My kids would rush down the staircase shouting – ‘Mummy, mummy, uncle Dave has got up from bed and he is preparing to go to work!’
Every time I heard that, I’d look up and say, ‘Thank you, God!’
Why were my children reporting back to me on my neighbor Dave who lived in the flat upstairs? Well, one year ago, he almost died of a broken heart.
They say some broken hearts never mend and I don’t know how many times a human heart can be broken never to mend but I prayed and fought for Dave to survive this one.
You ask me why I have become my neighbour’s keeper; why I made myself his guru, his encourager and his sister from another mother?
Dave lived in the flat above mine. He was a young man with a young wife, Charity, who gave him three kids in quick succession. We all thought they were happy but looks, obviously, can be deceptive.
Something happened to Dave that almost killed him. One day, Charity left him, taking with her their three children to the UK.
Well, she had been asking Dave to relocate the family abroad; she was tired of life in Lagos, she said and wanted something better for herself and the kids.
Dave of course didn’t budge; he liked life here, his family ishere, he had a good job, and most of all he didn’t have to worry about rent in Lagos. Life wasn’t perfect but it was good, so why relocate to London where he would start from scratch?
But Charity wouldn’t relent and when it became clear to her that her husband would not move, she got all the papers required to relocate; secured a job and relocated to the UK with her children.
Dave came home one day from work to find an empty house. She had pulled the rug from right under his feet!
What was most painful was the fact that Charity cut Dave off from his children. Dave was in pieces; he was distraught, he was angry, then sad, then depressed and for weeks locked himself up in his flat refusing to go out.
It was after I began to see several people go up to his flat to bang on his door, that I discovered what had befallen him because when I didn’t see Charity or the kids, I just concluded they had traveled abroad like they usually did, for summer, and when they didn’t return, I just didn’t bother too much. Their kids were quite young and so a few weeks away from school wouldn’t hurt them.
I felt sorry for Dave especially after I learned that he had stopped going to work and had refused to pick himself up. I decided to step in and help him up. I took him like the younger brother I never had.
I would cook and ask my children to take it up to him. I would ask my husband to go check on him every evening; and every morning before they went to school, my children would go knock on his door to be sure he got up and got ready for work; I would even call Dave’s friends to come take him out during weekends…gradually, Dave came to; he resumed work, thankfully his bosses understood his trauma and he was back to functioning normally again.
Now, all these happened four years ago! Dave recovered and was no longer under my ‘suicide watch’ again but Charity was not done with him.
Six months ago, Dave received news that Charity’s mother had died. Now you need to understand that since Charity left Dave, she cut off all communications from him, stopped him from seeing his kids or calling them. However, when Charity’s mother passed on here in Lagos, friends began to advise that Dave go to visit her family, you know, to commiserate with them; her father was still alive and after all, they reasoned, Dave and Charity were not divorced yet, so technically, they were still legally married.
Of course Dave refused; he wanted nothing to do with Charity’s family but more people pressured him to go and so he decided to go that Saturday…
He dressed up and drove to Palmgrove where Charity’s family home was but guess what?
He met a party going on; everyone was gaily dressed in aso-ebi. At first, he said he thought maybe that was the burial ceremony going on…
But it wasn’t, it was a wedding party!
Charity, his wife had brought home a London husband and that day, of all days, was the day Dave visited to commiserate over the passing of his in- law or should I say former in-law.
He told me he didn’t remember how he drove himself home; he couldn’t believe Charity could be that cruel. He felt cheated, abused, used… by Charity and her family…though to be fair, a good number of Charity’s family members were said to have opposed the wedding, some had even boycotted the event, especially as her mother had just passed and hadn’t even been buried yet but that didn’t stop the wedding ceremony from holding and unfortunately, Dave was forced to witness it, even if briefly.
After that day, he went into serious depression, I allowed him a few days to deal with his emotions but after one week; I moved in again, as in, I took over watching him to ensure he survived this trauma. I also took charge of his cooking and got my help to clean his flat; my children were in charge of checking on him every morning before they went to school. My husband called me mama Dave but he also keyed in on going upstairs to talk to Dave or inviting him out.
Dave is back on his feet again; he will survive…I think he will.
Why did I do this?
I have two sons and one daughter, I would like them to find help even from strangers if life ever takes a swing at them.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)