My mother is almost 83 years old and she has dementia.
Her dementia began when she turned 65years; she was forgetting things, incidents, people. You now dementia, don’t you? My siblings and I took her from one hospital to another, thinking this must have been a result of years of abuse from our dad.
Now, dad is late; he died in a strange way and I think, I have my suspicion, that my mum killed him!
Make no mistake, I love my parents, I love my mum to the moon and back and I loved my dad as well but he was a horrible husband; he was an alcoholic who when drunk and this was quite often, would beat my mum with koboko… for years. He would strip her naked, flog her with horse whip and dare her to scream out. One of our uncles said my father’s drinking problem started after his first wife died.
Daddy was a lot older than mum by almost 12 years. She was his second wife; so we have three elder siblings that also lived with us and were raised by mum. We were told she died mysteriously a long time ago and my mum was kind of ‘arranged’ for my dad when his family saw him falling apart.
So I guess, my mum had a debt to pay her family and stay married because that can be the only explanation as to why she didn’t just run for her life. More so, back in the day, divorced women were shunned. My mum would run away for a few days then come back again. Her family always sent her back. They reminded her that her children were young and needed their mother. I also remember we always begged our mum not to leave us alone with our dad.
She would leave for some time then come back; of course my dad knew she would come back. He would say, at her return, “I hope your head is now straight? I hope you have come back to your senses?”
You know, he would beat and kick her down the staircase, follow her as she rolled down, kicking her. Neighbours sometimes came but our door was always locked and we would be crying in a locked room. It was traumatic and still traumatizes me when I think back on those days.
Well, to date, I do not really know what the reason behind the abuse was? Would there ever be justifiable reason for domestic violence? I don’t think so.
Anyway, why did I say my mum might have killed my dad?
I am my dad’s favourite of all six of us. I am the second to the last child. Somehow, my dad just loved me specially, I really don’t know why. You can’t ask why people love you, can you? If they love you, then its unconditional, I guess. Anyway, many times, when my dad was eating his food, he would give me meat or morsels from his food and me, I was a greedy boy growing up. I always wanted extra meat. So, whenever I served my dad his food from the tray, I would sit and watch tv while he ate; then sometimes, he would give me pieces of meat or ask me to join him. When he was done, I would take the empty tray and wash the dishes. That was our routine.
So, there was this period, of course, after my mum came back yet again after another round of beaten from our dad; she told me I must promise not to take any food from my dad’s plate. If he gave me meat, I should tell him I had eaten and if he insisted, I should chew but never swallow.
How old was I then? About 8 or 9 years old. I wasn’t old enough to know any better. I think maybe 9. I wasn’t happy about the decision, I told you I loved meat, I was always looking forward to that extra that my dad gave out.
The first few days were hard. I forgot and would have eaten the meat before I remembered my mother’s warning. A few times she slapped me real hard for forgetting. But after a while, I learned to say no to dad’s meat and he took it to mean I was growing up and didn’t want meat from him.
Then my father became sick, this was like, maybe a really long time after I stopped eating his meat. I can’t say how long but in my young mind, maybe like…I don’t know, I can’t put a time to it.
When he began to fall ill, it was something mild, headaches, feverish conditions…and my mother would be up all night nursing him; then he was admitted at the hospital and my mother practically moved to live with him there tending to him hand and foot.
While they were at the hospital, one of our aunties came to live with us and took care of us then. Father never came back home. He died shortly after; I was about 10 to 11 years old then. So, from the time I stopped his meat to when he died, there was a long time span.
My mother mourned him for one year then after that, she blossomed! She went into trading and made it big! She was able to send all six of us to the university; we were not rich but comfortable.
By the time we were all done, like I said, I am the second to the last, my mother had begun to show signs of dementia. She would recall the early years of her marriage to my dad and scream from her sleep, saying she forgot something my dad asked her to do and was afraid he would come and beat her; she would recall several events that led to him brutalizing her.
So, we all thought well, maybe she is being tortured by the past, you know, never once thinking maybe my father’s ghost was haunting her, this theory of haunting is mine. Mine because I recall when she forbade me from eating food he gave me.
Was she planning to poison him then? Well, he didn’t fall sick then and he didn’t die then plus there was also a risk of me eating the meat, right?
I can’t ask her now because her mind is gone. She doesn’t even recognize me or any of my siblings. So, in my mind, I’m like, is she being tortured because she may have poisoned him? Did she truly poison him? She is a sweet mother, I would never believe her capable of evil but then, there is this niggling doubt…did she? Did she not?
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)