Friday night May 20, was like any other. My wife Annie and I had enjoyed a nice summer BBQ with friends that evening and everything seemed very normal from my perspective. As we got ready for bed, I thought I noticed Annie frantically sending text messages. It did not strike me as unusual. I was tired so I fidgeted and soon fell asleep. I usually check to make sure our front door is locked before we fade off to sleep, and I did just that on this night. In what seemed like twenty minutes, she was up with her phone again. The light from her screen interrupted my sleep enough for me to barely notice, this was unusual. She usually falls asleep before me.
All of a sudden she was up and in the kitchen, while I was somewhere between deep sleep and confusion, I heard other voices in our home. It was like a dream, I had to be dreaming. No one would come by at this time of night, on a Friday night! My desire to sleep pulled me into unconscious rationalization. I made sense of it in a way we all do when we are unwilling to engage.
Through the slight crack in the door I noticed a man- A man whose silhouette and walk I recognized. Yet, the fog of sleep held onto my brain. Could it be who I thought it was? It can’t be him. I am dreaming again. I am having one of those flashbacks mixed with wishful thinking topped off with some familiar memories. My brain desperately tried to make sense out of what my eyes thought they were seeing and my mind was struggling to interpret. Somewhere in my brain, there seemed to be a breakdown in communication.
Then my room door opened, and the light shone in my face, and the figure of this man, stood there, about six feet from me. I quickly went through my mental checklist; I had locked the door, I had checked the windows, we live on the second floor, and I definitely turned off the lights before bed. How did this man get into our apartment? And where is Annie? Those were all surface level questions floating in my foggy brain. As the man stood in the doorway of our room, the contrast between the light in the kitchen and the darkness of the bedroom was stark. The man’s body blocked most of the light, and it looked as if he was the product of my imagination. My eyes were still shut as Annie entered and whispered, “Marcus, someone is here to see you.” This is not real, I told myself. Then he spoke, and I was jolted awake! “Jungle…Marcus!” The Liberian accented pronunciation of both names alerted my brain that it wasn’t a dream. But it had to be, because my father has been dead for almost 26 years! Here he is standing in my bedroom in Hamilton, Massachusetts on a Friday night! What?! Pa!? No it can’t be.
Annie had kept a secret and surprised me once again. My brother Lemuel had come with his family to see me. I haven’t seen him in a few years. He still lives in West Africa. What a great surprise. I smiled, dropped my head back into my pillow as my brain finally connected the dots from earlier that night. I loved it. Because I had sprung a semi surprise on my brothers when I visited Liberia 6 years ago, they have returned the favor over the past few years. It is so great to see my brothers when I get to. The love is strong, and the reconnection after years of being apart because of war makes us appreciate the times we get to see each other. We enjoyed the weekend and it was a joy to have my brother there as I talked about the book and our family. We have tried to make the best out of our situation. Like most refugees, our families are scattered all over. My brothers and I have not been on the same continent in over 20 years, in the same country for almost as long but we are not alone in this. Many of my fellow Liberians and other refugees are going through a similar situation. These are some of the unintended consequences of war.