Our children are bridges, structures made out of love, blood, flesh, and bone, connecting us to the past, hinging us to the future.
It is too early for me to be awake so I ignore the banging on the door that connects the room to that of the children and bury my head under the covers. My daughter is one of two, a twin and everyday I am thankful to God, that the other half of the equation is nothing like her. He is gentle, unperturbed, charming, like his father. My daughter is me reborn.
Taiyelolu continues to demand attention despite the fact that no one seems to paying her any. She is ignoring our ignoring of her. Behind me, Bandele reaches for my body and I spoon into him in the way I know he can’t resist. It is time for loving. It is time to escape our bodies, our reality. It is not time for the intrusions of pesky children and so we continue to ignore our child.
Suddenly the whining and banging stops. We know better than to hope she has given up. Bandele’s hands stop their roving. I still my arching. We both listen for what it is that has interrupted our daughter.
“Taye, what’s going on? Mummy and Daddy must be sleeping. Come, come to Pops. We can go downstairs and have breakfast together and then I will take you to the pool where you can play with the new friends you made yesterday okay?
Our daughter says nothing at first and I can picture her in her pyjamas, pout in place, water filled eyes, contemplating the offer placed before her and the resolute door that stands between her and us.
“Can I have ice cream for breakfast? ” she asks, loud enough for us to hear. She know she is not allowed such things.
“Of course. You can get two scoops. But no telling Daddy.”
The six year old lets loose the butterflies that she seems to always carry inside of her in victory. I want to get out of bed and wipe the triumphant smirk that must be on her face but Bandele’s body is warm as is mine.
We wait until we no longer hear their footfalls.
“Your father is bad influence” my husband whispers in my mouth.
“Like yours is any better” I whisper back as I pull down the shorts he fell asleep in.
My father was an engineer who spent his life on a rig. He got my teenage mother pregnant one of the few days he was onshore and carousing with his other friends. It was Port Harcourt in the 1970s. Children like me were a dime a dozen.
My father was only a little better than his fellow expatriate oil workers. The next time he saw my mother, I was 18 months. He had a wife back in the UK so he couldn’t marry my mother but he gave me his name, a British passport, and ensured I got the best education and life he could afford.
I saw him a total of four times between when I was 18 months and when I moved to England to study at 17. Even then, with only a few miles between us, we never got close. I was his mistake, one he wasn’t ashamed of but was not exactly proud of either.
Bandele’s father is a high chief. He has 3 wives. Bandele was the first and only child of his mother, the third wife. He grew up craving and resenting the man he called father at the same time.
Our wedding had been a comedy of sorts. Our fathers had been guests rather than hosts. Just as they had been in our lives. Guests, never hosts, no permanent homes for them in our hearts.
That is until the twins were born.
Bandele tells me my father was the first visitor to the hospital in Canterbury where Taiyelolu and Omokehinde were born. He had come bearing white roses. Bandele’s father for his on part had insisted on traveling all the way from Lagos with his mother as she visited to assist in caring for the twins. My own mother was long dead.
And so it had began. This long, mine-filled road to discovery of who they were as our fathers.
Two months ago my father had called.
“It came back Lisa. The cancer came back. The doctors say I should have a year at most, but they said the same thing the last time and i have probably outlived some of them, stupid buggers!”
” Papa..” I whispered, the news breaking the place in my heart I didn’t know existed until the twins. I am his only child, his late wife had wanted none.
“It is okay Lisa. I have had a good life. I am 76. I have outlived the people I grew up with it. I have gotten far more and far better than I deserve. And I have seen and held my grandchildren. What more can a man like me ask for.”
I didn’t expect to cry the way I cried that day in Bandele’s arms.
The next day my husband would come up from work with a spring in his steps.
“Fidel’s Cuba?” I asked.
“No, David Cameron’s. As if. Look, it is cheap and they have many family friendly resorts. A co-worker visited with his family last Christmas and we haven’t heard the last of it. Let’s do it now while he still can. The five of us.”
“We could ask Otunba as well? The kids would love the treat of both grandfathers at once.” I volunteered, suddenly caught up in my husband’s excitement.
“What for? Is he dying?’ Bandele asked sarcastically.
” Do you want to wait till he is?” I had answered in the same tone.
And so here we are. On some fancy resort in Cayo Coco that my father and Otunba had insisted on paying for.
I kiss my husband long and hard as he climaxes.
“Promise me we won’t make the same mistakes they did,” I say to the man that is my present when we come up for air.
“I promise,” He says and I believe him.
Later in the day, I watch my father with my children and marvel at how beautiful life is. Yesterday I had watched as he let Taye paint his toenails and put flowers in what was left of his hair, things every little girl wishes she could do with her father, things I never got to do with him. Today, they are playing pretend at a tea party with her dolls while my beautiful boy Kehinde, amuses his father and grandfather with knock-knock jokes he has learned at school.
Everyday is another brick; every kiss, concrete, every giggle, mortar, every hug, a pillar that holds the bridges in place. Our children are bridges, structures made out of love, blood, flesh, and bone, connecting us to the past, hinging us to the future.