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A few days ago, exactly 25 years to the date, I came back to Africa.
I was born in Africa but for some reason or the other, I never went back. Out of sheer coincidence, I realized the date and thought “oh my God – it’s been 25 years!!”
As I was flying, I remembered a person from my childhood. I used to call him Pa Cole (which means Grandpa Cole). Pa Cole was a 6 or 7 foot huge ferocious African man, and I was a little midget of a child. He was built like a body builder, and he would pick up and toss people as though they weighed like feathers. There would be days Pa Cole would take me to school and I would get so happy to see him. Those were days when the country had unrests or turmoil, and chances of kidnapping were high, but I was too young, innocent and naive to understand that. He would pick me up in his arms from the car and carry me to the gate of the school, and would stand there and watch me till I got into class. When school would end and I would come out of class, he would be there – without fail – waiting for me. He would pick me up, and carry me back to the car and drop me home.
Pa Cole would tell me stories, sing African songs, but most importantly, made me feel safe without me even realising it. I remember during a freak storm, he wrapped me like a baby in his coat to protect me from the pouring rain. I remember when I busted my head open at home, he came and took me and my family to the hospital during a country-wide curfew (since a coup was happening), and held me whilst I threw up. He found the doctors to stitch my head up (probably bullied the whole doctor and nursing team knowing him!).
I remember the day I left Africa, he went with us to the airport, and this big man hugged me and cried. I kept telling him – Pa Cole I will come back, not knowing I was leaving for good. Unfortunately I never went back.
There are days, when everything overwhelms me, and I miss Pa Cole. I want to go back to being that little kid, and run to him, knowing that he would protect me and keep me safe. This giant man, whom everyone was scared of, had a heart of gold. I don’t know if I ever thanked him for protecting me and putting my life before his at that time, but today, I feel completely humbled, blessed and full of gratitude. Pa Cole is still alive today, in his late 70s or early 80s, and I would love to just go back – even for a day – and give this man a big hug. Thank you Pa Cole.