Remembering Elijah Jnr
On May 29th 1995, my young brother Elijah died. He succumbed to an inexplicable feverish attack and died after one day, leaving me the lone son and the two sisters of my already widowed mother. I was only 9 and I knew immediately that is was devastating. It dawned on me that I was never going to have a blood brother. Young Elijah was only a little older than four months and in retrospect, I can now digest my mother’s pain and in deed all women who survive with a pregnancy for nine months only to deliver a stillborn or when the kid submits to infant mortality for whatever reason.
It is easy to forget an infant’s death but any family or couple who have ever lost an infant can confess it is never an easy thing to get over; both for the man and the woman. Often it feels as a sense of failure, a curse, a conspiracy by fate and so forth. Those families that have lost a family member know too well how hard it is to cope with the loss. My case hasn’t been easier, either. While I can’t tell if my sisters do miss young Elijah like I do, of late I have been harboring very inquisitive thoughts about the kid.
I have wondered how he would have turned up. He would be 17 this coming January, meaning he would be a troublesome teenager. I have questioned myself whom among my two sisters he would have taken after, both physically and behaviorally. Could be it my temperamental and conservative eldest sister? Or could it be my calm and liberal second born?
By now, if all factors remained constant, he would be under my tutelage. Possibly, he would be in high school and given they study much faster nowadays, he would be sitting for his KSCE this year. Funny how fast times move.
He would have been definitely shorter than me, since my height has defied any logical biological explanation. My mother used to tell me that may be they gave him a different kid at the hospital, every time I was naught. I used to entertain that idea greatly. But even so, my maternal side is a one gigantic lot. But I know my brother would be some where around 5’8 at most, short and a little fat. He would be a little light skinned and with a pimpled face that will clear in the fullness of pubescent. I also believe that he would have been one hairy chap, speaking in a low bass or a regulated tenor.
I would have longed established whether he was University material and offer necessary motivation to follow my academic footstep and would have ensured that he went only after excellence. I would have ensured that he never lacked in school. However, I would never have killed the poor child if he did not excel academically. I am old enough to know that we are all endowed differently, and the trick lies in detecting these abilities early enough.
Personally I have never believed in good grades as a means to success-materially, spiritually and everything for that matter in life-even though circumstances and societal pressure have forced me to pursue this very line of academic excellence.
I have had flashes of imagination that Elijah would have been an average student but incredibly talented in something and well behaved. In terms of behavior, I have absolute and unequivocal belief that given the strict religious background and coupled with my belief in good moral behavior the kid would never have had problem in coping. In terms of talent, I have often prayed that the Elijah should have loved team sport…Why?
Part of the reason I would have relished my kid bro doing well in sports would have been my ‘unathletic’ self. I am a big flop in sports. I have never participated in any known team sport, which remains the most irreversible regrettable thing in my life. As a child I would have wished to play more, do physical things like hunting and fishing but I had a circumstantially regulated childhood that playing was never in the schedule.
I played a little in my childhood when growing up in Kibera. But after moving to Kisii, there was a bit of problem fitting in with the village children who were not very cooperative. All I remember are solitary days chasing birds in my grandmother’s backyard with little success. Swimming in the river always attracted dire beating.
After my parents were all departed, I was shipped to a boarding school and any chances of moulding any sporting skills were shelved and books became the most central thing in my life. And for the better. May be I wouldn’t have turned up the way I have. So, given my kid bro would be growing at a point when I know these things, I would have encouraged the kid to play and play some more. If his passion would be computers and was on course to become a nerd, I would have encouraged that as well.
Elijah! How I miss having a blood brother. I have male relatives I have grown with who have really sufficed as brothers but blood is thicker than water. They are the men I have looked up to for bravery, wisdom and manliness. There is a sense of security when you know you have brothers. Not to say that my sisters don’t count for much. But I still would have needed this kid. For the many days when my male folks have let me down, I would possibly have counted on him. For the many days that my friends have messed me up or I have messed them up and abandoned me, I would run to him, even though young and seek refuge in his approval and love for me. Hardly do we disprove of bad behavior from our siblings. Rather we always find a way of dealing with it.
We would have been tight, definitely. For I value family so much. I have often bemoaned brothers who are separated by their wives a couple of years into their marriages and I have a couple families that I really admire the way they contain the divisive nature of wives and ensure that the established family bond outlives the benevolent and malicious wives who are always determined to separate the family. I like the strength of male brotherhood when there is love. I am a loving person and I know the kid would have had one great friend, mentor, brother, leader and hero in me.
