What Happened July of Last Year

Posted by Jay in Travel on November 13th, 2017

So, I know what you are wondering, where has Jay gone? Well, guess who took an impromptu hiatus and basically fell off the social media ride?

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This woman!

The reason for my unexpected ghosting was basically that life got in the way. As it has been known to do. I was never brought up to divulge personal details to the wider public, which is part of what makes me such a crappy blogger. But the people closest to me know why I was away, and now I am hopefully back for good! Or as back for good as I ever was in the first place. I had thought about not sharing the reasons for my disappearing act, but I recently figured this: whether or not many people know, the truth will remain the same. So here goes, and please, bare with me as previously mentioned I am not one for the whole group cry and “kumbaya” scene. So it’ll probably take me a while to get to the point of all this, and for this, I apologise.

Last year July I had been invited to the birthday party of a good friend of mine. A large group of us had planned to meet up in North London to celebrate the anniversary of her birth. Many people had been able to make it, and I was able to meet a bunch of her friends. It started getting later and colder, so I said my well wishes, goodbyes and went home. I went to bed that evening and it was a rather uneventful and dreamless sleep, nothing out of the ordinary.

I had gone to work the next day as it was a Friday. I did not have any plans to go out after work so I went straight home. I still have a landline in my house, and unbeknown to me at the time, a message had been left on the answering machine. My mother called me after I had been in the house for a bit, but had not yet gone upstairs to change into my house clothes, so I still had my caliper on. She told me that she got a call on her mobile, and that the person had left a message that she was afraid to listen to. She asked me to check if we had received any messages on the house phone, to which I replied that we had. After asking me to check the message and call her back with the news, I went to the machine.

The automated voice announced that we had a new message that day, and it was from the police. The officer leaving the message had requested that we call back the police station. Calling up the station, they informed me that they wanted to come over to the house as they had some news for me that had to be done face to face. I already knew what this was about, and immediately felt sorry for both my parents, but did not have enough emotion left over for myself. I did not know how I was going to break the news to my mother, but that turned out to be more difficult than I had originally anticipated. My father called me to let me know that my mother refused to come to the house. It was as though she knew once she stepped through the front door, her world was about to be turned upside down.

I received a call from my uncle in Nigeria, and I brought him up to speed about what I had heard thus far, and that I was waiting for the police to arrive to deliver the news. He tried to advise me what to say and what not to say, so that it would cause the least amount of pain to his sister. I took it in as much as I could, but I was still pretty numb from the news I had been expecting to hear. In the meantime, I was getting calls from my father and my uncle restating the fact that my mother did not want to come home.

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In Haymarket

For some reason, I did not want the police officers to come to my house, so I gave them the address of somewhere nearby, so that we may speak outside. They had taken what felt like an eternity to show up, and I had to call them back a couple of times, just to get their whereabouts. By this time, my father had arrived and I told him that they would be meeting us outside. Two female police officers were stood with my father and I when they delivered the news

My brother was found dead in his flat.

I had been expecting this all along, especially when they insisted that it had to be done face to face. The news did not come as a shock to me, I just knew that they had to follow protocol. They needed to say it, so that it could be heard. My father looked like all the air had been snatched away from his lungs; “My son is dead…”. I pushed back a lump in my throat and thanked the officers for their time and delivering the news and wished them well. It was not as though I had not heard them, or what they had said, I just didn’t feel…anything. I went home with my father as he was still digesting the news that his eldest, his only son had been found dead and alone in his flat, just over a mile away from where we were standing.

Later that evening my mother finally came home and gave into her anguish. I did not see my father cry, but I know it was purely because he had to be strong for her. A child she had carried for nine months had died before her. A parent’s nightmare, I am told. The calls came in thick and fast, London, Nigeria, America. Everyone was calling to send their regards, planning when to come to the house and console the family.

Except, I was not besides myself with grief. I had felt, and still feel, like I was on the outside looking in. There was a family I knew that had lost their son and their brother, and I felt sorry for them. But objectively sorry, an “outside looking in” sorry. I could not relate. The front door became revolving. People came over with food and condolences. They sat with my mother as she thought of life without her son. My father was still being the head of the household and keeping it all together. On the surface, at least. I’m not sure how strong he was when he was by himself or thought nobody was looking.

I would get glances of pity thrown my way, the apologies for the loss of my elder brother. I thanked them, and prayed that we would not have to visit their homes under such horrible circumstances. The calls came and I answered them, the hugs came and I returned them. But I still felt nothing inside. I didn’t feel sad, I was not weeping. On the outside, it seemed as though nothing had changed. It was just a regular Friday that had come and gone. Life moved on and I went with it.

