My friend broke his leg. He asked me to drive him to Umoja estate, Nairobi to see his aging uncle who has prostate cancer. I really didn’t want to go. I mean, we might all get prostate cancer in old age and I didn’t want to see how that looks like. But I went because, well, friendship. And come on, the guy has one leg. Who knows if I will have both of my legs next year?
He lives in one of those old Umoja houses with a wooden fence. His uncle was slumped in a makuti chair, basking. He didn’t look like he had prostate cancer. Or even a common cold. He looked just like any old guy basking. He had white teeth and a big laugh. He was 76 but he looked better than those men in their 50s we see in bars squinting at their phones, bewildered by the very act of calling an Uber.
The first thing he asked his nephew — my friend— was, “did you not bring a drink? Were you coming to church?” Said in my mother tongue, it is hilarious and very dramatic. I liked him immediately. We sent for his favourite Hennessy, which he pronounced ‘Enes’. He cracked jokes. He told stories of his youth. His three marriages. His time in the civil service. When he laughed he threw back his head and croaked loudly, slapped his thigh, and said, “tho!” And he knew all songs by Madilu System by heart.
He gave us rotten pieces of advice that have no part in the modern world, but he delivered them with confidence, panache, and great wit. I loved him. I loved his zeal, his outlook on life.
I don’t drink Hennessy— or Enes — but I know every time I will see a bottle I will think of this old man who cast an image of fortitude and abundance of life. That’s how people should age; laughing and drinking and singing loudly to Madilu’s ‘RTC Riva.’