I would have ensured that the kid had guts to approach life more confidently than me. I have a cancerous shyness that has really inhibited me from achieving my full potential. I would have given the kid even money or anything to never be afraid of anyone. I am inordinately and helplessly timid. I know the kid would be respecting me and may be thinking an occasional column in the local newspaper is an achievement, but I would have advised the kid to aim higher than me.
By now, I would be living in a one bedroom apartment with him, whereby all the electronics in the house will be his. He will be watching his movies with friends and playing computer games. If the kid was to be the laid-back, church going type, I still would have supported him and would be joining him every Saturday for the service and encourage him to join any youth movement in the church but never with the aim of bedding the women in the movement as it happens. Under my tutelage, he would have someone to brag about. The big bro, you know.
I would have ensured that the kid was well fed, well dressed, had enough loose change to carry him through and would have laid ground for him to rise to the highest of all celebrations. But why this teary piece…
Well, there comes a time in a man’s life you feel lonely. Lost. You have a void so big that neither alcohol nor any addiction can cure. So many problems, rent, bills, disease, family problems and a lot of crap to deal with. You are young but you feel that stress is consuming you. At this point you need family or a woman to stand by you. Very few women I know can stand by their men when everything is going south.
Well, I must make it clear that those are not the circumstances I am currently dwelling in. But lately I have been questioning my existence and what do I live for, exactly. My life is now full in my hands and no one calls me any more to give me any order or direction. It is a dangerous state when the only person that you are accountable to is yourself. Naturally, I have abhorred any form of restraint and control, ever since I turned 20.
Yet, you need some form of control. You need a girlfriend, or a spouse who can shout at you and you listen. You need someone higher than you who controls and helps you through the pitfalls of life. A soul mate. Some find their soul mates in great friends, and I must confess that I have some of the best friends ever the world can give. Some have great family to look up to.
For friends, I have the best. Thank God. For the family, both nuclear and extended, it is as good as it gets. Yet there is that emptiness, that vacuum that I only feel that may be my brother would have filled. The kid would have been the fuel guiding me.
Being the last born, the kid would have been looking up to me. This means that I would have had to raise my standards. I would have wished to play the father role to him and hope in me he would have found the most wonderful brother and in my two sisters, he would have known there will always someone to run to when the world proved too unfair. For when you grow as orphans, the family becomes so separated that you lose some sense of continuity that is hard to redeem. Sooner you are adults, possibly married and you remain strangers forever.
Hence, I would have wished that I stay with Elijah under the same roof forever. Whether he would grow to be his own man is something different. But I would have really insisted that even in marriage we go for one big house and live there forever. I would have loved him to boring levels and would have ensured that I have a beautiful, intelligent and graceful girlfriend to inspire the kid about standards. A girlfriend whose presence would have inspired some good discipline and he would obey her when she sends him something in the estate shop. There some women who hardly inspire anything good in our young brothers. Equally, there men who are just plain bad examples to young women growing.
Elijah. I would never have been strict on the kid but would have been harsh on him if he picked bad habits such smoking, drugs and alcohol at a young age or if he turned up one day telling me that he only gets attracted to men, it is possible nowadays. You can never rule it out. I would have encouraged the kid to date and believe in love unlike the incurable me. I would have ensured that he dates a bright chick with the bright background. Many a girl from the wrong background has disappointed me.
Not to say that the kid should have lived my life or I would have wished to be the axis upon which his world rotated but I normally believe that I would have been a wonderful brother and would even tolerate exchanging a rude word with him, occasionally…There is something powerfully bonding when brothers and sisters exchange a rude word knowingly that they are equal, whether one is providing or not. It is something I really miss.
May be you have ever lost a loved one and you still harbor many ‘ifs’, I can feel you. If you have never, thank God. The memories can linger on for eternity. I really miss my brother and invariably, I feel lonely and empty. An emptiness so big that even my closest, generous and wonderful friends have failed to fill. If only God, could show us a sign how our lost and beloved ones are fairing in the hereafter.
Here is to hope that someone will ever fill this gap and more hoping that Elijah is in heaven given he died an infant and assumedly untainted. And to hope that I will meet him as we work towards joining those who left too soon.
Miss you Elijah. Keep smiling down on me like that. Peace.