Break The Cycle

“I will NEVER call my son from his room to come and hand me the remote that’s next to me like my parents did.

#BreakTheCycle”- Chike Delic Obi.


So I saw Chike’s post on Facebook about breaking the cycle and a certain mocking comment “Don’t worry when the time comes” prompted this post.


My grandfather was a smoker; actually, both my grandfathers liked to light up small sticks of rolled up tobacco and drag smoke. When my father was a boy and had dreams of becoming the next Pele, he would play football at any opportunity he got. Because he was a brilliant boy who never needed to read to top his class, his mother let him play until it was time for him to help with the evening chores- he was also the perfect child who never caused his mother to sprout a gray hair (side eyes to him and Mama *God rest her soul*). My grandfather, however, was a problem.


The man liked to sit in the cool evening breeze with fire burning between his lips, he never bought cigarettes in packets, choosing to live on one stick at a time as if he fought with quitting and lost every time. He liked to buy the sticks, one at a time- that was the problem.


He always seemed to know when the boy who became my father was going to take the game defining kick or the game changing penalty, it was uncanny how he knew just when to howl my father’s name from three houses away. The boy would leave his game, run down to his father and collect a penny, cross the road to the woman who sold sundries facing the spot where his father was trapping smokes to his alveoli, buy one stick of cigarette and give it his father, before running back to his game.


The cycle was unbroken until hostilities broke out between Nigeria and the fledgling republic of Biafra and Papa knew it was time to send his family back home, he stayed back in Nigeria until it became suicidal to continue to walk the streets of the city he loved and hated (his relationship with Lagos was complex but his stories about Lagos always betrayed the love he had for the place where all his children and grandchildren were born), he was perhaps able to stay that long because he had no Igbo name and could speak Yoruba with the scorn and derision of a native. He entered Biafra just before the Niger bridge was reduced to a memory in faded pictures- but this is not a Biafra story.


Every evening as the boy vacillated between being the cigarette provider for his father and becoming the next “Edson Arantes do Nascimento” (My father will read this so I gotta put his full name), he would swear by the heavens that he would never do two things; he would never smoke and he would never pester his children to do something that was easier for him to do himself.


In the nearly thirty years I have known the man, he has NEVER done either. My mother too 😉



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