What I’m about to tell you is a painful story. It is so painful, so sad, I don’t even know how to start. But let me give you a bit of context here.
Now, when I was in my early teens; I was friends out with one girl, Ayisat who lived two houses away from us. She was living with her mum and two brothers; we called the woman Alhaja. Alhaja was years younger than my mum; she had shops where she sold textiles, lace materials at Oke Arin, Lagos Island. She was quite well to do as you would have guessed. Alhaja had no husband. I don’t know if he died or whether she divorced him.
Anyway because of my friendship with her daughter, Alhaja quickly became acquainted to my mum a few months after even though she was nothing like my mum. She would visit and bring gifts for us. My mum though was not your typical housewife, she worked as a civil servant; she wore no flashy dressing, no jewelry, no makeup but Alhaja was full of it, she even had a gold tooth to boot.
Anyway, it wasn’t long before street gossips got to my mum that my dad and Alhaja were having an affair. Some 18 years later, my parents moved from that place to their own home but by then I had left home to study in Ghana and from there, I left for Europe. That is the beginning of this story I’m telling.
Now, its been 40 years since we left Alhaja and the gossip of her affair with my dad behind; my parents are old, my father has dementia, he is 79years old. We got him a nanny to help him eat, change his diapers, read to him…of course my mum is also around but she too is old, 76 years, thankfully her memory and mind are still sharp but she is old…so, you know there would be many things she can’t do by herself, so the nanny served both my parents.
Now, like I said, my dad has dementia and one key thing about this ailment is that patients remember things in the past but not things in the present. Like for instance, he doesn’t know if he’s had breakfast but he would recall with vivid clarity, things that happened 30, 40 even 50 years back.
For instance, he doesn’t remember who my mum is nor any of us his children. Many times he is very quiet but sometimes also, he talks to my mum or his nanny about things he did in the past.
However, my mum would sit with him, sometimes holding his hand and they would reminisce, she would remind him of certain people and he would talk about them as if they were seated with him and mum…you know now.
Did these two love each other?
I’ve no doubt they both do…or did. They had their issues earlier in their marriage, but don’t we all? Like many marriages, they had theirs as well but to have surmounted it and remained married after almost 54years…they tried.
Anyway, as usual, from what my mum told me, they were talking; she reminding him of past things and he talking as if the person who was chatting with him was not some long dead relative or friend. That’s when my father blurted that he had an affair with Alhaja, the woman who lived two houses away from us back in the day. He told my mum, I think in his mind, he was talking to one of his buddies. He told my mum how he had the affair for more than five years and how he kept my mum quiet by telling her he heard rumours she was having an affair with her boss. He even told her of how one day, after he had had sex with Alhaja, he came home full of guilt but still picked a quarrel with my mum and when she called him names, he beat her so badly and even threw her things out of the house, accusing her of sleeping with her boss once again and never admitting he was at fault.
I remember the time my mum was kicked out of the house; we were young then and we didn’t understand why our dad was beating our mum because neighbours were in our house that night.
I recall that it took a long while for my mum to come live with us again. My mum’s family had come begging my dad to take her back…finally he did; my mum was needed at the hospital because my sister was in ICU for burns and my dad couldn’t stay with her because of work but I remember dad telling my mum’s relative that she should never breathe a word about him seeing Alhaja ever again!
So you see, my mum upon hearing my father talk like this just lost it!
She attacked my father with a bamboo stick he once used as walking stick. She hit him many times and drew blood!
This was my quiet, “I don’t want any wahala,” mum.
She was angry that he made her suffer for nothing while he was the guilty one. She was angry that he humiliated her back then. She was angry that it was that period of separation that my sister got severe burns from hot oil which made her stay in the hospital for over a year!
How did my sister get the burns?
You know, with our mother gone, my sister asked our eldest brother to make her dodo, he was busy playing ball outside; she went into the kitchen to fry the dodo herself. She was just 7 years old. I don’t know how she did, it but the dodo and oil and frying pan came down on her on the kerosene stove we were using back then. She remains horribly scarred to date!
So my mum was hurt afresh over all of these which is why she beat my dad. He is wheel chair bound now so he couldn’t even run, couldn’t defend himself, didn’t even know why he was being beaten!
The nanny came when she heard both my parents screaming, she took the stick away from mum and called me to come over quickly.
By the time I got there, my mum had calmed down but she was in tears.
“I suffered for this man; he was always beating me every time I accused him of chasing skirts, I was right! He sent me packing, he shamed me…”
“But that was in the past mummy, that was a long time ago” I told her.
But she was very upset.
I told her, “Mummy, you are punishing a man for a crime he isn’t aware he committed. It is wrong.”
She told me to get out of her house but I persisted. She shouldn’t be punishing him for what he has no idea of…
Unfortunately, my dad, upon my checking on him didn’t even remember the things he talked about. He was just groaning in pain and complaining of the bump mummy’s stick left on his head.
I wept for my parents that day!
I understand my mum’s hurt; to be confronted again after so many years of pushing her shame and pain away, sticking by the man she loved and now being told he beat her and accused yet knowing he was wrong…I get that. But she is hitting a man who would still probably repeat the same story again, not understanding how he was hurting her.
That’s the story I wanted to tell. I have no advice to give anyone in this situation because, me sef, I am looking for who will advise me on how to help my parents.
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on trues stories)