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.

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

‘San Francisco Book Review’ of Love’s Affliction

A book review by ‘San Francisco Book Review’
Love’s Affliction
By Fidelis O. Mkparu
Harvard Square Editions, $22.95, 274 pages, Format: Trade
Star Rating: 5 out of 5
Joseph Fafa, a Nigerian student, begins his undergraduate medical studies in 1977 at North Carolina College. His first day there, Joseph meets Wendy Crane, a Caucasian student. Joseph is unaware that Wendy comes from a prestigious and powerful family. Because they are medical students, Joseph and Wendy spend a great deal of time studying together, and, over time, they fall in love. But it is the late 1970s, and interracial relations only exacerbate the bigoted diatribe lurking about campus. Joseph and Wendy have plans to go through medical school together and eventually get married. But when Joseph learns that the school board rescinds his scholarship to the school’s post-graduate medical program, Joseph has to try to move on with his life without Wendy.
Rising author Fidelis O. Mkparu crafts a love story interlaced with issues that are more fact than fiction. Using elements from Shakespeare’s //Romeo and Juliet//, Mkparu aptly captures the reality of an African student seeking a better life in America; like many foreign students coming to America for the first time, Joseph may be filled with hopes and dreams, but he is alone. Early on in his debut, Mkparu zeroes in on Joseph’s emotional vulnerability as well as his naiveté – separated from the comfort of family and friends – when he unexpectedly finds himself helplessly in love with Wendy, a wealthy white girl. Interestingly, Wendy has her own issues with vulnerability, because she is desperately trying to free herself from her bigoted familial environs.
The magnetism between the lovers is immediate and strong. Mkparu does a stellar job not only developing their individual personas, but then also incorporating them within an intense need-based relationship. Mkparu underpins a constant theme of racism amid alternating scenes largely between Joseph and Wendy, but also covering other aspects of Joseph’s life as well. One striking aspect is the cultural differences between the lovers. For example, Joseph understands bigotry from a religious standpoint, because he has lived through civil war (between Muslims and Christians), plus has lost loved ones in the process. That said, Joseph has a totally different perception of the phrase “Campus Crusade,” compared to what Wendy acknowledges as a Christian revival service.
A must-read, //Love’s Affliction// is an exceptionally gripping and poignant story. While intense throughout, there is resolution – and not quite what one may expect!

‘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