Monday, April 23, 2012

A Tribute to My Mother at 50

My mom was 50 yesterday, and I wrote her the following for her birthday... Please read, and comment if you like what you see...

I remember going to write my first ‘external’ exam ever. I was three, and my parents had insisted I was going to Primary One straight. My dad insisted I would cope – and the school management disagreed, so they set up an exam to test my ability. I remember my mom telling me not to write my “a’s” like “9’s” (a big problem, if you have ever taught a child to write), and she told me she had no doubts I would pass. Of course, I passed – for my mom – and got into Primary One on my fourth birthday.

I remember going to school hungry. I was six, and my dad was off on a missionary trip to the North. The previous day, we had got a carpenter to remove a 50kobo coin from underneath a window sill so we would have enough money to buy a cup of garri (N2.50 in those days). There was no money, so my mom had sent me off to school – with no food. I remember we had cried and cried together that morning, and reluctantly – very reluctantly, she let me go. I remember her walking into my class just before break-time was over that day, with a cob of boiled maize. I remember taking hours to finish that cob, eating every kernel individually – immensely grateful for my mother.

I remember my torn shorts, back in Primary Four. I was eight, extremely small, and perceived by classmates to have a deficiency. I had worn the same uniforms for three years. My shorts were torn, and every morning I would look for blue pants – so that holes in my blue shorts would not be so obvious. I remember Uncle Nana beating me with his thick cane for not standing to answer his question in class, unaware that I was only trying to save myself another day of playground ridicule. I remember my mom borrowing money, to make me two new blue shorts.

I remember getting admitted into Loyola College. I was nine. It was a Wednesday, and in those days – they still delivered the letters to your house. I ran into the house, overjoyed and waving my letter – to meet my mom crying. Some insensitive person (who I still saw today at her birthday party) had ridiculed her for our inability to afford a ‘better’ private school. I remember hugging her, and telling her through my tears that I would make her proud someday; telling her I would never be at a disadvantage because I attended a public school.

I remember writing the entrance exams into Wesley College. I was eleven, extremely brilliant by the standards of Loyola College – but scared to be compared to the best from schools across Oyo State. Before I left with my dad, my mom called me to her room – and gave me one of those hugs only a mother can give. She told me she had no doubt that I would pass. She told me how she fought to stay awake after three days of labor so I was not mistakenly swapped for another child at the hospital. She said her son, her own son, could not fail. I remember going to check the results, starting from the bottom and working upwards – because I could not imagine anything better. I searched for twenty minutes, only to find my name right there, at the top.

I remember writing UME. I was fourteen, and it was her 44th birthday. Again, just before I left the house with my dad – she called me to her room. As I apologized effusively for not being able to buy her a gift – she told me that fate had given me the chance to give her the best of gifts. She told me to go, and pass my UME. She reminded me of the person who had disparaged her for our inability to afford a private school – and told me this was my chance to prove that person (and the rest of them who didn’t have the liver to say it) wrong. She asked me to go, and pass my UME once. I went, and I did – entering university six weeks after my fifteenth birthday.

I remember that Saturday in Part Two. I was sixteen. I had Statics (MEE205), Drawing (MEE203), and Thermodynamics (CHE201) assignments to turn in on Monday. As I walked towards Yellow House to get help with my Statics assignment, somewhere around Moremi – I broke down in tears. I have always been a very emotional person. I was tired of Ife. The stress was killing me. I was under the misimpression that I was too young to have to go through all that. And I did the only sensible thing that came to mind. I called my mom. She did not judge, or criticize. A few weeks before, she had gone back to school at 46 to get a Masters Degree in Managerial Psychology. She started to tell me about how much stress she was going through balancing family with work and school. We started to cry together, and we both went away from that call stronger. Needless to say, I did go on to graduate from Ife.

I remember my first Sunday as General Secretary of UJCM. I was just over nineteen. I was going to speak to 7000 people, from various backgrounds and with varying expectations. To make matters worse, I was taking over from someone I thought was the best General Secretary ever. I was scared, to say the least, and my heart was thumping hard. So I called my mom. She laughed when I told her, and started to tell me about when I would give testimonies in church when I was seven and make everybody laugh. She told me talking and writing came naturally to us, and she was sure I would have no problems. I went up that stage in Amphitheatre, my right hand holding the mike – my left stabbing the air and punctuating my sentences – and proceeded to stamp my own style on that office.

I remember my fourth, and final interview at P&G. I was just over twenty. I was scared shit, because I felt I was too young to be considered for the position. I called my mom the night before, and for once – she could not reassure me on the spot. Turned out later she was going through a lot that night already, and I had only compounded the matter by calling her. My mom proceeded to pray, practically all night. She called me the next morning, and told me the interview was a formality – that I had the offer already. I calmed a little, and went and had my best interview of all time. And by God’s grace – I did get an offer, shutting the lips of her friends who had abused her eleven years before – and whose private-schooled children had either dropped out of University or written UME four or five times.

Time will not permit me to tell of the days when we read Macbeth and Julius Caesar together when I got back from school, finishing both books at seven, to take my mind off the fact that we only had enough food for dinner (and not lunch). Space constrains me, or I would tell you of my mom teaching me to type, achieving speeds of 140wpm for a brief period when I was nine. I never did learn Shorthand though, try hard as she did. I wish we had more time, and I would tell you of the many businesses we started, the greater percentage of which failed. Yet, she was never afraid to try something new – so long as it would give her more money to take care of me and my siblings.

I wish I could tell you of my mom selling every single piece of her gold – her inheritance from her goldsmith father – to pay the bills when I got grains of local rice in my lung. I would tell you of her carrying me from church to church, refusing to give up on me – when numerous hospitals had turned us away. I would tell you of my mom wearing the same clothes every Sunday for months on end – so she could save enough to buy me a carton of books on a variety of themes for my tenth birthday gift. I would tell you a lot more, but then – tears gather – making it nearly impossible to see my computer screen.

When we did not have any money, or food, I had my mom – and that in itself was enough. I love my mom, and there’s no person in this world that comes close.

Please do me a favor, and get up out of your seats (in your mind), and give it up for my mother – a great woman, who has motivated and pushed me to challenge societal norms, and achieve (continually) excellence early; who by God’s grace is 50 today – who God will keep till very much longer; Taiwo Olubunmi Koye-Ladele: my mother, and my love.


  1. Now, I've gotta say this was nicely written and I do enjoy reading your blog posts. How have you been, brother?

  2. I just can't get enough of this story, each time I hear or read it, it seems like I haven't heard or read it before. It gladdens my heart that one day, by God's grace, I'll become part of her family...kelby

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  6. I just can't get enough of this story, each time I hear or read it, it seems like I haven't heard or read it before. It gladdens my heart that one day, by God's grace, I'll become part of her family...kelby

  7. You have an amazing story and yoyr mum is a wonderful, one-in-a-billion kind of mother.Happy birthday to mummy.Cheers

  8. God bless you mom for all the price you paid for us all. again and again, may God bless you and cause the fruits of your womb to soar beyond your wildest dreams. may earth and heaven never cease to reward you, ma. we love you beaucoup beaucoup

  9. so heart touching, may God bless ur mom, nd my mom nd so many REAL mothers out there...

  10. may God continue to bless you &your mom & all your family.
    your mom is Proverbs 31 in the flesh xxx

  11. I'm reading this 3 years after, and tears still gather in my eyes. Mummy, we love you