African Son


Contemplating while barefoot on the grounds my father and grandfather walked, I saw my life clearly. With African sun nibbling on my dark skin and gentle winds soothing my foreboding, my past life and current responsibilities overwhelmed me occasionally. Abundant tears flowed freely. Dripping on my face and clothes. Travelling through the ancient roads created by my forefathers, grasslands, trees and anthills kept me company. A lonely journey. I knew that nothing remains the same, but ones past never changes. Even in the loneliness of my past, I accepted that you cannot effectively go forward without knowing how and where you started your journey. Even in that state of near dejection I was aware that my sojourn in foreign lands is not forever, but my lording of this beautiful land, my own Africa, where my spent body will finally rest someday, is for eternity. Nothing remains the same, but nothing ever changes. It depends on how you look at your life.

Fidelis O Mkparu, author of ‘Tears before Exaltation’

 

Biographical

Mirror Image


“I woke up this morning, January 1, 2018 to reflect on my dreams. I could not remember what I dreamed about the night before. My past was gone, and my future has yet to come. I must embrace my present, and make the best of it. If my future ever comes, I would be ready for anything that confronts me.

Turning all the lights on in my bathroom, I looked in the mirror with blurred vision and clogged brain. I wondered who I was searching for in the mirror; the man I used to be, the man looking back at me, or the man I would like to become. Many years have passed since I had a critical assessment of my life. I know I had spent more than half of my assigned life on earth already, therefore, my dreams must be more realistic and attainable. Since my life journey is winding down, it’s a good time to take stock of what is left to be done. My ambitions and things I neglected over the past 59 years.”—Fidelis O Mkparu, author of soon to be released novel ‘Tears before Exaltation’ Harvard Square Editions.

Biographical

Goodbye old friend


My dearest friend Wolfgang,

I read the obituary page of our local newspaper today. Your name was the first on the list. The beautiful name you loved. I could not remember a goodbye from you, and no one called to let me know that you permanently ended your regular visits to my office. Shedding tears for your death would have been an insult to the jovial man I remembered. A kindhearted fellow who loved old cameras and beautiful ladies. You even adored my Yashica camera I bought 43 years ago, and rewarded my dedication to the art of photography with old fashioned rolls of films. Kodak and Agfa films you gave me remain in my drawer. I still remember what you said, “rolls of films for a perfect outdoor photo shoot.” A photo session set aside for a beautiful fräulein.

I will continue to cherish 21 years of friendship I had with you until the end of time. Death took you away and has overshadowed the 32 years that separated our births.

Goodbye my dear old friend.

Fidelis O. Mkparu, August 2017.

Biographical Uncategorized

Monday Morning Doubts


I identified my components this morning; one wants to stay in bed to enjoy the rainy day, the adventurist wants to run away to explore the world, and the best part of me accepts my calling to stay my course to take care of lives entrusted in my hands. Never run away from who you are. You can’t reach your destination in life without you. (Fidelis O Mkparu, author of ‘Love’s Affliction’ May 1, 2017)

Biographical Uncategorized

My Ancestral Home


I set out at night from Atlanta. No wind, or snow. Hovered over the Atlantic Ocean for thirteen hours. Sleepless night. Patience has become a part of me. Landed facing west. The glitter of setting sun. Hazy sky, and a gentle breeze. Harmattan kiss. It blows on you, mimicking onset of common cold. I remember the gloomy feeling. Lassitude.

Three hours of sleep on a borrowed bed. Watched international news until 4 am. Shaved, and showered. Arrived at the local airport in Lagos by 6 am. Long lines of travelers, and touts. Scam experts, and helpers. Grateful. Found saints, and not sinners. Security check with hustlers. Survived the pat downs. Ten hours of wait at the departure lounge. False flight updates every hour. Flights delayed, or cancelled. I became weary in the hall of departure. The real reason for delays eventually announced. Harmattan hijacked the sub-Saharan sky. Without electronic instrument-guided landing, the pilot would be lost in the haze.

As late evening approached, they asked us to board. We milled around, lacking vigor, and excitement. Three hundred miles of bumpy sky, I reached the second leg of my journey. With my driver, and security detail, we set out for my ancestral home. Not far from the banks of the river Niger. I arrived after sunset in sub-Saharan haven. My ancestral home. As the gate to my compound opened, I was overwhelmed with youthful exuberance. I knelt on the soil for the people that lorded before me. My ancestors. Renewal of our covenant. Never to become a profligate. This is where my soul belongsancestral-home.

