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VAS

Grateful I am still alive

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Josaya Wasonga | July 28th 2019

Two Tuesdays ago, I turned another leaf. I’m not a fan of celebrating birthdays. They come and go, and I hardly notice.

But not so for my wife and daughter. If I forget their birthdays, I’ll not hear the end of it. A couple of weeks before my birthday, my daughter was already asking me what I’ll do for my birthday.

“I’ll do what I always do,” I replied.

“Which is?”

“Nothing.”

My daughter still does not get how my birthdays can just come and go, and I do nothing, feel nothing and have nothing cooking.

For me, a birthday is nothing more than turning a new leaf. I’m not the type to blow candles on a cake, or throw a bash. The introvert in me would rather hibernate in a quiet place, than entertain guests.

Life is a staircase

When I was 30, and still living in Jericho Estate, where I was born, I remember an encounter with two age mates, which is etched in my mind.

These two friends and I were hanging out on the bottom of the staircase of the house of one of my pals - who happened to be a cousin - when I remarked: “Guys? Do you know that the three of us are, cumulatively, 10 years shy of a hundred years? I wonder where we will be 30 years from now?”

My cousin’s baby sister, who was around 19  laughed and somberly commented at how we were getting old.

In Jericho, we - the young hommies - kept ridiculing older hommies, who we called “old guards”, who were bred in the city council cribs, but refused to move out and instead raised their children under the same roofs that they were raised in. I sensed that my two pals were somber because they realised that time was catching up with us, and sooner - if we didn’t get out of the ‘hood - we would be in the old guards’ shoes.

In a span of seven years, these two buddies died. Both were still living in their parents’ cribs. Neither had family or children.

Whenever I turn a new leaf, I recall that staircase conversation. It reminds me that life is a staircase. Some descend. Others ascend. Some stagnate.

For men - at least for men in my old ‘hood - this staircase can be like a car crusher. Car crushers are compactors where a scrap automobile is flattened by a huge descending hydraulically powered plate, or a baling press type, with which the automobile is compressed from several directions until it resembles a large cube.

This staircase takes men and, when it is done with them, they end up looking like a lump of scrap.  If you are fortunate enough to escape the metal jaws, you can make something out of your life.

Belated birthday showers

Four days after my birthday, my wife waltzed into the bedroom, where I was searching for a misplaced item inside a drawer. They sprayed me with water and apologised for forgetting my birthday.

I was holding a stack of old photos that I took way back when with some of my boys in my old ‘hood. Some boys in those photos have died; through alcohol addiction, HIV-related complications, freak accidents, mob (in)justice, being shot by police, and behind bars.

“Dad?” my daughter asked after they showered me; “Aren’t you afraid?”

“Afraid of what?”

“Afraid of getting old.”

I flipped through the stacks of old snaps. I was transported back in time; to places and moments. I even remembered scents and sounds. I recalled dreams that some boys had; some dreams were dead and buried with their carriers, while others were stillborn.

“I’m grateful,” I whispered. “Very grateful.”

Grateful for my babe and baby girl. Grateful for marital bliss ... and blues. Grateful for dreams fulfilled and dreams unfulfilled. Grateful for a pulse, and that one pal who’s stuck closer than an epidermis. And I’m grateful for the belated showers from my two beautiful blessings.

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