It’s been almost a couple of months since I graduated from University having completed my degree in French & German! I have letters after my name now!!! The day was pretty much perfect with the weather reaching 33 degrees, which is astonishing for UK weather. When I look back on my graduation day, what truly made it a spectacular day was the presence of all my loved ones there, my very colourful entourage which included my parents, sisters, a couple of my aunts, an uncle and an incredible lady I’m proud to have as my grandmother. If it weren’t for my grandmother, there was no way I would have walked across the stage that day. Cliche, I know, but once you hear the story of this inspiring woman you’ll understand.
My grandma, who I’m named after, was widowed before she was thirty. My grandfather suddenly passed away and she was left with six children to look after. For many women in her situation in that part of the world, they probably would have found themselves married the following year due to the limitations set on women by the society. However, my grandma is not your typical Nigerian woman. She went on to raise her six kids as a single mother without the help of anyone, particularly without the help of any man. She worked as a nurse, before going on to complete a degree, something very much unheard of about Nigerian woman back in those days. She soon began to work as a civil servant, supporting herself and her six children, sending them to the best school in the city, and building several homes from scratch all with her own money along the way. As time went on, she was able to send my mum and two of her sisters and her brother over here to England to boarding school. At the time, this was something that was for Nigeria’s elite; for the children of diplomats and rich business men, and definitely wasn’t something that a woman would typically achieve, and definitely not alone.
Four out of six of her children, including my mother ended up settling here, completing their studies, building their careers, getting married and raising their children here. If it weren’t for her sheer determination and hard work in trying to provide the very best for her kids, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here where I am today, nor would my sisters and cousins, with my achievements under my belt.
Sadly, almost ten years ago my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. When I first got told she had Alzheimer’s, I just thought that she would experience some memory loss and that she would just forget things every now and again. But obviously I was not fully aware of the severity of the illness. At this point in time, she’s still very physically strong but her memory is pretty much gone. She doesn’t recognise any of her family and I haven’t heard call me by name for years. While it’s been challenging to watch this independent, gracious, caring and extremely generous woman lose certain abilities over the years, I am grateful for the fact that she is still here with us today, that she was able to watch her eldest grandchild graduate, and that despite not knowing who I am anymore, that she still laughs and smiles when she sees me.