The Colonel’s gardens. Epilogue.


Joy and sorrow.

Birth and death.

“The common lot of mankind”. Old Will would have said.

Only a few months ago I wrote the story of a ceremony I’d witnessed as a child in Africa: the presentation to Society of the Colonel’s son. In the immediate years after Independence, the Colonel (whom I named Boubakar) and his wife (I called Asmatou) were great friends of my parents. The ceremony followed old African customs to the letter, including whispering the little boy’s name in both his ears before saying it out loud. I hadn’t heard the little boy’s name. Or I’d forgotten. I was just a child myself and all those events took place half a century ago. If you haven’t read “The Colonel’s gardens”, click on the link below, lest you… don’t catch what follows. 🙂

Refreshed your memory? Good. Now sit back and read carefully. Mid July in Paris. While struggling with other issues, I was browsing through my mails on my phone. One caught my eye. A comment on WordPress:

“K. Diaby (The little boy’s sister) Has commented…”

I thought: No way. Diaby? That was the Colonel’s name. Though a not uncommon name in West Africa. “The little boy’s sister”? Impossible. I kept on reading:

“The story about colonel Bubacar and his baby boy has reached home. Asmatou and the baby boy are well and living in Dakar Senegal. Thanks for remembering.”

Before I could… get over my surprise, I realized there was another comment, from a new “follower” (“sharer” is the word I prefer as you may know), a gentleman called Lamine Diaby:

“Dear Sir, I trust you will very soon understand how much your story has touched me. I’m the then baby boy who never knew his father and who’s missed all his life this father figure who’s always been praised by whomever mentioned his name. My mother Aïssatou (Asmatou) became a doctor and never remarried, she just turned 80, three days after I turned 50 last month. She retired in Dakar in 1999 after a career with WHO. Thank you for sharing these memories that I can only imagine. Kind regards.”

I now know the little boy’s name, Lamine, and his sister’s. Both are alive and well, probably have children of their own, and their mother, my mother’s friend, is alive and well after a long career at one of the greatest organizations in the world: World Health Organization.

The story took 50 years to come round. About a little baby in Africa. Written in English in Mexico, and posted through billions of posts. I have virtually no contacts left in Africa except for a handful of friends, but the story of the Colonel’s gardens has come home and it is incredible.


The Colonel’s gardens, Conakry, Guinea, West Africa. Mid sixties.




61 thoughts on “The Colonel’s gardens. Epilogue.

  1. To hear a reply from yesterday it seems, writing is like opening a grand magical box, once you let the words escape, you never know who they will reach ❤ awesome ending Bryan ❤

  2. Couldn’t stop a tear from falling, again. I had read those comments at the time (WP notifies me) and already felt something beautiful happened. You have a good place here, cher ami. Let all surprises be nice for you!

      • Oh yes, true stories – more so when witnessed live – are much more powerful than any book or movie.
        There’s always a positive atmosphere here, even when things are not going very well. This time everything worked out just fine for the then-baby and mother. You know, this world is really craving for true, real-life happy-ends. 😉

        As for me, I’m slowly getting there. Couldn’t find a suitable new sink anywhere in this town so I attempted a fix to the old one and if everything looks alright tomorrow I may mount it back. Thank you for asking and enjoy a fine weekend. 🙂

      • Yes. Can’t change the execution of the Colonel and many others. But… I think the little baby and his sister, somehow, got unexpected closure from my post. And that is quite a reward for me.
        I hope you could mount your sink back. I spent the week-end turning a bed-head into a baby barrier for the staircase, solving structure, wood and iron issues. It was very pleasant. And works. Wood is the most noble of materials.

      • How hard it is to put a soul into a (human) container and how unfairly easy it is to take it out of there, being that accidentally or – worse! – willingly, intentionally. 😦
        I too hope the story you told brought them at least a little bit of peace and relief; hard to reach closure when probably many other things remain unknown but it’s definitely a step towards it, thanks to you.

        Sink is back in place, thank you; I may have to replace the faucet again, I’m not pleased with the new one, pipe’s too low and can’t even fill up a PET of water. Otherwise everything else is alright.

    • Thank you Mia. (Had to look up serendipity, it always reminds me of Police…) 😉
      And it is an extraordinary occurrence. Across half a century, several continents and language barriers… This really made me happy.

      • You’re so very welcome, Brian. Sometimes I can’t help but think the world is smaller than I realize when I hear of unbelievable events like this. As you say, “extraordinary”.

