Love Gymnastics


“Sitting in the outdoor cafe, the sun finally set. The clouds grew darker. We ignored the rumbling of the night sky, and the parallel bar gymnastics of the lightning. Flashes of light in all directions. My heart began its own flip flops. An emotional gymnast. Even the rain could not put out my fire, as I watched your eyes undress me.” ~ Fidelis O Mkparu (2016), author of ‘Love’s Affliction’

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.

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)

A Special Day


I woke up this morning feeling happy. Maybe more excited than my usual Saturday morning. Exhilaration. Yes, I am pumped. Sunny, breezy, enchanting, and hypnotizing sort of morning. The type of morning I shared with my parents decades ago. The early years of my life. The 1960’s. Daily morning tea. Brewed in a special teapot and meticulously poured by Virginia, my mother. Her beautiful teapot. Only special hands handled such ornament. Rare hand created China. Of course, it’s an ornament. She displayed it on a cabinet when not in use. We admired it, but never touched it. Mother would have died if we broke it.

Every Saturday morning after tea, we drove to our country home outside the bustling commercial city of Onitsha. My mother would make sumptuous feast. Smell of curried rice with exotic herbs sent out invitations to our neighbors. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. The power of wind delivery system. Instead of tea, she served lagers, stout, and ale beers. No wine for lunch. For the few alcoholics amongst our guests, my father brought out his priced Schnapps. The green square bottle. Only the owner poured the content into small liquor glasses. Most of the time, after the last drop of the fiery brew went down their throats, I heard sighs. Sighs of relief, or sadness? Well, only the alcoholic knew what he felt. Was it because Dennis, my father, would only allow a shot of his schnapps at a time? However, there was one consolation. Although my father did not drink, he served the finest liquor to his guests.

The children settled for exotic fruits plucked directly from trees that littered our estate. Passion fruits, Guava, Papaya, Mango, and some I never knew their names. It was noticeable that my father was an amateur horticulturist. Life was simple and memorable.

One day in early part of 1967, after the military coup in Nigeria, we lost everything we owned. Bank accounts, stocks, and bonds were gone by fiat. We also lost our house in the city. We started over from nothing. My father traded his cream-colored tailored suits for farm clothes. We persevered. We even prospered by local standards. I learnt the value of hard work from that experience. “Only dead people give up,” my father would say. You are right Dad. When you are down, please never stay down. Lift yourself up and keep on trying your best.

On this day, August 15, 2015, the feast of Assumption of the Virgin Mary, I doff my cap to you Mom and Dad. I hope you are enjoying the benefits of your hard work on earth in God’s kingdom.

back of book 1

Fidelis O Mkparu

My Obsessions


Sunday mornings affect me in a special way. The effect is more profound when there are sunshine and blooming flowers in my garden. Enchanting flower beds outside my windows and buzzing bees. Who said the bees are dying off?

Rejuvenation starts with sunshine and a gentle breeze. I opened my back door this morning and stepped outside. Prickly sands reminded me of my feet nakedness. Who needs slippers? Elated state takes away your sense of reasoning. It’s true. Unfortunately, there was no hammock to lay my body. I walked to my parked car in the driveway before I wandered back inside the house. Don’t know why I did so.

“Opera this morning, or chamber music?” I asked. Yes, I speak to myself. It doesn’t worry me. Worrying about insanity does not help the afflicted. I’m sorry. I mean to say, the mentally disturbed. Wrong situation for fancy words. In my own defense, I blame my parents. After all, children inherit their quirks from their parents. Really? Of course, I am right. Look at poor me. Dennis and Virginia are responsible for all my follies. Should I have said foibles? Who cares? I have both shortcomings.

May I borrow some of your time to explain my position? I could not remember how old I was, but it was in the early nineteen sixties. Maybe I was four, or five years old. One day, my father brought home a burnished black car. He said, “Isn’t my ‘Austin of England’ beautiful?” A monstrous bundle of metal, but my tender eyes glistened. Sorry Dad, it was not beautiful. Imposing car frame with big rounded fenders is not my definition of a beauty. One consolation for you Dad, it had testosterone sprayed on it. You grew taller to me that day. You are right. My eyes played tricks on me again. To impress me more, you invoked the rain that afternoon, and raindrops on the car glistened in the sunshine that followed. I fell in love with your beast. Sorry to tell you my Papa, fifty years later, I am still obsessed with black cars. Testosterone laden black cars, of course. It was your fault. You only told me to avoid fast women.

Eventually, I belted my body down on the car seat and took a ride for you Dad. Listening to the roaring engine, I wondered who needs Opera when your car sings deep bass.

When you are afflicted, you resign to your fate.

Fidelis O Mkparu

‘Love’s Affliction’ introspection


Some pre-publication reviews of my book, Love’s Affliction, suggest that it is about the life of the author. I chuckle when I read emails pleading with me to “come clean” and tell the truth about the special love affair I supposedly had in undergraduate school that prompted me to write the book. I am aware that once I release Love’s Affliction on March 17, 2015, it would belong to every citizen of the world who has interest in owning, or reading it. Reviews to follow, positive or negative, excite me, even before they are articulated. Will the new reviews suggest that Love’s Affliction is an autobiography?

Love’s Affliction is about a special relationship between two college students trying to understand the meaning of love and commitment. How will Wendy Crane, the protagonist’s lover, resolve her conflicts? Love’s Affliction depicts vividly a clash between romantic love and family commitment.

Although Love’s Affliction is a love story, more importantly, it is about perseverance. An account of Joseph Fafa’s desire to succeed against all odds. It details his aspiration to be exemplary and the obstacles he encounters.

Love’s Affliction deals with limitations of romantic love. Comfortingly, it tackles the limitations with compassion. Embrace Love’s Affliction and be rewarded with fulfillment.

A tale of Love and Acceptance. A fiction.

Fidelis O Mkparu

March 15, 2015

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