• Dami Afam Ade-Odiachi

How my dad is coping with social distancing - he’s picked up a hobby. Gardening by proxy.

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

16th of April 2020. Home. Papa Afam renovating the garden

My father, the dear Papa Afam, is dealing with the lockdown as well as can be expected- which is to say not very well at all. Coronic plague mandated house arrest has made him into a fiend. He acts like a wolf that’s been deprived of its freedom, hurt, irritable, likely to strike without warning. The quarantine has stripped him of his coping mechanisms: tennis, productive working days, and adventures with his rather eclectic group of friends. Even his passion for sharing fiction, semi-fiction and science fiction on WhatsApp has taken a hit.

The poor man is finding it exceedingly difficult to adapt to the new normal. Only the truly un-empathetic and the sociopathic would blame him. Each of us is dealing as best we can. The heavy thing we’re living through has stretched even the strongest of us thin. I am confident that we will prevail, that life will do what it does best, continue.

The great quarantine has mandated new living arrangements for the pair of us. I live downstairs, coming upstairs only for coffee armed with a scowl that says, “The lockdown isn’t a picnic for me either.” If I smile too much it would not be unlike him to think, “this boy, this man-child, this rocket that has failed to launch itself out of my house is laughing at my discomfort despite being an unemployed freeloader.” Sometimes he craves my company. When he does he’s unnaturally sweet. Just the other day, I can’t remember which day, all my days have blurred into one long day, he said:

“Afam, my favorite son, this Corona of a thing is quite terrible. It makes one drink quite a bit of whisky. Would you like to share the burden?”

I said: “The sort of whisky you like is beyond the natural ability of a struggling media entrepreneur.”

He looked at me defeated, and said: “Well, at least you know unemployment is an expensive habit. Since you can’t afford my whisky, let’s share the Prosecco. That’s N 5,000 or so a bottle. You should be able to afford that. I’ll send you an invoice.”

I poured myself a glass and left. There are so many issues that plague our relationship that engaging in any friendly activity is likely to end in confrontation. Still, we love each other like maniacs. Each constantly trying to fix the flaws in the other. Both unwilling to hear the bitter truths about ourselves from ourselves.

Papa Afam woke up one morning - I am grateful that this is something he does everyday, and found that he was bursting with restless energy.

“This is how people die.” He shouted.

He lifted himself from the couch he has come to call coworker. He mutters to it when he thinks no one is looking. “I don’t know what to do about John.” He whispers as if to a confidante. “This his working from home has turned to hardly working. If he is not careful it will turn into jobless at home.”

He went for a stroll through the garden and found it wanting. The ficus hedge was too high. The peace lilies were too dull. He summoned me from my room to serve as the captive audience to his lecture: Millennial gardening: How the smartphone has killed the ancient art of gardening and what we must do about it.

“I think I’ve found my next project.” He announced. “I will rebuild the garden.”

I was gobsmacked. I knew what he meant. He was about to summon a battalion to the house at a time when isolation is the pinnacle of morality.

“Very good.” I said.

We’re all dealing with this as best we can, even if we’re not doing all the things the W.H.O says we should be doing. For what it’s worth my chartered accountant father is terribly efficient. The lawn was dug up and carted away on one day. Manure was applied the next. And today, top soil was applied. For me one thing is certain. I’m moving out in June.

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