I must have been 6 months old when Mother left for the city because aside her yearly visits, she was a total stranger to me. Indeed Naana, my old fragile grandmother whose skin wrinkles were like the abomasum of a ruminant was the only mother I knew. Though almost in her late seventies she possessed the strength and grace eight of the best young maidens combined in the village did not match up to. Who my father was, is as a mystery as whether elephants have stretch marks or not. Life to me was all about my grandmother and I. It was out of the norm not to find her sitting at her usual spot when I got home from school. This was where I had to go through everything I was taught in school with her. She would first display her golden brown teeth that shined like freshly roasted dry maize in a grin that I can neither describe as a frown nor a smile and then ask me to pull out a stool from the corner of the veranda. Spreading out my exercise books on her laps, we would go through all I was taught at school for the day. For someone who had not gone beyond standard six, her arithmetic and basic English was impeccable, well let’s just say by the standards of a thirteen year old who was now in class three, in a village school my grandmother had a very high IQ.
I do not know whether it was out of fright or just because I expected her to be sitting there when I got back home that made me scream her name as I run across the compound in search of her. I could feel my heart race like that of a little squirrel that had just escaped from the jaws of a starved hound. My ears folded like ‘wele’ as I tried to block the voices in my head that were narrating the possible scenarios playing tricks on my mind like an out of tune church organ. Just as I made the sharp curve towards the goat pen at the back of out hut still screaming her name, I was brought to a halt be when I heard my name from the main compound. It was Mother’s. Now my confusion was as conspicuous as that of a newborn baby when the midwives and everyone smiles at it when it comes out of the womb. Then Nanaa emerged from within the room, her demeanor something I had never seen in my thirteen my life. Her facial wrinkles all of a sudden had become as deep as gullies caused by the tsunami of thoughts and pain that had engulfed the plains of her mind via the reality of me leaving her. In her deep but calm voice she told me she had packed all my things for me and I was to leave with mother to the city that very afternoon. A part of me wanted to be happy that I was going to the city but who was going to keep her company, who would fetch her water and fire wood, for would cut grass for the goats and take care of the fowls? Without uttering a word I walked to her, hugged her and began to cry. It was the first time in many years that tears had rolled down my cheeks and this time Naana did not ask me to be a man and stop crying. Together we bathed in the tears and the memories of the times we had together. After a while she pulled me away from the hug and held me by the shoulders.
‘ I know you will do well in the city, never forget the things I taught you. Respect people, be kind to them even when the dislike you, learn as much as you can from your failures, fear God, appreciate life and be thankful to God for everything.’ She said.
I opened my mouth to speak but words failed me. My whole body was shivering like a faded and torn Ghana flag hanging on a pole. Then my grandmother surprised my mother and I. She pulled out her flaccid breasts and pushed her palm kernel looking nipple into my mouth without any warning. My head was greeted by a heavy knock from her hard knuckles as I pulled my mouth away.
‘Suck my breast’ she commanded.
Afraid of what was to follow if I refused to do as asked I sucked on her breast. After a few seconds she pulled it out of my mouth.
‘How does it taste?’ she asked
‘It has no milk and so all I tasted was my own saliva.’ I replied.
She looked at me and smiled.
“Life is going to offer you opportunities and some of them will have no taste like a non-lactating flaccid breast like mine. You can use your imagination and believe it is giving you the best milk you’ve ever tasted or choose to just taste your own saliva. You are a man and so life expects a lot more from you.’ She held the base of the cloth around her waist and wiped my face with it. Without saying another word she picked her cutlass and basket and left the house.
This was twenty years ago. After living with my prostitute mother for five years at Sodom and Gomorrah in Accra, I was kicked out when she discovered my friends and I rob her clients after they patronize her services hence the derail in her business. I served a three-year jail term for selling Indian hemp (this is another story to tell) and it was during my jail term that I decided to do something positive with my life per my grandmother’s last words to me. When I got out of jail, I did manual works as a laborer on farms and construction sights and went into apprenticeship as a plumber. After completing my apprenticeship I decided to work with my Master until I could establish myself. It was during this period that I had met her. She had come to ask my former boss if he could recommend someone to fix the taps at her new place. My boss told her I was the best person to do the job for her and that is how we became friends and eventually got married and now have three lovely children who are doing great and fighting their own demons.