THE CROSS AND THE WALKING STICK
I was three years old. He just bought a bicycle and I asked him to give me a ride. It was already night.
He placed me on the top tube of his bicycle. Excited, I leaned forward and held the handles. He also held the handles with the left hand, and the saddle with the other, while walking and pushing the bicycle. I imagined that I was riding the bicycle. I looked up and saw the moon.
“Because you are special,” he answered.
That’s pretty obvious, I thought. There had to be other reasons. But I didn’t want to bother him further.
The night was a bit chilly. I shivered. “Are you cold?”
“No, I’m fine.”
That is the first conversation I remember having with my father.
In my last conversation with him sixty years later, I called him from Austin, Texas, and he was in Oyo, Nigeria.
He said, “Moyo, nobody can read you. Even when you are suffering, unhappy and in sorrow, it never shows on your face.”
“I didn’t know that,” I answered him. “I make no special effort to conceal my suffering.”
“Life is about turning your cross into walking sticks,” he said. “You know how to turn your troubles to a bicycle and ride it. You do that so well. You certainly couldn’t remember, but I remember clearly one night. You were still a baby really, and I just bought a bicycle, you asked me for a ride. It was a chilly night. Your body was trembling from the cold. I asked if you were cold. You said no, you were not. You were only interested in the moon.”
“I remember,” I told him. “I asked you why the moon was following me and you lied to me.”
“You do remember,” he said with surprise.
A week later, Tola Wewe called me and said, “Moyo, your father is no longer with us.”
You read while here with us. When you were not reading, you were writing.
You always wore a frown while reading and writing. But whenever you looked up and saw people, your frown turned automatically into a beautiful smile.
I know you are reading this reminiscence about you. And smiling.
About you, Tejumola Olaniyan, the great critic of African literature, wrote:
“Oladejo Okediji is without doubt one of the finest writers in Yoruba language today. A distinguished teacher, poet and essayist, Okediji has since 1969, had five works published with a few others still in press. His first work Aja Lo Leru (1969) has the distinction of being the first detective novel in Yoruba. Along the same line is Agbalagba Akan (1971). The popular Rere Run (1973), is his only dramatic work in print. Atoto Arere (1981) is a novel and then the children adventure story, Oga ni Bukola. Evident in all these works is a stability of a vision, a consistency of concern with the inhabitants of the lowest segment of our social strata – in all their varied appearances – as they eke out from the not-too-kind society a meager existence.”
Read on, read well, my father, Ọládẹ̀jọ Òkédìjí, Onígègé àrà. October 29, 1929, to April 9, 2019
Interested in some of my published works?