I live with my mum and younger brother in a two bedroom in Oworo. I don’t mean the self-contained two bedroom. Ours is the type that we share toilet, bathroom and kitchen with another family but we are happy, you get?
My mother sells smoked fish, what she earns, she used to send me and my younger brother to school.
Our house has an eternal fish smell; though, to be honest, I can’t smell the fish anymore.
Now when my friends tell me our home smells of fish, I ask ask them, “What did you expect, that it would smell of roses?”
I mean, what do they expect, truly?
I met my dad for the first time after my graduation. He came with a small goodie bag; in it were two 5 yards of Ankara; perfume and an envelope containing N20,000.
I didn’t want to accept it!
I was unhappy that this man abandoned me for all these years and once he heard I was now a graduate; he felt I had become someone he wanted to identify with. But my mum begged me to accept and let bygones be bygones.
What did my father do?
My mother was the daughter of my father’s family’s help; you know, daughter of the housemaid? Her mother was the house help to my father’s family. My mother, Mary, often came into the main house to help her mother in the house. Her mother, Mama Mary, was cook, nanny, cleaner… and because she lived with her mother in the boy’s quarters, she often ran into my father, James, who was the third son in that family.
Him and my mum were about the same age; they were both teenagers.
According to my mum, all she wanted was friendship; she attended a public school while my dad was, of course, going to a private school and later went to study in Ghana. But before then; she said they were friends, they shared the same interests…you know, teenagers.
She said my dad was pressuring her for sex and on her 18th birthday, she gave in because she wanted to let him know she cared for him
At first, my mum said she didn’t believe one could get pregnant after having sex just once and even after more than three months of not seeing her menses, she was too afraid to tell her mother. They slept on the same bed in their one room and yet she didn’t tell her and her mother never even suspected.
What did she do? She did what most stupid girls did, she kept quiet about it and hoped it would disappear, one day.
It didn’t of course until one day, she ran an errand for my father’s mum, whom she called Madam C. It was after the errand that Madam C called her back and asked her to walk back and forth in front of her. My mother said, she did but she didn’t even suspect that her pregnancy would show because she had begun to wear oversized Tshirts.
But Madam C knew, she said she asked her, “Mary, are you pregnant?”
Immediately she said it, my mum said she began to cry and later confessed to Madam C that she was pregnant and that her mother didn’t know and that James, her son was responsible.
She said Madam C shouted, “God forbid bad thing!”
Madam C rang the bell and called my mum’s mum, Mama Mary. You know I told you she wasn’t aware her daughter was pregnant?
When told, Mama Mary denied that her daughter was pregnant!
Well, that was the end of my mum’s stay in that house; that was the end of Mama Mary as house help in that house, after more than five years of working there.
Madam C had called her husband and son and my father, James had denied being responsible for my mother’s pregnancy. Maybe at that time too, he thought since it was done once, she couldn’t possibly be pregnant, I don’t know but Mary and her mother had to leave that house; they were paid a kind of severance fee, though.
They found a place at Oworo, on the water side; you know we are Ijaw? Yes, our people live on water. So I was born and my grandma, Mama Mary and my mother began to deal in fish; she would smoke them and sell. That’s how I grew up.
Though grandma passed away a few years ago, she helped to raise me up; we later moved from the water to a more solid place because my mother met my step father, who was a furniture man. that’s how come I have a younger brother and that man treats me like his own child.
A while later, after seeing him at my graduation party, my father invited me to his house to meet his wife and children.
You know, I thought well, maybe he wanted to help me secure a job or something. No. It was to tell me he had no plans to include me in his will, that his wife was not convinced I was his child! That he had been told that no pregnancy could come from…I swear, I kid you not! That was the long and short of the invitation!
I died a million times; I never asked him for anything. I didn’t even bear his surname; why would I want to inherit anything from him? I had lived my life perfectly without him all these years.
When I got home and told my mother, she cried for days.
So now, a few weeks after that, my mother was called, my father was dying of some kidney related problem and they were looking for a donor; my mother said first they needed blood as well, they wanted to know if I could come donate!
These rich people are so entitled, can you imagine? Is there no more blood in the banks or they suddenly can’t afford a new kidney?
I decided, if my father is on fire and it required my pee to quench it, I won’t pee on him; I’ll watch him burn and then spit on his grave!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)