By Treena Kwenta
HI Readers! It was a Saturday and I was preparing to go out when Edmund showed up with Tayo’s m1,1m. He had taken her to their hometown Onitsha to spend a week, and they were on their way to his apartment in Apapa, when they made a detour to my place. As soon as I caught sight of them from the window, I rushed out to lead mama into the house, with nanny on the other side of her, and we both fussed over her, to her immense delight.
“Mama, welcome to my humble abode, ma. Oh, it’s so good to see you. You’ve not been here for some years now. It’s an honour to have you under my roof.”
“Thank you, my daughter. It’s always a pleasure to see you. How have you been keeping, my dear?” “I’m fine, ma. It’s nice to see you bouncing back, ma. You still look a bit thin and drawn, but you’re looking so healthy and er, er, I suppose it’s too early to tell the truth and say you’re beginning to look happy again. “
That drew laughter from her. “Ha, that’s a funny one, my dear. I know. In our country, a widow should never find happiness or ever look happy again. Whereas the man who’s a widower is urged to find happiness straight away because he has a life to live.”
“Oh, mama, that’s natural,” chipped in Edmund. “Widows can cope and look after themselves, but a man hardly can, when he loses his wife. The children can’t put their lives on hold to look after him. That is if they’re around him at all. Even if they are, how long can they be disposed to look after him?
So, it’s realistic to encourage him to shed the garment of mourning, and to embrace happiness as soon as possible. Wearing a mournful look will not encourage women to be attracted to him, so, it makes sense for him to start looking happy as soon as he can. I’m a widower myself, so, I know. I was counselled not to grieve forever.”
“Okay, okay, Edmund my son,” said mama. “I understand what you’re trying to say. I did urge you to come home and take a wife shortly after your Angolan wife died, didn’t I?” “Yes, you did, mama, and it was a good thing too, which I appreciate very much. However, I wasn’t referring to that. Rather, I was referring to this general belief that one must never look happy again after losing a spouse. It is neither right nor fair. You and papa had a long and great time together. You’ll always miss him, but you have to move on.” “True,” mama told him.
“Nanny came in to take their order for lunch and also to tell me that my driver who was outside, wanted to see me. I got up immediately to find out what the matter was. He had come to take me to the Ikoyi Club for tennis, when Edmund came in with mama.
“Is everything alright?” I asked him. Silently, he handed me his phone so that I could read the text message there.
“Brother, mama is not well at all o,”went the message. “She fell down this morning and we’re in hospital now. Can you come, brother, today? We need money, brother. We’re in a private hospital.” “I’m sorry about that. Do you want to go right away? We can cancel the outing – I have visitors anyway, and er, I don’t know when they’ll leave. Your hometown is Agbor, isn’t it? You can go take a bus from Mile 2. You’ll be able to return Sunday night. Don’t forget to get here for six on Monday morning so that we can go the visa processing centre in 1keja. I learnt the earlier we get there, the earlier we’ll get attended to, and we can go to the office. “
“Ma, if you don’t mind, can I return on Monday night? Then I’ll have time to stay with my family a bit and help. Apart from the money they require, they’ll need my presence there for more than one day. I’m first son in the family, and er, the major provider. Sorry ma, will it be alright for me to take that Monday off?”
“Ah, that will be tough. Pool drivers are scarce on Mondays, as you know. I must go to the visa centre on Monday so that I can be given the visa before the weekend. It’s four working days, I think, for processing. I’m travelling exactly one week from Monday.” . “Hm, alright ma, I’ll try to return Sunday night, or Monday morning and come straight from the motor park here.”
That arrangement seemed shaky, so I told him that I would drive myself down and he can resume work on Tuesday. He was effusive in his thanks, but he still waited, looking at me expectantly. Oh, money, of course. I told him to wait, went indoors and got him some money to help out.
“Oh, thank you so much, ma. May God bless you and your family. Goodbye, ma. 1”11 be here first thing on Tuesday morning, ma. I’m sorry to give you the trouble of driving yourself to Ikeja on a busy Monday morning.”
“That’s alright. I’ll leave home as early as I can. Safe journey.” Another round of thanks, and I went back to join mama and Edmund. When I told them about the driver’s request, mama was doubtful about his story.
“Hm! These drivers! Are you sure, my , that the man didn’t arrange for someone to send him that text message while he’s with you here, so that he could take some time off and get money out of you?” she asked.
“Maybe, mama. There’s no way of knowing from what part of the country a text message has been sent. I can’t say he’s totally trustworthy, but it’s a request that would be heartless to turn down. I don’t mind his absence, but the annoying thing is that I’ll have to wake up around four in the morning to get myself ready and drive down to Ikeja. I suppose I’ll have to ask malam to come with me in the car. This area is not that safe for a woman to drive out alone that early in the morning.”
