For Michael

Christmas holiday 2013.

It was past mid night. The morning will soon break and we have to set off early. We have over three hundred kilometres to travel and we intend to return the same day.

I was going to the kitchen to check if all the lights have been turned off. I noticed a tinge of light in Pearl’s room, my daughter.

I opened the door slowly and tiptoed in. Pearl was giving away a light snore. Crouching on the floor with a powerful camping flash light switched on was Michael, reading the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The Long Haul’. He was so engrossed in the reading that he didn’t hear the door creep open, neither did he hear my breathing as I stood still, watching him.

I tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped.

“Michael go to bed now, we have a long journey later in the day.”

“I know, I just want to finish this chapter before I go to sleep.”

Can I kill such an enthusiasm? After all he can catch a nap on the drive to Fujairah.

On the 25th of December, Michael serenaded us with his skills on the recorder as he rendered ‘My true love said to me’.

He was quite a big strong lad for his age. He looked like a wrestler at first glance, but an interaction with him revealed a gentility that would not hurt a fly.

He was a role model for kids his age and even older kids. He was eight years old. He was a very studious person with a knack for mental math and logic. He loved creativity. He could be entrusted with house chores and was a fantastic baby sitter of his baby brother. He took reprimanding with calm and was too mature for his age.

Anytime he came to spend holidays with us, I loved it because I knew he would be the right kind of influence for my son.

We rode the toboggan together, cycled together and played footie together. We had great fun together.

Michael was a very spiritual young man. He loved God with all of his heart and would do anything to please Him.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating qualities about Michael was his thirst for knowledge, in finding answers to life’s challenges. He wished he could solve lots of problems. These problems and challenges of life generated such a thirst in him that made him to search far and wide for answers. He read encyclopedias, surfed internet, and talked with adults asking all sorts of questions.

I remember one evening with him. I was going for my evening walk and he asked “Uncle can I come with you?”

I paused for a moment and then replied “sure.”

He was a little puzzled by my hesitation.

He jumped into his pair of trainers and came along with me.

Anytime I went for a walk, I enjoyed it better alone because I can have conversations with myself.

“Uncle, why is it that the world is getting worse?”

“What do you mean Michael?”

“Well, anytime you listen to the news, it’s always something bad happening somewhere. Either a plane has crashed, or some disaster, or shooting?”

“You know buddy, you are correct. But I am not too sure why these evils. Maybe because people have forsaken God. They don’t have the fear of God anymore and they now do bad stuff.”

“Really. How can these things be stopped?”

“I don’t know Michael to be honest with you.”

“Do you think, it’s going to get better by any chance?”

“I don’t think so buddy”

“I thought so too. You know I watched one time on the internet how people went into a big forest to cut down so many trees and how the animals who used to rely on these trees for habitat were made to be homeless and killed indirectly. My teacher also told us that these trees breathe out oxygen for us to breathe in. So if they keep cutting down these trees, that means we will not have enough oxygen to breathe in.”

“Michael, you are very smart. What you have said is true.”

“But why?”

“Again Michael I am sorry to disappoint you with my answer, that’s the way man is.”

“Really? So, man is uncaring?”

“So, it appears. Otherwise what else would make man to act so wickedly?”

“Uncle what can be done to ameliorate the situation?”

“Michael I do not know. By the way, where did you learn that word ‘ameliorate’ from? All the laws have been put in place. Countries have signed up to these laws to agree to end these evil practices, yet it still rages on.”

“I learnt the word from a conservation website.”

We went on and on for about thirty two minutes.

By this time, we had completed one circuit of 3.5km. I wished we could go for another round but I needed a break to give further consideration to my discourse with Michael.

My son Mekobong, loved Michael a great deal. They played together, ate together and slept together. They delighted in throwing banters about how much they knew and could reason. By the time the holiday was over, it was very sad to see Michael go.

All the nice memories we had, kept us going. Every now and again, I would bring out the photos of the last holidays and we would reminisce over it.

As the next holiday season drew nearer, I was on the circuit with my son for a walk when the much dreaded question arrived.

“Dad, when are we going to see Michael again? Is he coming over this coming holiday?”

Tears rolled down my eyes. I tried to hide the tears from him. It was nighttime.

The whole drama re-enacted before me when I first learnt of the news. I couldn’t take it. The disbelief and the wishes I had on my mind. For once I wished it was a bad dream that I would wake up from. Far from it, it was real. I had come to terms with it. I thought about Mekobong and how I would pass this news to him.

“Dad, you have not answered my question.”

I put my hand over his shoulders and said “son, we are not going to see Michael again. He has gone home to be with the Lord.”

“You mean he is dead?”

“Yes son, Michael is dead.”

 

By Uwem Umana

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