‘The departure of life eclipses everything’. When a death is good, the room is filled with peace, and all the pain, that went before it is forgotten. Where there was mystery and anxiety, there is knowledge, where there is fear and doubt, there is love. And when asked how to move on afterwards, I whispered, ‘I just want to DO IT (life) again with you, Papa-mi’.
‘Narratives of my Father’ – Yinka.
With Loving memories, this is how I want to remember my beloved father, Arthur Kayode Gansallo. To others, He was known as Daddy, AK Gansallo or Brother Surveyor, but to me, I have always called him “Papa-mi” ‘which made our relationship very personal and special. Sometimes even indicating affection that’s cautiously guarded with youthful zeal implying “mine only”.
While growing up, I have always been reminded of my resemblance to his late mother, Madam Emily Gansallo (nee Coker) fondly known as ‘Mama Upstairs‘ (I guess the fondness emerged from that maternal-reflection I carried with me while around him).
She usually sat at one of the bow-windows on the top floor of her glamorously decorated baroque Brazilian architectural influenced parlor; with exuberant and individualistic styled doorways, brightly painted facades and chunky concrete columns, flight of polished wooden steps with brightly colored panels and delicate floral plaster motifs of the Brazilian artisans!
Yeah, my late grandmother was always strategically located in such a way that she had a bird’s-eye view of both Tokunboh and Oshodi streets, at this perch she was able to view the comings and goings and ready to call out anyone who’s out of order….I grew up learning those boundaries too from my father.
Where do I start? All through my life, He’s always been my shield, especially where I usually seek shelter when I am in trouble due to my smart mouth or need to escape some sibling scolding or from my mom’s non-stop-nagging about why I needed to step up my game and claim the 1st position in class!
I usually run to hide in his home-office, where the entrance marks no-allowance to violence and the red sea for the offended-ones chasing after me! He always protected me from altered hot slaps, or sibling-beatups, listened with an open mind to my talk about life, my dreams and my future plans, and gave re-directions without being overbearing.
From my 1st primary school best literature award, his glowing face with his Polaroid camera, proud as ever! Even encouraging me to buy more books at CMS bookshop to read as we drove home from school that day and thereafter enrolling me at Teacher Pat (of St. Mary’s Private-afterschool) lesson for mathematics clinic! I remember him forbearingly tutoring me for common entrance exam and patiently waiting to pick me up at St. Gregory’s college after the long yearly 5k-Corpus Christi procession!
From the set of French curves he gave me when I informed him I was taking Technical Drawing in school and aiming to be an Architect trailing after him; to Alliance Français French school when I changed my mind and wanted to study foreign language instead, He encouraged me all through, emotionally and financially.
My 10th birthday party, where He officially became the DJ and MC, even though He practically played his own favorite music (FELA) all through, we still had a blast;
Oh, my 1st day away from home at FGGC Sagamu, the panic attack once we crossed the toll gate and the long dreary drive in his car as He continuously encouraged me about the unknown, Apparently, He had labelled all my belongings, boldly scripted in his fine cartographic hand writing ‘A.O. Gansallo’ (Anthonia Olayinka Gansallo) even on my school sandals, my red checked house wear and school bag legible enough for other students to be amused or read from afar.
He never missed any visiting days or our usual stop over at Uncle Ladipo’s (his brother) at All Saints school Ikorodu to review my report card and make plans for summer school! Phew!
I remember my 1st visit to a fancy restaurant, at Eko Hotel when I was just 9 with him, my 1st table etiquette training and tableware placement. Our religious visits to CFAO Moloney supermarket to buy chocolates, biscuits and of course Benson & Hedges and thereafter our painful visits to the dentist together.
Our weekend drive to Museum Kitchen, to listen to high life music with a sip of fresh sour palmwine! or to Bar Beach to watch the sun set or to see Grand Uncle Akin Coker at his beach house on Elf Estate, off Lekki road in the early 80’s (which was formerly Maroko swamp). Or our visit to the stadium to watch Abiola Babes and Iwuanyanwu Nationale soccer match at Onikan!
I got to learn a lot about land acquisition, families with landed properties and sometimes history behind land allocation, all mostly within Ibeju Lekki & Eti Osa Local govt. as I was usually in his company during some site visits and very inquisitive about his passion for his job, drawing up maps and calculating numbers nonstop!
My 1st & 2nd graduation from college and His advice to keep on aiming higher, not to stop there, to be all I can be, as a daughter, a wife, a mother and a woman who stands out in her generation.
One funny thing is that, He actually knew and remembered all my girlfriends by name, and would approach them when they come to visit and usually engaged them in ‘girly’ conversation, even decoding our secrets codes over the telephone! They usually call him, Mr. Ganzy of which He usually smiles at and could sit with them for hours talking about his favorite movies – especially Gremlins!
I can never forget the big smile of accomplishment and joy on his face on my wedding day, 20 years ago, as He proudly walked me down the aisle, clutching the marriage certificate afterwards close to his heart and looking at me with that fondness I grew up knowing.
I thank God that I can proudly say today that I have been so blessed to have him as my Father and friend, ‘would do it again and never could have traded him for anyone! I am who I am today because of the devotion and love of my parents, more especially my father’s undying love and His belief in me.
Last time we spoke, just after his 85th birthday in January, He muttered under heavy breaths…
“Yinkus baby! I am still here, even though all my friends are gone, I am counting down to your next graduation commencement” and I had joked with him saying
“Ah, Mr. Ganzy, you are still very young, I will be back home soon, to complete that Autism clinic project we’ve always talked about”….we both laughed over that as He hung up the telephone.
And those were his last words to me.
He was a fantastic man. He was a great father, loving husband, caring brother, nurturing grandfather and dear friend to many people. To me he was more than just my father; he was my friend and my hero.
I always admired my father and had a great deal of respect for him. I pray the everlasting love and peace of God dwell with him in his new abode.
Eternal Rest, Grant Him O Lord!
Your loving daughter!
Yinkus Baby (as He fondly calls me).