Abena Foriwa

It was on that fateful Sunday when I was off to support a bosom friend give thanks to God for the life of her mother surviving an illness. We were just in the queue for lunch when I had a phone call from my cousin that you had passed on.

Abena Foriwa is my last surviving grandma on my mother’s side. When the Asante women are extolling the virtues of their Yaa Asantewaa in war, holding her own against the British, she chose her battles well and fought against illiteracy.

With the little that she had from trading she supported her husband Nomo Akufo to ensure that at least her first daughter (my mother) and all her children, were educated.

I’m glad I only called my cousin back after I had eaten that meal because I know Maai (as we all affectionately call you) you would be angry with me to take all that food and just leaving it sitting on the table uneaten because I heard news of your demise. You brought our mothers and uncle up to be strong and the discipline and resilient determination you instilled in them was passed to us.

Dear Maai, I remember when we were little children just toddling about in our underwear you reveled us with stories about our mothers and how each of them behaved when they were our age. We used to love these stories not just so we could tease our mothers when we all got back to our various homes but also to teach us thee rudiments of life.

These lessons were part of the “maintenance time” instituted by you and papaa (as we called our grandpa) at the end of every year.

The “maintenance time” is akin to the family reunion where various branches of the family gather together under one roof at the end of the year to take stock of what has been happening with the whole clan or extended family. Cousins get introduced to each other and it is a time when grudges are settled amongst family members. Younger children look forward to such a time because our favorite uncles and aunts, well to do, will bring gifts to share. It was also sharing time for the family.

Maai leeey, when I heard that you had given your last breath the heaviness that descended on me made me want to be alone and just savor in the memories of you. Within minutes I could do nothing and I felt numb. I couldn’t think of one memory where you weren’t making us laugh especially with you trying to pronounce English words that we your educated grandchildren used on you inadvertently. I remembered the first time you ordered us to stop the racket we were making in the “baafloom” and we actually had to come out with our naked soapy self to hear you say it again before we finished our baths. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

My first suggestion when I heard the news was not to call my mother until one of her children was with her. Being one of the eldest children she was indeed going to take it hard and as later events proved she did. Thankfully she had company and I’m glad my brothers handled it pretty well. This is a woman who inasmuch as was prepared for the inevitable being a health worker and all, was bawled over by the passing of her last surviving parent. She just wanted to leave the capital and go home to be with her family and now deceased mother. The height of grief makes people do stuff that are not aware of but it is understandable. With loud wails that got the neighbors curious mother insisted on leaving that instant. We didn’t want her traveling alone and that’s how I ended up on a bus to the village with my mother.

Maai your passing makes us sad but getting to the house where you lived and died and where we always visited at this time was one of the hardest moments. Here I was thinking you will still be in your favorite seat right at the first veranda. But that seat was empty. I remember the last time I visited and you were in that seat, you had grown pretty senile (memory loss and recognition) but you knew that no matter how educated I was I still appreciated the traditional things. So you offered me your cup of water and when I drank it all you just pointed to the earthenware pot in the corner and without a word I walked towards it and drank 5 more cups before eating the apem and “krobo salad” auntie prepared.

That smile on your face, as if to say you’re happy your grandchildren didn’t go wayward, is the last memory I have of you.

It was when I sat quietly in the corner listening to the wailing women, your daughters included, that I understood the gravity of your sacrifice and magnanimity. Inasmuch as they were wailing they were actually singing your praises and thanking you for being a loving parent. The woman who had sold her last piece of cloth to buy a chop box and ensure her daughter had provisions to go to boarding school, the mother who will sell produce in the market all day from sunrise to sunset but run home at intervals to ensure that her husband and children had food to eat in the afternoon, the friendly woman the neighbors come to for advise of all sorts regarding all topics, the mother who will beat you with anything she could lay her hands on if you were disobedient especially by refusing to do homework but will protect you from outsiders when they came to molest you. The mother who tucked her children into bed and ensured that the house was kept tidy and plenty more.

Maai leeey!!! as I sat there listening to them I kept wondering who you were. Maya Angelou, an American woman your age mate probably, who also passed on, called you and women like you a Phenomenal Woman. Another woman, Barbara Taylor Bradford, also called you A Woman of Substance. Indeed these are apt descriptions of what exactly you are grandma.

Abena Foriwa as I write this sitting in the dark weeping silently I’m even kind of expecting your frail hands to touch me on the shoulder and reassure me that it’s okay and that you’re in a better place. I feel your presence so much I’m going to put on the lights right now.

Grandma, now I cant stop the tears. I miss you so much. As you go be with Nomo Akufo, Maa Padikuo and the rest of the family already gone ahead, please have a “maintenance” session up there with God Almighty on our behalf that our family will keep enjoying the blessings you left us and we will promise to keep the lessons you taught up holding it close to our bosoms.

Rest well grandma. You have lived a full life of a century and some.

Rest well Maai!

Rest in God’s bosom Abena Foriwa!

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