I still remember it like it was yesterday. It was in the winter of 2012. A chilly Christmas Eve morning. It was customary in our home that the oldest member of the family took the youngest child able to help to shop for Christmas presents. I was really excited about it as I had been waiting earnestly for when I would be declared “able” to go shop with my grandmother. Granny knew it because I had been talking about it all year. I got up early and did my chores before my mother was up. I did my laundry as well as I was not going to allow anything to be a source of hindrance to my perfectly planned day. My mom told me I had to wait for the driver to resume as she was going to be working from home. He arrived around 8 am and we left for my granny’s place.
Granny’s house was modest. A fairly big bungalow with much space obtained than it appears to be outside. Granny was getting dressed when we got there. She was out in no time as her habit was. She always said that, “a second wasted, is a second dreaded”. She was excited to see me, we hugged, because yeah, she’s my grandma. I was very close with my grandmother. We talked regularly. I was the only grandchild she had so I was spoilt by her. I’d spend weekends with her and most of my summer vacations were spent with her.
We arrived in the mall around 9 am. It was a state of the art mall with sections for everything you could need. We started in the food section and moved onto the section for gifts. I was in a good mood until we got to the section for boys’ gifts. I saw a father with his son holding hands while selecting gifts. My granny noticed but didn’t say anything. We got back to her house and as we were wrapping the gifts, I stopped and asked my granny a question that I had not gotten an answer to for a long time. “Hey granny, what was my father like? And please don’t tell me he was a good man because that’s all I’ve ever gotten from either you or mom. Please, I want to know things like his habits and so on”.
“Okay. Come sit here Howard”. I shifted towards her and sat on the chair beside her. “Forget anything you have ever heard about your father and listen to me. The truth is that your dad was nothing like we described him. We told you those things because you were still little and could not understand. Your father was not a good husband. He was a cheat and a liar. He would often sleep with other women and your mother would come to report him to me. That was after he had beaten her because she confronted him with evidence. After some time, your mother moved here when you were conceived. He tried to come and take her away from here but he couldn’t. He was not bothered and kept to his ways. After some time, he came around, asking for forgiveness, but I knew he hadn’t changed. The next time I saw my son was on the night of your birth. We heard a loud noise, and when we came out to check, it was your father’s car. He had an accident right in front of my gate. It was the most devastating thing I have ever seen. My son died a failure. A failed man, a failed doctor, a failed son, a failed husband, a failed father. The only thing that survived the crash was his cellphone. I still have it.” “Can I see it?”. “It’s in the vase on the fireplace.” I brought it out, connected it to a charger and switched it on. I was browsing it when I accidentally opened his voicemail messages recorded on his own phone. I moved swiftly to my granny. “Granny, there are voice notes here, should I play them?”. “Yes, you can”.
“Hey mum, I know you don’t want to see me or talk to me. I just wanted to tell you again that I have changed. I am no longer the son that was a drug addict. I’m no longer the son that disobeys every instruction that you gave. I met a man who introduced a man to me called Jesus. He told me about how he loves me and cares for me. I got saved that day. He paid for me to go to rehab. And right now I am clean and I am sorry for all the wrong I have caused you. Please help me tell my wife that I am sorry. For all the cheating and disrespect. For not being there for her during the pregnancy, and not being there during the childbirth. I believe God that it is a healthy baby. I will be coming to your home tonight. I love you mum”.
For the first time in my life, I saw my grandmother crying. She was shivering. Her face flooded with tears. She was moaning loud. She was devastated. She had believed for the last 18 years that her child died a failure. Not knowing he was trying to change. She had her son, lost him and she could’ve gotten him back had she believed. I moved close to her and hugged her. I was no different than my grandmother. I had mixed feelings though. I had always heard of my father as a good man. My grandmother told me something else, and then the voice message sent another message.
I learnt an important lesson that day, Forgiveness. My mother sacrificed a lifetime of happiness with her son for a judgment she passed on him. She already concluded he could be nothing more than what he was. She gave up on him. She could never forgive herself because as far as she was concerned, she killed her son. Had she believed in her son, she would always be able to forgive him no matter the condition he is in. I learnt not to judge anyone, I learned to believe in humanity, and I learnt to forgive. My dad died but with a clear conscience, my granny died with the personal label of a murderer. My message to you my friend is simple, learn to forgive because I tell you as weird as it sounds, you lose the most when you don’t.