It was the summer of 2009, I was sitting in my bedroom in Houston, Texas, and extremely nervous and excited about what was about to happen. For the first time in my life, I was minutes away from meeting my grandpa Peter and grandma Grace. Most importantly, I finally got to see my only living grandpa–so I was quite nervous. My parents are originally from Nigeria, so all of my grandparents live back in Edo State, Nigeria.
I waited and waited for my parents to come home from the airport and finally I heard the back door open. I ran down the stairs with my hands sweaty and smiled when my grandparents planted their feet into our household. It was an awkwardly sweet moment for me to finally hug my grandparents because I didn’t know how to physically act. I remember thinking, “Should I shake their hands and bow? Or should I just hug them? Would it be weird to just stare at them?”
My mind was going a million miles per minute because I could finally touch my grandparents. My siblings and I greeted our grandparents with “hellos” and hugs. I could see at that very moment my grandparents had smiles on their faces happy to see us. That’s when my nervousness went away and I could finally say to my friends that I’ve met my grandparents before. It’s weird going throughout my life hearing friends speak about weekends or holiday adventures they experienced with their grandparents because I couldn’t relate to them. But, at 21 years old, I had the sense to brag and carry on about spending time with my grandparents like I was 10 years old again. For the next four years, my grandparents made trips back and forth to the U.S. from Nigeria and I have to say I became use to it. My grandfather became a pillar of excitement for me.
Born October 9, 1921, in Bini City, Nigeria, my grandfather was an assistant principal and history teacher for high school and junior college aged students. He had 11 children and eight living children from two marriages. My grandpa was married to my grandma for 53 years.
“He was a very gentle man and didn’t argue with anyone. He didn’t have money but he always provided for us. He has taught me how to be very calm and gentle,” my mother Justina Oyiboke, always said.
I would come home from work and watch my grandfather sit in the living room reading my broadcast journalism history books. He would sit for hours upon hours reading books until he was ready to take his evening walks. The walks kept him active because his type two diabetes took a toll on his health every so often. In my mind I never was realistic about how sick he was until he collapsed on the day of my undergraduate graduation in 2011. I was so excited to have my grandparents in the U.S. to see me receive my first degree, but my happiness turned up side down when I heard the news of him collapsing. For the first time in my life, I wanted all of the missed times together to be mended by him being there and he couldn’t be. I sucked up the sadness of him not being there by smiling and holding his hand when I visited him in the hospital later that day. He gradually became better during that summer, but over the next couple of years he battled a fight that continued to weaken him.
Sunday, October 12, 2014, two days after his 93rd birthday my mother called me to break the news that my Grandpa passed away from complications tied to diabetes. At that very moment, visions flashed before my eyes of my future hopes I had involving my grandpa. I prayed and hoped that one day my only living Grandfather would see me walk down the aisle and bless my hand during my traditional Nigerian wedding. Or give me one last hug and smile saying, “My daughter how are you?” In the four years I got to spend with my grandpa I became a child again. I got to laugh with my grandpa, hold his hands to feel every wrinkle and laugh at him while he randomly nodded off while watching television. I wish I could’ve had a little more time with him, but I know he is in a better place. I am forever grateful to have had the time I had with him. I was blessed because he loved me unconditionally. So, I dedicate this to you Grandpa. I will be the woman you prayed for me to be and provide the legacy you knew I would carry. Grandpa continue to be my angel reading my thoughts of you from Heaven and know that I will always love you.