No one understands why a seventeen year old boy like me has a seventy-three year old best friend. But then again no one shares in the memories I have of Mr. Vic or Old Man Vic for short (which is quite ridiculous seeing how it is longer to pronounce than ‘Mr. Vic’ is). If they did, they would have understood. But we are human beings, we don’t have to completely understand something to dislike it, or label it as weird or abnormal. No matter how wrong that is, it’s something I have come to accept.
When I was young, my parents used to work late into the night. Sometimes they’d be at home early enough, but usually they were always on call at irregular hours. Maybe those were the disadvantages of running your own hospital, in a period where there were more strikes in the medical sector than in any other. Because they were never home in time to pick me up from school, my elderly neighbour used to do it for them; Old Man Vic. It was years later I learnt that ‘Vic’ wasn’t even his name (He called himself Vic because his wife was called Victoria and she used to call him Victor. His real name was Michael).
I used to spend a lot of time in Old Man Vic’s house. I knew everything there was to know about him. Even random things like how he held a glass of water to his mouth with all his fingers clasped round the glass except his little finger which always stuck out. And how he hated having a single strand of hair on his head, but couldn’t get rid of his beard because it reminded him of his wife, who used to rub it. I was like family to him. And my third parent was exactly what he was.
I don’t think there are a lot of old men like Mr. Vic. He used to give me advice on how to get the girls in my school to fall for me. He even taught me how to get away with lying by not actually telling a lie, but by just allowing people to assume for themselves. Now, people would say this man was a bad influence on me, but he helped me approach life in such a practical way that I found myself always appearing more matured than my peers. Some people even say I grew up too fast.
Mr. Vic and I used to have this weekly thing going on called Special Thursdays, where we’d make a detour from the usual route from my school to his house, and do something that would make the day memorable. It was just wonderful. Mr. Vic was the most spontaneous person I’d ever met and not one Special Thursday was dull. For as long as we continued to do this, I do not recall him ever repeating an act. I remember how he went into a shop one day and bought a packet of shaving sticks which he overpaid for. The shop attendant did not say anything about it, and when Mr. Vic realized this, he drove back to the shop in that sturdy Cadillac of his that he’d kept for nearly twenty years, run in, took something, and run out. Everyone thought he had stolen something, but what he had taken was priced at exactly the amount the shop owed him. And he didn’t bother to explain himself before driving off. After all, the shop did owe him some money.
He always had the weirdest ways of teaching moral lessons. There was one time we drove out to go buy some stuff. On our way back, we missed a turn and found ourselves in the opposite direction of a one way road. The road was normally divided by moving traffic, into two lanes; but these lawless Ghanaian drivers had parked their cars on one side of the road, limiting traffic flow to one lane. So Mr. Vic, determined not to go back and seeing that there were no cars coming in his direction, seized the opportunity and started driving to the next junction where he could join a different road.
Then from nowhere this taxi driver speeds and comes to a halt in front of Mr. Vic. The driver starts yelling at the ‘old man’ to go back, because it’s a one way road. He says it in a demeaning manner, and this causes Mr. Vic to laugh really loudly. Mr. Vic turns off the engine, relaxes in his chair, tells me to lock my side of the door, and starts playing music on the radio; He’s not about to go anywhere. We remain in this position for about twenty minutes, and finally the taxi driver gives up, reverses and then passes the junction. Mr. Vic also reverses, and gets out of the one way road. I’m sitting there perplexed when he explains simply, “That’s no way to talk to an old man.” And in that one simple sentence, Mr. Vic taught me respect.
I could go on and on about the adventures Mr. Vic and I had (there are a whole lot) and as a matter of fact I do- every day, when I go to visit him. He can’t remember anything about everything. They say it’s retro-something amnesia. But, I know I can cure him. So I help him remember. Most times it doesn’t work; he just looks at me like I’m not even there. But occasionally, his eyes light up, like he’s trying to recollect happy moments. And it’s those moments, and what Mr. Vic has done for me in the past that keep me coming back to the house. Okay, that and maybe the fact that his granddaughter is my age and quite the looker. Maybe we could even get to know each other better. After all, she loves her grandfather as much as I do, or more.