    • Quite true. I often think of the Greeks and their belief that if their name were remembered, they would live forever. Thanks to Homer, Achilles, Ulysses, Axax, Hector, will do so. 🙂

  3. An extraordinary chain of events Brian, truly extraordinary. I remember the story, and how tragic it seemed to not to know what happened to the colonel’s family. A fantastic conclusion. I know that without the internet it might not have been possible, but you had to write the story first. It might seem strange to say, but that’s a great achievement.

    • Not strange. Quite accurate. We’d lost touch after so many years. And I was very happy that the story should “reach home” as the little boy’s sister so aptly put. Mission accomplished. (And glad you appreciated that) Be good mijnheer.

  4. The power of internet and thanks to your writing, he learned a bit about his father. I love the story (from the first post especially) too, well written and it’s intriguing.

  5. I have enjoyed this remembrance of yours – lucid and sprightly in spite of the many years passed. I am also glad it reached that family, and you could know about each other again. A fair matter in an often unfair world. Best regards ✨

      • Yes and no. 🙂 I think everyone is entitled to their own opinions, to express them, and then repent. 🙂 Actually, being French, I could not totally agree with you, but that is beside the point. You made the comment. I authorized it. You repented, I took it away. 🙂 End of story. No problemo. 😉 Cuídate. (Last word: Piensa – e investiga Jorge Semprún)

      • Bien. Pero no debes de estar muy de acuerdo con el règimen de Vichy, que entregó tantos catalanes emigrados a Hitler o a Franco… Al menos, eso espero. Sobre mis comentarios anteriores y mi petición de eliminar uno -éste al que te refieres en particular-, veo que no me has entendido para nada. Yo sólo fui muy sincera, y no siempre es acertado serlo. Todo depende de la respuesta que obtienes. Yo no obtuve ninguna, y a los cuarenta he aprendido a escuchar el silencio. De todos modos, como bien dices, “no problemo”. 😉 Cuídate tu también.
        Sobre Semprún… sería un error que hablara ahorita mismo. Quizà otro día 🙂

      • Totalmente de acuerdo. Vichy fue una mierda (pardon my French) para todos. Franceses, judíos, Catalanes, Españoles, y muchos refugiados del Este. No hay duda. También, com medio millón de Españoles cruzando los Pirineos en tan poquito tiempo, hubo casos en Francia de… mal acogimiento por decirlo así. Y para algunos eso resultó fatal. Pero lo que tengo entendido es que en la mayoría de los casos, fueron tratados bien. (Fuera de Vichy y su banda de asesinos). No sé. Es lo que a mí me han contado. De la misma manera que muchos judíos fueron denunciados, muchos fueron escondidos por los Franceses. (Y tengo testimonios directos). En cuanto a los Españoles (y Catalanes) según sé, de medio millón, se quedaron cerca de 300,000 en Francia. La mayoría. Nuevamente hubo muchos casos terribles pero la mayoría se salvó. Eso era mi punto. Pero como no quería empezar un “debate”… 🙂 había escogido el silencio: 😉
        Cuídate. 🙂

      • Te agradezco tu respuesta. No he tenido, ni ayer ni hoy, tiempo para escribir (ni debatir 🙂 Sólo quiero ahora, ya en la cama y muy cansada, que no malentiendas este involuntario silencio mío.
        Espero de todo corazón que no te hayan golpeado personalmente los últimos terremotos en México :((!!! De todos modos, seguro que te han golpeado de muchas maneras, si vives allí. Lo siento por vosotros! Amo México … de Francia (que respeto sin amor) ya te contaré más en mi respuesta. Buen día tengas!

      • No te preocupes, y descansa. 🙂 No hay urgencia de debatir. Aquí, estamos bien amigos y familia, nadie herido directamente, pero parece que hay conocidos de conocidos que han perdido gente. Y siguen gente atrapada. Es muy, muy triste… Cuídate.

      • Sí. Pero olvidarse ni es fàcil, ni es buena estrategia muchas veces -y por lo que te he leído, tú lo sabes muy bien-.
        Sobre cambiar -cambiar yo; pues el resto no suele ser cambiable-, vivo cambiando contínuamente; ahorita más que nunca: de estado civil, de gènero, de trabajo, de compañero y, pronto, hasta de ciudadanía 🙂

      • El cambio es bueno. He vivido más vidas que un gato. 🙂 pero a veces, se vale tomar “un break”. El punto clave es: si lo que estoy haciendo me hace bien, sigo. Sino? Le paro.

  6. What a wonderful way this story ended! It is so sad what was done to this family, but eventually this baby boy could read your wonderful story 50 years later…coincidence?

    • It is a nice epilogue. What strikes me (as a statistics user and producer) is the odds that my post in English with a small audience actually be seen in Senegal by someone who probably called the family: “Hey! There’s a post on your father!”. What a re the odds? Close to nil.

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