Each of the four of us believes that she is my uncle’s favourite niece.
I am the only daughter of my mother. And I have two brothers. I am 9 years old. Three of my female cousins stay very close to us. And my favourite uncle, my mother’s younger brother lives in our house whenever his school is on break.
My uncle dotes on us all, his nieces. He buys us things and teaches us our homework. More than once, he had said my Aunty in school was wrong. I giggled and believed him, for Mum had told me that he is exceptionally brilliant and would graduate with a first class, whatever that is.
Whenever he is around, my other cousins come over to our place and they spend many nights. Though I love them all and enjoy their company, I believe they always spoilt my personal time with our uncle. It doesn’t matter how much we argue about it, I’m his favourite niece.
Uncle, soon, is rarely seen. Mama says he was on National Youth Slavery or Service, I can’t remember how she put it. She says he would be off for a year. But I remember she said he graduated with a first class. I clocked 11 on the day he graduated.
I miss Uncle.
Uncle soon comes home.
But he barely stays a week when he started going out before I wake up and coming back when I will be sleeping. When I confront him for deserting me, he tells me he is in a constant battle with Lagos traffic and that I should always pray he wins every time.
My cousins slip farther away from me. Our uncle, the bonding glue, is no longer as available as he used to be. All I know is that at every month end, he would call us together and give gifts. We look forward to such days.
We soon start seeing Uncle regularly again. He says he has switched jobs and has one closer to home. I am relieved. Besides, I just joined the science class and would need his help with certain subjects.
I’m sixteen now and I’ve never been more jealous.
Uncle is getting married.
My cousins are beside me in the reception hall and they are fuming too.
We got to know this woman just some months ago when Uncle came to introduce her to my mother.
When she waltzed into our lives, we knew she was going to waltz Uncle out. She tried to be a dutiful aunt, but we gave her no space. She was stealing our Uncle.
Our guess was right.
Uncle got married two whole years ago and I can count on ten fingers, the number of times I’ve seen him. He has a daughter now. And he tries to call.
I’m 20, today.
And I understand Uncle better.
With each phase of life come responsibilities that are likely to outweigh those of previous phases.
It would take a lot of strength to tackle those responsibilities and interact with people met in former phases.
Howbeit, I miss Uncle.