Ifeoma passed by Baba’s bungalow, without turning, as was the custom when her mother lived. She remembered it most of the time, and like those times, ignored the reflex to look and greet Baba, who was always seated on the balcony.
She stopped and turned to him after a few seconds. The man was still their landlord, even if the reason for their one-time closeness had passed on.
“Come here.” He said, beckoning with his hand.
Ifeoma strolled to stand in front of him. “Good evening, Baba.”
“Good evening, where are you going?”
“I’m going to see a friend in the next street.”
“Spare me five minutes of your time?” Baba asked with a smile.
Ifeoma nodded, wondering what the man wanted with her.
“Go into the living room, and pick a plastic chair for yourself. I want you to sit beside me as you used to when you visited with your mother.”
Ifeoma looked down as the memories of happier times assailed her. Periods of constant laughter and joy, when love was given and received. She stepped into the house as instructed, chose a chair, and returned with it.
“Sit,” Baba said, looking at her face. “I stopped seeing you at service, some months after your mother died. I guessed back then your father didn’t have time to take you and left it. Now, I have noticed some changes in your behavior, which are worrisome to me.
“I noticed that since your father remarried, which tallies with the time you graduated from secondary school, you’ve changed. I see the company you keep, and the time you pass my house on the way home, and these changes bother me, Ifeoma.”
He stopped, still looking at her. Ifeoma looked up at him for the first time since he started speaking.
“Baba, you don’t need to worry about me. I’m a big girl now, and my step-mom doesn’t mind me coming home late. Dad’s always at work, so it’s okay.”
Baba shook his head. “No, Ifeoma, it’s not okay. Your Step-Mother may not worry, and your Dad might be busy, but are those reasons to step out of the right path?” Baba asked, his tone quiet.
“I don’t understand, Baba. Why would you think my path is not right?”
“I see your friends. The girl with heavy makeup all the time that enters big cars at every opportunity. She will soon introduce you to that life. What of that boy, what’s his name? Your school accused him of theft and suspended him? Do you know what he does now?”
Ifeoma did not speak, enraged at the man. She wasn’t his daughter or granddaughter. What right did he have to say such things about her friends?
“Baba, the people you mentioned, Kanne, and Ahmed are my bosom friends. They accept me and take care of me. My Dad traveled when I was taking my mock exams last year, and my Step-Mom couldn’t provide money for the exams; Kanne bailed me out. I fell sick with typhoid two months ago and almost died, if not for Ahmed’s prompt intervention. They are my people. They’ve got my back, which is something I can’t say about anybody else in my life.”
Baba shook his head at the wickedness of death.
“When your mother was alive—”
“Baba, she’s dead. Let her stay dead. There is nothing she can do for me now. I need to grow and move up in the world, and it seems I have to do it myself. I have my people to help me along the way. I’m good.” Ifeoma said, standing from her seat.
Baba looked up at her. “Sit down.” His tone brokered no argument. Ifeoma sat without hesitation.
“I’ll tell you a story. Do you remember chanting story time when you’d visit with your mother? You’d bring your small stool, place it in front of me, and demand a story. Well, today is my turn, and I require that you listen.
“An uncle and his nephew lived in a vast land. Each had his wealth, but they lived together because they were family. After a while, it became troublesome to manage their riches, as one’s servants would demand more resources, denying the other’s servants, and vice versa.
“The struggle continued until the uncle called his nephew in for a meeting. He advised that they separate to remain in good faith. Living together didn’t seem to be working out for them. He asked his nephew to look through the land and to choose where he preferred.
“The nephew turned and looked to the South, West, North, and then to the East, and spotted what one would call the garden of Eden. A green and fruitful land, overflowing with the proverbial milk and honey. He chose to go East at once, and his uncle blessed him and let him go with all his wealth and servants.
“Do you know the source of their wealth?” Baba asked Ifeoma, who was had moved closer to listen. She shook her head.
“God. Earlier on, He allowed them to pass through a country where the king himself blessed the uncle with abundance. Part of that affluence spilled over to the nephew. The uncle had a relationship with God, which the nephew did not deem necessary.
“When the nephew left with all he had, God visited the uncle. He asked him to look through the land, East, West, North, and South. God promised his uncle everything, including the land where his nephew moved to, of course. There is something else you should know about the land the nephew chose. It was filled with wickedness and had been slated for destruction by God. Human wisdom is foolishness before God.”
Ifeoma wondered why Baba was telling her Abraham and Lot’s story. How did it apply?
“Psalm 14:1-3 says, the fool has said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt; they have done abominable works, none does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside; they have together become corrupt; none does good, no, not one.” He said, stopping to allow the verses to work.
“Ifeoma, following people whose paths are not right with God because they are useful to you, will not work well for you in the end. There is nothing given for free in this world, especially by its god. One day, they will demand payment in kind for all they’ve done, and you will have to comply, as indebted to them as you feel.
“Your mother brought you here to fellowship with me whenever your father traveled, and she needed company. We sharpened each other, and she believed in God. She hoped you would grow up with the same belief. It is also God’s will for you.”
Ifeoma looked up at Baba. Her glare told him she was ready for answers. “Yes, about God. Where was He when I couldn’t pay for my mock exams, or when I lay alone, watching life leave my body? Where was this God you are talking about now?”
Baba let out a noisy breath as he looked at her.
“He was right there with you. He is also here, a part of our discussion, hoping you’ll listen and give Him a chance to soothe your pain. He has always been with you, Ifeoma. He never left your side.”
She looked down, deciding that arguing with the older man was futile.
“I hope you’ll give Him a chance to show you His love. It’s worth all the treasure in the world.”
“Thank you, Baba.”
He nodded, knowing when to stop. “I am here for you. If you need anything, anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask. You may go to your friend’s place now.”
Ifeoma nodded, unable to look at him, and stood. She returned the seat, remembering how her mum would always remind her to do so when they visited. By the time she left the house, the tears had escaped, blinding her. She turned back from her chosen path, deciding she was in no state to visit Kanne. She would have problems explaining the cause of her grief and look weak.
Back at home, Ifeoma locked her bedroom door, and cried on her bed, muffling her cries with her pillow. She remembered it all: her mother’s smile and ready hugs, the stories, and coke at Baba’s place, the aroma of food on her mother when it was time to eat, and kisses would be rained on her, coaxing her to try her mother’s cooking. She remembered her mother’s love for God, and her constant prayer that Ifeoma would love Him as well. It all came back to her.
“Where were you? Why let her die if she loved you that much? I miss her, and I need her. What was the purpose of her death, God, what?” She asked in a whisper as she cried.
There was no response.
Ifeoma cried herself to sleep. She woke up the next morning, and she knew what she needed to do. After a bath, she got ready and went back to Baba. She had questions she required him to answer about God.
Till next time, be transformed!!!