect reference to Tayo’s case.
“It could be. It depends on a lot of things.” I pretended as if I didn’t notice what he said.
“In that case, we’ll be expecting you.” He coughed softly. “I hope you’re hearing from Tayo, Benjamin, and—what’s that girls name again?”
“Tolani.” I answered.
“Yes, Tolani. How are they all doing?” He wanted to drive home his point. His message was clear: Whatever it is you want to see me about, it better not be related to the case of Tayo and Tolani.
“Yes sir. They are all doing fine. I’ll try to make it home this weekend, or the next.”
“My door is always open to you, son; and so are my ears and heart. You know that, right?”
“I do sir. Give my hello to mom when she awakes.”
“I will, son. God bless you. Have a prosperous week ahead.”
“I wish you the same sir.” I waited for him to hang up. Immediately he did, I sprang to my feet. I had the intention of spying on Maria and Tayo before the call came in. Now, I wasn’t sure they’d still be there.
The door of the office led directly to the side entrance at the front of the church. I approached the door carefully, peeping through the eyehole. I was trying to set the focus of my gaze when I heard a knock on the door. I pulled back and waited for some seconds. I peeped again to see who was at the door before trying to open. I was shocked to see Elder Joshua.
Elder Joshua was one of the deacons at the headquarters. He was the one in charge of the youth church in the zone and he was around for our service two weeks ago. He doesn’t fellowship in any particular location other than the headquarters. He routinely tours campus churches and high school fellowships in the zone whenever he doesn’t have to be at the headquarters for Elders’ Meetings. His visits to a place were usually not more than once in two months, so I was surprised to see him again. I quickly opened the door.
“Good afternoon Elder.” I was more surprised to see Sister Maria standing behind him.
“Good afternoon, Brother Femi.” He shook my hands firmly. “How was today’s service?”
“It was fine sir.” I answered, still trying to figure out what was going on.
“It was not just fine, Elder. It was awesome.” Sister Maria added.
“The glory belongs to God.” I shrugged. “And, to what do we owe the pleasure of hosting you for the second time in a month sir?” I looked around to see if Tayo was nearby. I didn’t see him.
“I wouldn’t call it a second visit since I didn’t attend the service here.” Elder Joshua replied. “I just came to see someone who needed to see me.” He looked at Sister Maria’s face and smiled.
“Well, well. I guess you’ve seen her already.” I said, short of words. What could have come to see her for? Could it be what I was thinking? If that’s the case, it means he’ll want to see me too. My mind was busy.
“Yes, we’ve discussed and I’d like to be on my way now.” He turned back to leave. ‘Maybe he’ll come back to see me.‘ I told myself.
“So soon?” I exclaimed. “You won’t even let me entertain you sir?”
“I have already been entertained where I worshipped today. God bless your intention.” I saw him off to his car in company of Sister Maria. Neither of us said anything to each other.
“Extend my greetings to your wife and children sir.” I said, as I waved goodbye.
“I will. God bless you.” He zoomed off.
As we returned to the church, Sister Maria carried her bag and waved goodbye too. As I watched her leave, I wanted to stop her and ask what it was she discussed with the Elder, but I didn’t because I knew that would be meddlesome. I also wanted to ask her what she really meant when she said she liked something about me; I wanted to find out if that was all she meant or if she was just trying to be deliberately vague in her expression, but I stopped again, letting her go. ‘The time for that will come.’ I mumbled to myself.
Then it occurred to me that I could do one more thing: I could ask Tayo—maybe not directly, though. I decided to give it a try.
It Continues Still…