Ours is a funny story.
My father is late now. He died at the age of 60 and he was a man we all thought we knew so well.
But you know, when you hear about men having two families, nobody ever asks the second family how they feel, what their experience is.
Let me start by saying, I never even knew we were the second family. I just assumed that we were a normal family. My mum, my dad, two sisters and I.
We grew up knowing my dad lived in a different city, Lagos, apart from us because of work. We accepted it. If my mother was cool with it, so were we.
We saw our dad, I’ll say like many other kids our age who’s dads either worked in the military and were transferred to far flung places. However, Dad was in Ibadan with us some Easter breaks, some Christmas holidays…you know, you kind of get used to not having him around and yet, he controlled every aspect of our lives.
My mum would always threatened to report us to him if we were bad; my mum talked about him as if he lived everyday with us and though at the time we were growing up, telephone wasn’t common, yet, we were one of the few families that had that luxury, so we could talk to dad almost on a daily basis, though at specific times.
Now, my mum had relatives in Lagos, so once in a while, she would take us to Lagos to spend a few weeks, especially during the long vacs and though we holidayed at my mother’s people’s homes, my father never visited us there, even though he was in Lagos.
I can now understand why with the benefit of hindsight but when I was growing up, I saw nothing wrong in us not staying in “our” house with our dad whenever we visited Lagos. He was a busy man…
I was about 8 years old when I met my step brother, although at that time, I had no idea he was my relative.
How did it happen?
We went to Lagos for holidays, as usual. There was a birthday party; 10year old birthday party my cousin, whom we were holidaying with had been invited. My aunty, decided we all should go, after all, it was a birthday party for children.
So excitedly, we all dressed up, happy to leave the house. I was a good dancer and nothing pleased me, back then than showing my dancing skills at parties.
At the party, there was a boy, he was like maybe 17 years old, you know big boy, he came with a group of other friends to the birthday, you know he belonged to the big boys club, he was friends with the celebrant’s elder brother. You know how we do parties now? Every age group would have their own clique at the party…parents, aunties, senior siblings and their gang…it was like that.
I was 8years old, so I belonged to the core birthday party thingy.
Anyway, we were dancing and I beat everyone at the dance thing, that’s how come my name was called. They asked me to give my full name, I did and was given a prize.
I was busy admiring my prize when he approached me.
Big boy: What did you say your name?
Me: David so and so.
Big boy: Which so and so is your own?
Me: I said, I don’t know.
Big boy: Where do you come from?
Me: Ibadan, Bodija
Big boy: I mean what state do you come from?
I told him. He asked me what my father’s name was, I told him. That’s when he stopped and stared at me.
He then said, “is your father so and so and works at so and so?”
I nodded happily, “Yes, that’s my daddy…”
He walked away from me. As for me, I just continued playing with my prize, which was a toy car.
Now, we were meant to leave Lagos in a week’s time, but the second day, my mother came to cart us away back to Ibadan.
The only reason I knew it had to do with me and the boy was because my mum asked me over and over to tell her exactly what transpired between the boy and I. and I repeated it. She would query me about it for hours that day and the days after.
Long story short, so apparently, the boy, my brother, Akin went home to tell his mother he met me and apparently he found out from his friend at the party that I had two other sisters, also at the party.
He told his mum, who raised hell with our dad…dad must have called mum and ordered us back to Lagos because, three days after we left, my aunty said, Akin’s mum…my step mum, came to their house to raise hell!
So, I mean, we were young, I was the eldest of three even so, my mum didn’t tell us much, just that we shouldn’t speak to strangers anymore and that we were in fact a second family in my dad’s life.
I was totally bombed!
I mean, I never knew we were a second family.
I never knew we were meant to be hidden
I never knew we were the family my father didn’t want people or even his first wife to know about.
After that revelation, I became ashamed of myself and felt shame for my mum and sisters.
I felt hurt by what I thought was a betrayal by my father.
I was so upset that it affected my in school. I got into all kinds of misdemeanors and was twice sent home from school.
Fast forward to a few months and years later, we got to know more about my father’s first family, Akin is the last born of his mum, they, like us are three as well and it’s kind of surreal because they are two girls and one boy…like us only the girls were first and second whereas in my own case, I was the first born, followed by two sisters.
Today, our father is dead but before he died, his first wife refused to meet with us or mum, she refused to have us come holiday with them in Lagos…we remained the unknown family, the castaway, the ones they were ashamed to show the world.
However, my father left most of his properties to Akin and I. He also gave much to our sisters.
Well, blood is thick. Akin and I have grown so close. He has become the big brother I have always wanted and I the little brother he always wanted. We are so close we share many things despite the distance between us.
You see, my brother came looking for us after our father died; though we were all at the burial, after that, he came to find me at school even before I entered uni. I moved to Lagos when he moved out of his mum’s place and I’ve been with him since.
Akin loves me like his blood brother and indeed we are blood and the feeling is mutual!
Now I hear my step mother finally wants to meet with us…that’s why we are all dressed up…to meet the matriarch!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on trues stories)