It’s the morning of my 10th birthday and I feel like I am walking into a Deja vu. The only difference is that while deja vus are unpredictable, this is. I know what will happen when my dad yells at my mom and I know what my mom would scream in return.
This madness has been happening since I was 1 year old. I mean, I don’t remember it happening then but I am almost sure it has.
The week of my birthday is always filled with immense tension. My dad would walk around the house like the floors are made of eggshells and my mom would scowl at anyone who tried to bring joy into the family.
My friends say that they usually make birthday wishes to their parents. I was shocked. ‘How?’ I asked them. They looked at me weird and said, ‘Erm… Well, we just say daddy mommy we want so and so for our birthday. And bam!’
Bam! The sound of the leather throw pillow thrown against the wall; definitely targeted at someone, brought me back to reality. I open the door of my room and walk out.
It is the same every year. After the week filled tension, it seems almost like the right kind of climax when my parents finally fight on my birthday. It starts with my mom ordering for two of everything. Two cakes, two shoes; two trousers; two t-shirts; two ‘Hurray! You are <insert age>’ lapel pins.
Then, my dad would wake up that morning and say, ‘Hannah! I hope you’re not going crazy this year again. This boy deserves to begin to have a normal birthday party!’
My mom would immediately go livid; her eyes burning ‘Crazy? Of course you’ll call me crazy you irresponsible son of the devil. Deyo is a twin and we will keep it that way’
My dad would look around as though he was looking for someone who just witnessed how stupid my mom sounded. He will then stretch his hands before his potbelly and say, ‘What is all this nonsense Hannah? Ehn? What? Not this year. I am sick and tired of doing this every year. We lost Dayo. He is gone. We never even got to know him for more than 10 months. Deyo is what we have now. Let’s focus on him and show him all the love we can. How can we share the love we have for our only living son with a dead one who we don’t even know?’
At that, my mom would go into full blown rage. She would throw things at my dad and my dad would throw them back; rather childishly. She would be wailing as the fight continues; telling the whole world (which basically always consists of me and Chima our house boy) that her husband is too eager to move on from the loss of the child of his own groin.
Today was not any different. I stood at the head of the stairs and got there just in time to see my dad pick up the throw pillow and stretch it towards my mom and say ‘Really Hannah? We’re still doing this this year? Are we not getting too old for this foolishness? I think you’re just looking for someone to blame for Dayo’s death.’
Then something strange happened. My dad dropped the pillow on the sofa and moved closer to my sobbing mom. He held her stiff body in his embrace and they were quiet for a while. My heart was racing; as I was imaging scenes of close-range stabbing. This had never happened before.
Then my dad said, ‘Hannah, neither of us can be blamed for Dayo’s death. It was not our fault. The Lord deemed it fit that he be taken from us. Deyo is ours now and the Lord will ask us what we did with this gift that stayed.’
My mom nodded and sniffed. Then she said, ‘But I can’t move on just like that. Someone has to be blamed. Something must have gone wrong. Something was the root cause of him dying…’
And in that moment as my poor mother spoke, I felt a sudden burden on my shoulder as though the blame had been lifted from her and placed on me. I suddenly thought of why it was me and not my brother (who I did not know) that stayed alive. I was the cause of all my parents fights.
I cleared my throat still standing at the head of the stairs and said, ‘Blame me mom. I am the one at fault. I am sorry…’
And in horror, I watched a broken woman break even further