Today I wish to answer a simple question. What is the most important relationship in the life of a man? For many the answer is simple, his family. The one group of people who would ideally always love him unconditionally, hold his hand when he needs them and allow him to be there for them as well.
Sometimes, I agree with these people that family is indeed the most important relationship and it becomes even clearer to me on days like yesterday when my cousin was getting married and I went to his dad’s house. It was full of people attending to various matters as though their lives depended on it. In many ways, I guess their lives did depend on it; they were playing their respective roles in symbiotic play where no one was the loser. I looked at my uncle and I could see in the way he smiled that he sits back at quiet times, thankful that he had a wife and five children, four of whom were married with children and present at the house; that he had his five siblings, and two of whom were there that day with their wives and children, all to make this day easy and joyful for him. His wife had passed earlier that year but her sisters and their children were in his house too, preparing to extend their reach to bring in another woman, his son’s wife and by so doing enlarge this family.
There was so much joy in the loud voices that barked orders at the caterers, in the strong arms that carried the gifts and wrapped the tubers of yam in preparation for the engagement. There was peace in the noise the children made as they ran around the big house, playing and occasionally jumping into grandpa’s welcoming lap. There was contentment in the way the older women sat together upstairs talking about this wedding and that time when things were simpler; passing down knowledge to the younger wives who listened patiently while they braided each other’s hair.
I sat there that day and for a very long moment I needed to have that too. A bustling home filled with children and wives. I sat there telling myself that when everything else fades, when I grow old and my wanton desires of youth leave me, this is all that will be left; my family. And it is important to have that, to have people around me when I need them.
My cousin and I were not so close, we hadn’t spoken for years but it was his wedding so I hopped on a plane down to Lagos, paid 9,000 naira for the aso ebi, donned my hat and worked my ass off to make sure his wedding was a success; because that is what family does. Family shows up, family stands by one another, family sees family through. It is indeed the most important and that is why many people when faced with the difficult choices bend towards sacrificing their inner desires to continue to enjoy this. But for me, I haven’t grown strong enough to do that yet. My heart still longs for the unreasonable ideals of acceptance and truth. To be amongst the people who know and love me as I am; not just people who show up and do what family does. The men I have loved cannot replace my family, the friends that know me will never be there the way my mother is day after day with prayers and advice. They just can never be my family.
I remember writing a poem about one census day in Lagos and in what is a very rare occurrence; my whole family was together in my parents’ house. I, my brother, my sister, her kids, my mum and dad sat outside even though there was light. We talked and laughed about old days, drank Coke and I moved a car for the first time and it was simple and it was wonderful. There was no pretense, no forced laughter, no need to even think. We just sat there talking and being a family. I don’t ever want to lose that.
But even if I establish that I do not want to lose the family I have, the question becomes: what kind of family am I going to make. Till this day I still don’t know. On one hand I don’t want to drag some poor unsuspecting woman into my sordid affairs, initiate a relationship based on lies and continue to lie forever. I tried it and it doesn’t work. But I don’t want to be that uncle everybody wonders about either who is 40, very well to do, still unmarried and no one knows what is going on with him so they make excuses for him and avoid the deep conversations, for sake of peace. The last alternative is to lose all that I have now, by coming out and going it on my own.
When I find myself between a rock, the devil and the deep blue sea as in this case, all I can do is stand still. That is what I am doing right now. Standing still; watching things unfold; holding on to what I know to be true; enjoying whatever I can today; believing by tomorrow things will somehow become more apparent, that something will give and I won’t get to lose everything.
Copyright © 2011 The Ant Farm.