I was born normal as in my two legs were perfect but I became paralyzed when at 9 months, my mother was said to have taken me for polio injection. The injection paralyzed my left leg; my mother must have felt responsible, because shortly after, she dumped me with my father and took off! I guess she couldn’t cope with a paralyzed child.
That’s how come, I learned to walk first with sticks, until my father could afford braces for my leg. I had just one brace because it’s was only one leg that was paralyzed. I must have been about 10 years at that time.
This of course stunted my growth. I wasn’t able to go to school like my step siblings, I wasn’t able to run around like the other kids in the compound I grew up in, I was a lonely child.
I began school at the age of 7, at that time I was using a walking stick, not a walking stick carved for walking, it was a smooth stick my father bought from the market but it helped me walk.
The school itself wasn’t friendly to those of us with disabilities; the steps were difficult, the corridors had a long drop to the ground without steps and the toilets were worse.
Now some kids wrre cruel, sometimes, they would go hide my stick and I would be hopping around on one foot looking for it while tgey sniggered.
Sometimes, they would just snatch it off my hand and throw it around. I would lose my balance and many times, I cried…you know, thinking back, I think they didn’t know better but these were things that made me hate school.
Yeah, I went to a public school, my father couldn’t afford to send me to a private school, my father couldn’t afford many things…except father children by many women.
All of these affected my self-esteem; you know. I didn’t get the education that would have helped me in my disability as an adult. I endured school until I finished Jss at 15plus, afterwards, I told my dad, I didn’t want to go to school any more.
He asked me what I wanted to do, I said I’d like to be a fashion designer. That’s how come, a few months later, he enrolled me at a tailor’s shop not far from where we lived. I couldn’t have been able to go far because, even though I had braces, I had overgrown them, you are supposed to change the braces over the years because as you grow, your bones lengthen, and won’t fit the braces, so at that time I was back to using a stick.
So, given what I have just told you, you have a good picture of what my life was as I grew.
The talk of boyfriends was not for me, the talk of relationships was not for me, even going out to visit friends was just not for me. I was not able to rush for buses at the bus stops. I would be at the bus stop for hours because the buses never waited long enough for people like me to board and if I couldnt jump off fast enough at my stop, they would just take off and many times passengers would be begging the driver to stop for me, reminding him that I am handicapped.
Going out, even to the market, was a hard chore, still is, meaning I hardly go out; I would need one hand to hold my walking stick and carry a shopping bag on the other and because I never had money for taxis, walking to the market or anywhere, even to church was a task I never undertook regularly.
Being handicapped made me very dependent on my family a lot.
But, when I turned 34…someone came into my life. Up until then, I only dreamed of what relationships would be like. Men were only interested in what sleeping with a handicapped would be like, they would tease, and if I didn’t give in, they would resort to vicious insults.
Now this someone, was not even the kind of person I normally would talk to. He worked at a complex not far from where my shop was at that time. He sometimes came by to buy minerals from me. Now, I became a tailor but in my shop, I sold other things; drinks, water, provisions, textiles and I had two assistants then, that way, I would always make sales everyday, no matter what and at that time, I had moved into my own two rooms and parlor where I was living with one of my younger step-siblings.
I fell for this man and his sweet talk; he told me what no man had ever said to me before and before I knew it, he had moved in with me.
We didn’t do any marriage thing even though several times, I told him he had to go meet my father. He kept postponing. After a few years, that is, after I was the one who bought all the things he should have bought to present to my father as per; I want to marry your daughter, o. He took them and went to marry another woman!
I was shattered, what did you think?
But life must go on…some of us will never have relationships, get married, have children…that is life for you! I moved my shop from that area to this place and faced my business.
My sister business is booming.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based stories)