For those that have known me since I was quite young, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that I had any siblings, let alone an older brother. I was the quintessential only child, spoilt to the core. And if I am going to be honest, I was spoilt, nearly everything I wanted, I got it. As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, I came to London when I was five years old. My parents had worked most of their lives to ensure that my brother and I would be able to join them in the UK as quickly as possible. Have the family unit reunited, at last. Even in Nigeria, we did not spend that much time together as we grew up with different family members, so we barely spent any time together.

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Christmas in Hackney

After doing all the work, sending the money home to people to ensure that their children were looked after, only I came into the country, at first. After being separated from both of their children for so long, the moment they saw me felt like they had won the lottery. Having not been there for most of my early years, they wanted to make up for that by making sure that I lacked and wanted for nothing. Everything I wanted, I got it. The big ass Christmas tree with all the lights, decorations and presents. All the Easter eggs I wanted, enough to replace my blood with milk chocolate. If I asked for it, I got it.

Most of my early years were spent watching TV in the house by myself because my parents worked all hours of the day. Gathering up enough money to bring their other child to join them in London, and then the set would be complete. Throughout this time, I had not thought about my brother, and I am pretty sure that I even forgot that I had one, as I had spent 10 years of my life being, just Jay. Then my mother sat me down one day, she wanted to tell me that my brother was going to be coming to the country from Nigeria and that I should be excited. She told me to be excited, but I was just confused. I didn’t think about it until the day came that he walked through our front door.

“Jumoke, this is your brother”

We both looked at each other with eyes of a stranger. We were related by blood, but not much else. We did not know each other, and carried on as two lodgers living in the same place. The day to day was awkward, to say the least. I could see my parents desperately trying to bond with my brother. All the latest gear, anything he wanted cooked for dinner. All he had to do was ask, and it was his. But there was this inescapable gulf between us. My parents and I on one side, and him to the other by himself. He didn’t know how to relate with us, and any attempts that my parents made seemed forced and unbelievable. My parents would take us out to London sights, to try and forge a relationship, but it just didn’t seem to work. The easiness with which I could speak with my parents and sit with them was foreign to him. I knew that I had to try to build a bond with him but I just, couldn’t. I had no idea who he was, what he liked, what he didn’t. He was just someone who lived with us that kind of looked like my mother.

And I am sure that he felt it too, as it was not long that he had arrived into the country, that he left the house and moved out to a place of his own. He would infrequently visit the house, and it was still as awkward as ever, and we would just try to squeak out a bit of conversation before turning to face the television. The ultimate buffer. My mother and father always pleaded with me to talk to him more, and try and become closer to him. I tried, but definitely not as much as I should have. There always seemed to be a barrier that I could not break through, we had very different childhoods, so the jokes and comments I would make were lost on him. And I was always jealous whenever he would speak about Nigeria with my parents, as it seemed like they had their own private little world where I did not belong.

He had been kicked out of his first flat, and had some trouble with the law, but was never charged with anything. We later found out that he had some mental health issues, and had been prescribed some medication for this. Before he was diagnosed, he no longer acknowledged my parents as his parents. I am unsure if he ever thought of me as his sister, but I never asked. He started believing that my parents loved me more than they loved him because I came to the UK much sooner than he did. While I can completely understand why he felt this way, it was simply not the case. It was especially heartbreaking for my mother to hear this as she had always been my brother’s favourite when he was growing up, and she was with him. He was like one of those babies that was totally obsessed with their mothers and she was the greatest thing in his eyes. So it must have been especially traumatising for her to hear him denounce her.

My parents ran themselves ragged trying to save up the money to bring him over. Unfortunately, they ran into some very unscrupulous people that would just take the money and not do as they had promised. During this time, none of us had a British passport, so we were unable to leave the country. After he had spent some time alone, we started to see him at his second flat. My father would go one week, and my mother and I would go the following week. It went on like this until he started telling us not to come anymore, and that he would let us know when he was available. As he was a full grown adult, we could not make him see us, so we had to abide by his wishes. This continued until we got that call July of last year.

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In our old flat, probably 6 or 7 years old

I think about him from time to time, and I think about the life that he lived. Life was not as kind to him as it should have been. People were not as kind to him as they should have been. And I was not as kind to him as I should have been. I have been hearing stories about him since his death that showed a side to him that I never knew, that I wish I had taken the time to learn. Apparently when he was younger back in Nigeria, he would beat up the kids that would make fun of his sister that “couldn’t walk”. And he always stuck up for me like that.

I always get a little bit jealous when I see how close some people are with their brothers. While I still have not cried about his passing, I do pray that he is off in a better place. I hope that I get to hear more stories about the brother that I lost, but never really had.

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about Jayon UPDATE: As of 25/09/2015 Nigeria has been removed from the WHO's Polio Endemic List! Having been born in Nigeria, I hail from one of three countries where polio is still unfortunately endemic, the other two being Pakistan and Afghanistan. I had contracted the poliovirus before my ...Read More

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