Biographical

A Patriarch


Eleven hours of flight across the Atlantic Ocean. By road, I crossed two rivers; river Niger, and John’s River. My destination was across from a market, and adjacent to a town hall. Lush Iroko trees in every direction. Scattered, and casting shadows over acres of brush land.  A grazing field, decades before my life began. My father told me.

Two anthills guarding the footpath. Tall mounds from red soil dug up by ants claiming territories they did not own. I approached the mounds. Termites meandering around. New owners of the land, or mere tenants? No one had challenged their presence for years. My grandfather abandoned the space one hundred years ago. His son, my father, became the overseer until he departed twenty-one years ago.  Timing of birth anointed my only brother as the manager of the estate. A veritable lord of the land. He lorded from a distance, until he joined our ancestors the day I was summoned home. That was how my journey began.

Pieces of broken earthen pots littered the ground. Along the path to my grandfather’s house, birds congregated on several trees with ripe fruits. On one special tree, red feathered birds, and buzzing bees shared their bounty. Beaks and talons probing abundant feasts. Buzzing and gyrations on dripping fruits.

I heard rumbling noise from a distance. Drops of rain on my face. Effervescent sounds on baked tropical soil. Unique aroma emanated from the fizz. Special earthy scent of the first rain. Anticipating a tropical deluge, I quickened my pace to my ancestral house. Corrugated iron roof. Rust and red dust. Delicate floor more than one hundred years old. Preserved for eternity, if taken care of. I removed my shoes and socks. I walked barefoot where my grandfather walked. An owl asked, “who-o-o who-o-o?” Words came out of my mouth, “I’m home grandpa.” A spiritual transformation.

I knelt, and kissed the soil. Sadness overtook me. Tears rolled down my eyes. I mourned for my dead brother, alone. I remembered the last time we stood together. Mourning the death of our father.

I returned from my sojourn, a Patriarch. It is my turn to lord over the land. My birthright.

Written by Fidelis O. Mkparu (2016), author of ‘Love’s Affliction’

Biographical

Sentimental Goodbye


I remember when we were kids; secret pacts with our pinkies intertwined. “We’ll be friends forever. No, brother and sister.” We sealed our pact with a trip to the candy store. I bought for you, and you held my hand. Two innocent kids having fun. You clung to me. Exaggerated swinging hands, and skip walk, until we reached your house. A story building across from my primary school, where your mother was my teacher. From afar, I could see your parents watching us, leaning on the ornamental rail on their balcony. My third trip escorting you home that evening. A frown on your father’s face was not menacing enough for me to overlook your mother’s exuberance. It was overtly evident with her smile. Candid expressions, as they watched our summer evening ritual.

“They’re back!” your mom said. Sheer enthusiasm. In the backdrop, I heard her whisper to your father, “I wish he was our son.” I smiled. It felt good to be wanted by your parents. An option for me, in case my parents waved their rights. I knew it could never happen, but it felt good. Conceit.

When I decided to go home, you sobbed. Tears, and a look of disappointment in your eyes. “I want to live with you,” you said. You were eight. An innocent proposal. I smiled. “I’ll ask my mom,” you added.

“I’ll be back in the morning,” I said. You hugged me, and held on. Toffee breath wisped through my face. Your penchant to blow your breath on my face whenever we hugged. My spoiled little sister.

Now, years have passed, and you may have forgotten our final pact in July of 1977. At six pm, the church bell rang. We stood at the entrance to the sacristy. Only one of us could go in. It was my last time at the altar. The letter from the Dominican seminary fell from my hand. You picked it up, and read it against my will. My pastoral wish granted, but medical school had flirted with me when I was vulnerable. I saw myself in a different white robe. Not for Sunday mass, but for a daily healing. I acquiesced.

When I entered the sacristy, you chose the side door to the front pew. I watched you as the single pew by the altar welcomed my knees. My head bowed in total submission to God. I asked for forgiveness with my eyes closed. It was the end of my Dominican priesthood fantasy, and my last day with you. You were there, my little sister, to support my final decision.

When we emerged from the church, you left me standing by the door. No hugs, or intertwined fingers. From a distance, you said, “don’t let any girl break your heart, and please, come home in one piece, someday.” I watched you disappear as the setting sun blinded me.

 

Fidelis O Mkparu, July 17, 2016.

