“My father, Agya Appiah, whose mortal remains lay before us today, was a moron”. This is how Lilly began her tribute to her late father at his funeral.
This was received with mixed reactions from the mourners. Dufie, Lilly’s little aunt, shot a surprised look at her niece. “Are you really going to do what you threatened to do?” She asked, not with words but with the expression on her face.
Aunty Maggie, Lilly’s other aunt and Agya Appiah’s favourite sister was furious! She stood to her feet but was immediately pinned back to her seat by her husband, Uncle Frank. Some of the mourners who knew the deceased stifled their laughter. They understood exactly what Lilly meant by that first statement. But, they dared not laugh.
In our part of the world, the last thing one would do is say something bad about the dead but Lilly just defied that. She paused and savored the air in the confused atmosphere. It felt right – what she just did. She could not believe that she brought herself to doing it. She tried so hard to hide the feeling of relief and satisfaction from the mourners. She kept mute and allowed them to react some more to her opening statement.
Judging from the facial expressions and gesticulations, and by her imagination, Lilly could tell what each group of people was discussing.
Abena, the town gossip, led the pack that thought Lilly was right to have said what she said. One could easily tell by how she threw her hands about that she was using two minutes to tell, to the minutest detail, everything the dead man had done wrong in his 52 years of being in existence. At some point, her voice went over everyone else’s.
“Omo oo. Omo! I mean, Omo. How?” The room went silent and everyone turned to look at the direction from which the exclamation came. And when they realized it was Abena, most of them simply chuckled and they all went on with their conversations.
Lilly could not gloss over that expletive, simply, like everyone did. She knew exactly what tale Abena was telling. It triggered a memory she had long suppressed and prevented from coming forth – the memory of the beginning of her woes with her father
When Lilly was about 6, one morning as she prepared to go to school, her father added Omo detergent instead of sugar to her tea. He was drunk. At 6.30 in the morning!
That day was when Lilly started knowing her father and the consequences of having such a person in her life. Her father took her to school and he was wearing only a “supporter” and a singlet.
She and her family became a subject of ridicule in the school, nobody wanted to be her friend and her academic performance suffered greatly for her father’s sins.
While her friends were studying at night, she, together with Dufie, was roaming all the drinking spots in the town hoping to find her drunken father in one of them. She never understood why Dufie made them start their search from the drinking spots as they almost always found him in a gutter somewhere.
Lilly became conscious of the funeral grounds again. Due to her father’s affinity with the bottles, the local church in the town would not conduct his funeral service. In fact, on the Sunday before the Tuesday when his lifeless body was found in the gutter, he went to cause a scene in the church. He interrupted the sermon and accused the pastor of impregnating Serwaa, the kenkey seller’s daughter. He claimed the pastor caused the teenager’s death by leading her to commit an unsuccessful abortion.
The church members were peeved. But for the pastor’s intervention, they would have lynched the drunken man for blasphemy against the man of God.
In fact, Agya Appiah had a reputation of calling out all the elders of the church as perpetrators of most of the evil that goes on in the community. It was, therefore, not a very difficult decision for the Church Council to decline the request of the family to bury their deceased relative. Each member of the council had been at the receiving end of the brunt of Agya Appiah’s mouth during his “Ka ne wu” (say it and die) moments.
The funeral was, therefore, a small gathering of family, friends and gossips. Yes, and gossips. Most of the people who attended went to see the kind of farewell Agya Appiah would get.
Lilly saw Dufie and Aunty Maggie talking to another group of women. They were of the view that Lilly was wrong. It was interesting to see both of them in the same group. It seldom happened. Dufie was calming them down while Aunty Maggie was edgy. Although Dufie agreed that her niece was wrong, she also thought that there was no need for them to be overly incensed about it. Lilly smiled. She wondered how those three – her father and his two sisters – came from the same womb yet one was so different.
Although Lilly did not know her mother because the latter died during childbirth, Lilly always thought her mother was like Dufie – quiet and nice yet assertive and strong. The only picture of her that hanged in the sitting room depicted such a personality. Somehow, Lilly felt that if her mother was alive, her father would not have turned out that way. So sometimes, she blamed herself for her father’s way of life.
“Bop! Bop! Bop!” Lilly hit the top of the microphone to draw attention back to her.
The group of men was the first to return to their seats at Lilly’s cue. Lilly could not make much of that group apart from noticing her father’s best friend and drinking partner, Nana Techie. He was beside himself. From where she stood, it was difficult to tell if he was sober or, as usual, under the influence of alcohol.
Gradually, everyone settled down. The room was quiet except for Nana Techie’s sobs. Everyone was on tenterhooks to find out what Lilly’s next words were.
“Agya Appiah was a moron,” she repeated. This time, the crowd did not respond. The tension was palpable.
Out of nowhere, there was a loud crackling sound. The stand on which the casket laid broke. The casket fell. It rolled on the floor a couple of time and spat out its occupant. It was as if even the world of the dead was rejecting the deceased. Everything happened so fast. Nobody could save the situation.
Surprisingly, Lilly was the first to get close to the broken casket; her microphone still in her hand. She was followed shortly by her aunts. Everyone else was glued to their seats. Many of them were still recovering from the shock of that unprecedented happening.
Lilly chuckled when her eyes met her father’s body. He was wearing a suit. She had never seen him wearing one except in pictures from his wedding day. In fact, he was wearing the same suit. Dufie did a good job of slim-fitting it for him seeing he had grown much leaner.
In life, Agya Appiah had a sad face and boring eyes. In death, he was ghostly pale and his lips were already bluish. Though his eyes were closed, he did not have the appearance of sleep. There were microscopic movements and a surprisingly healthy glow to his skin. It even looked like he was smiling.
That irked Lilly. Her imagination told her that her father was sitting somewhere in the crowd laughing hard at them – especially at Dufie and Aunty Maggie and all the other people who were trying to get the corpse back into the broken coffin.
She started hearing his annoying laughter distinctly. Her head pounded with each sound of his maniacal laughter. Even in his death, Agya Appiah was still very much a moron. How did she think for a moment that the ridicule and ostracizing will stop now that he was dead?
She could not take it anymore. She dropped the microphone. And walked out. She walked out of the funeral; out of the town and out of anything that had anything to do with her father.