“I agree with you, Treena dear,” said Edmund. “I wouldn’t even hear of you wanting to do such a thing. Look, I’ll come down to take you there.”
“Oh no! It would be too much trouble for you. Not only would you have to come here before six, you’ll have to wait for several hours for me to be attended to, and you’l1 have to bring me back here. Too much trouble. Thank you all the same.”
“It would be no bother at all. I’ll drop you at Alausa, do one or two things around in Ikeja where I have several pals, and when you’re ready, you”l1 buzz me and I’ll come for you. If I had a regular driver, I would have assigned him to you for the day. But as it is, I’m free. I have no business commitments on this trip, which is solely to be with mama.”
“How kind of you, my son,” gushed mama, looking at him with affection. “Treena, my dear, isn’t Edmund a darling? Allow him to drive you down there.”
“Thank you, mama. It’s very sweet of him to make the offer, but I think I’ll try to get a driver from the pool in the office, even if it’s for him to drop me there and I’ll take a taxi back when I’m through. I’ll phone the admin head later. Edmund, thank you so much.”
He murmured something under his breath. 1 thought 1 heard him mention Seb, but as mama was there 1 didn’t ask him what he had on his mind. Nanny gave us good lunch which mama enjoyed very much. Later, she asked to be taken to see Golden Tulip hotel round the corner, saying that the place held memorable times for her when it was Durbar Hotel as she and her late husband used to go dine there on their birthdays and wedding anniversary. I accompanied them there, and also on a short drive round the estate, and they left.
Malam and I left home Monday morning at five-thirty for Ikeja. Already, there was a little traffic build-up at Mile2, and a bit at Cele and Oshodi. When we got to Gbagada, it was daylight, so, I told malam to return home.
Guess who I saw waiting outside the agency? Seb! My goodness! Sparks would have flown if Edmund had brought me there. A little frustration sprang up. Can’t I be trusted to be able to get myself to the agency and renew my visa all by myself?
No! No! I’m not an ingrate. I do appreciate the way Seb is concerned about my welfare, but he should credit me with some sense of responsibility. He had downloaded the form to be filled for me, and had sat down with me to fill it. He had also called me some days before to remind me of the documents I should take along, and also drawn for me a map on how to get there. All well and good. But surely, he should leave the rest to me!
He must have been on the lookout for me that morning, because as soon as I slowed down near the centre, he flagged me down to tell me to go park on a side lane on the side of the agency, instead of at the car park across the road. It was obvious he didn’t think I would be able to cross the road by myself. Ha! Ha! Mind you, I smiled sweetly at him, and thanked him profusely. “What happened to your driver? I he asked when I joined him at the gate. I explained.
“Why didn’t you ring to ask for a driver from our pool? You’re part owner of the business, so, you’re entitled to that. You’re not exercising your rights there, my dear lady.” Frankly I had forgotten that I could have done that. My ardent desire to give him and his madam space makes one forget all these things. I assured him the driving was no bother to me and I didn’t feel stressed. I thanked him again for the concern. He had put down my name at the gate as soon as he saw my vehicle and had been given a number for me.
As we stood aside waiting for my number to be called, I must confess that my annoyance evaporated fast, and I began to enjoy the little chat we were having. Oh, it wasn’t anything intimate or romantic; merely about our children, family members, etc. I was grateful for his presence. Standing outside with the crowd, would have been stressful if I didn’t have someone to keep me company.
Soon, it was almost my turn to go in. I turned to thank Seb. “You’re welcome, Treena dear. Good luck, although I don’t think there would be any problem. They’re pretty orderly here and the atmosphere is sane. Er, by the way, you’ll find Belinda in there. She’s renewing her visa as well. I’ll have to leave now. Have to go have breakfast and then get some work done. Busy day for me.”
“Aren’t you waiting for Belinda, or, is there a driver waiting to drive her home?”
“Are you kidding? Belinda loves driving herself around. She must have been one of the earliest arrivals here, and that’s why she’s already inside. I saw her car in the car park. If you change your mind and you want a driver to come drive you back, I can ask send you one. Phones are switched off in there, so, you may have to send me a text, unnoticed. Okay, see you, or hear from you. Bye.” With a wave, he strode across the road and disappeared into the car park. I sighed.
So, he had come solely to see that I got there? Could it be that I come across to men as a helpless lady who can’t look after herself? First Edmund, then Seb. I didn’t know whether to feel cherished or oppressed. More of the latter, I think.