Biographical

Farewell


“My dear friend, so sweet and distant,
Take farewell from all my heart,
As takes a wid in a somber instant,
As takes a friend before a prison
Will split those dear friends apart.” –Aleksandr Pushkin, ‘Farewell’

 

There were four of us. Close friends by the standards of the time and our youth. We were first cousins. It was the 1960’s Nigeria and the Biafra war brought us together. We were youthful, but not youths. We were mere children, from three different sets of parents, but our bonds were as strong as the strings that held our shared genes together. “War children,” they called us. The most ebullient one was Dorothy. Yes, my dearest cousin Dorothy. I remember the worst day in 1967 with violent torrential rain. Dark clouds, lightning, and thunder. Howling winds that bent and broke tall trees. As the wind grew more forceful, I heard a loud noise. It sounded as if my house split open. Fear gripped me. My hands trembled as I pulled the window curtains apart, and from a short distance I saw the big Iroko tree split in half. The mighty West African Iroko tree, Chlorophora excelsa, reduced to splinters. I wondered if my house would be next. My trembling hands closed the curtains as if it would prevent the wind from doing any damage to my house.

A loud knock on my front door. My body trembled in fear.

“Open the door. It’s me, Dorothy.”

“What’s going on out there?” My father asked from his study.

“Nothing Dad, just Dorothy.”

My trembling hand struggled with the door latch. Dorothy, soaking wet, hugged me as soon as there was enough opening to let her small body inside my house. Tears rolled down her eyes as she held me tight.

“I heard the loud noise. Thought it came from here. Have to make sure you’re OK,” Dorothy said.

“Let go of me you scared little girl,” I said. She ignored me and held on tighter. I smiled.

“I’m staying with you until the rain stops,” she said as she let go of me. She walked into my room. I followed her. Unfolded shirts and shorts littered my bed. Dorothy knelt down and pulled out a suitcase from under my bed. She selected a pair of shorts and a shirt. Yes, she knew her way around my room.

“Leave my Knicker alone Dorothy,” I shouted. She smiled and changed her wet clothes. She wore my boy’s Knicker and a white shirt. Undaunted. As she was about to leave my room, she turned around and snickered. I sighed. She walked over to my father’s den. I jumped on my bed before I heard my father laugh. I jumped down from my bed and ran to the kitchen to tell my side of the story to my mother before she heard it from my father.

When the Biafra war ended in 1970, Dorothy and I moved away from each other. In 1973 I left home to attend a boarding school. We barely saw each other. I never saw Dorothy again after I moved to the US about forty years ago.

Dorothy died recently. One week before her death, she went to my father’s house looking for me. A partially deserted enclave because of the death of my parents. She sat outside the gate and sobbed. “My cousin would have rescued me if he had known,” Dorothy told our neighbors. They were worried about her mental state but did not let me know. It was only after she died that they spoke out. I was told that her husband physically and mentally abused her for three decades.

Even the strongest among us can be physically and mentally broken. Know when to ask for help. Don’t protect spousal abusers. Expose them and seek help immediately.

Farewell Dorothy. Only distance separated us, and nothing more. You are etched in my memory, and my love for you is eternal. I am sorry I was not there for you when you needed me the most.

 

Written by Fidelis O Mkparu, author of ‘Love’s Affliction’ (March 27, 2016) as a tribute to his first cousin Dorothy (2)

Biographical

My Brother, Augustine


My dearest Augustine:

I was at Papa’s house recently and it did not feel like the place I used to call home. My barefoot on the steps of the verandah did not give me the joy I used to have when we were kids. Unfortunately, it brought tears to my eyes. Desolation is a bitch, and I know her so well. God knows, I miss the fake fight we used to have by the cashew tree in front of the house. The poor tree is now gone. Even the progeny of the beautiful guava tree that ‘stooped’ by Mom’s garden is gone too. Alas, it is only me that is left to tend to Papa’s country house. Reality has been cruel to me, and hard to accept. It has been three years since your death, and I’m still acutely aware that there is no one left to call my brother.

Biographical Uncategorized

My mother


Loveseat, for only you and me. I sat next to you. Tender fingers ruffled my hair. I closed my eyes. My right ear rested on your chest. Fascinating rhythmic sounds. Your heartbeats. Intrigued. Eyes twinkled, and mouth agape. A worthy discovery, at age of five. We exchanged smiles. You pressed my head firmly to your chest. It quickens. Enthralling sounds of your heart. Perplexed by the increased rate, I exclaimed, “Mom, I heard sounds!” My first patient. First heart examination.

That was how it started. Daily heart examinations. It was you my mother. Who else could? Only you chose for me. My profession. A heart doctor. But first, your son.

“My son listened to my heart,” you said to your friends every Christmas. We exchanged smiles. On departure, instead of smiles, we cried. You wiped my tears.

I held your hand. Lowered my ear to your chest. No heartbeats. You left me. Twenty-one years ago. I cried alone. My tears never dried.

Just a minute! I still smile, each time I listen to heartbeats.

No more tears. Only smiles for you, my mother.

Fidelis O Mkparu, MD., FACC.

December 14, 2014

Biographical