By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! I must confess that as I stood looking at Tayo’s two cute grandsons at her daughter, Dupe’s place in London, I felt inadequate. Was I jealous? No. Envious? Just a tiny bit. Tayo is my closest friend on earth, and we’ve both come a long way, but if you start out in life with someone, it’s impossible never to compare what you are/what you have with hers at some point.
Please, those highly appreciated men and women of God who read this column must not rush to send me text messages/ leaflets which preach the sin of envy. My Catholic church priests and my brother Joe’s new era church have been doing that for a long time and I’d like to say that I’ve done my best to imbibe and comply with their teachings. Still, one is human.
Dupe and her husband, Bayo, were away at work when we visited, but Bayo’s mother was in, looking after the children. It was my first time there. The apartment was comfortable but untidy with toys and baby things all over the place.. And why not? It’s near impossible to have a pristine clean place when you have a baby and a toddler.
My thoughts may have shown on my face as Bayo’s mum rushed all over the place picking up things and straightening out the furniture, soon after we exchanged greetings and hugs.
“Mama Bayo, don’t worry about all that. My friend here is an old friend, as you know, and she understands very well the tough work you’re doing here. Well done! See how healthy, clean and happy the children are! And it’s all due to your efforts. God bless you.” Tayo gushed.
She then went to pick up the baby from the cot, sat with him and began to coo to him. The toddler came to sit with her and rest his head on her knee. That was cute. Bayo’s mum looked very pleased with all the praises and she breezed about the place looking busy.
“Treena, let me introduce you to the gentlemen in my life,” Tayo announced proudly. “This hunky two year old is Bayo junior, as you know. You met him in Ibadan the other time, didn’t you?”
“Oh yes, I did! Hello Junior! You’re tall for your age. What’s your name?”
“My name is Prince Bayo,” said the little man, to my shock. I hadn’t expected him to be able to speak yet. I asked Tayo how old he was, and was told that he was almost three.
“Do children speak clearly so early these days?”
“Ha! Treena, my darling, you’re behind the times in these things. This guy here began speaking coherently before he clocked two. This is the jet age, gal! Kids want to get into the scheme of things as soon as they enter the world.”
Bayo’s mum laughed. “I’m sure children have always been liked that,” she said, “it’s just that maybe in our time no-one took any notice or encouraged us to express our views.”
“You’re right, madam,” I agreed. “Er, where does the title Prince come from? Is there royalty in the family somewhere?”
“Er, my late husband came from a royal family in a rural area of Oyo state, but throughout his life he shunned the title ‘Prince’, considering it too over-rated. He reasoned that since his grandfather, his father and himself never got to be made traditional rulers, there was no point bearing the title.
I agreed with him. When my youngest son visited the other month, he called Junior ‘Prince’, Junior grabbed it at once and began to call himself that. Only he does. I hope he’ll drop it when he’s older, before his mates at school begin to tease him about it.”
“The title suits him jo,” said Tayo. “And this lovely guy on my lap, Treena dear, is Festus. He was named after my dad. His Yoruba name is Opeoluwa, but we call him Festus most of the time. Aren’t my grand children handsome? “
“They are, and that’s the truth. Congrats Tayo dear. I’m so happy for you.”
“And they’re bright. Junior is one of the brightest in his play group, his teachers said.”
“Play group already?”
“Of course! Didn’t we go before we were three years old ourselves back then in Yaba? Remember?”
“I do, of course. One tends to forget these things.”
“Oh, you’ll remember alright, once the grand children start coming. Junior attends just three times a week. It’s great being a grandma, Treena. Nothing compares to it. Not even wealth and a good time.”
That was when a pang of envy tugged at my heart. I don’t mind Tayo reading this here, as she’s already heard me say this before; but it seems she’s always had the upper hand in all areas of our lives. Really? Well, I think she does. Consider this:- She’s very successful in her profession as a chartered accountant, she runs a successful consultancy, has property all over the place, knows people in high places everywhere she finds herself, is a wealthy person, and now she’s a grandmother of two lovely and healthy grandsons! How does Treena rate besides her?
But I must give it to Tayo. She worked hard to raise herself from average to the very top. Frankly, I think I envy her status of grandmother more than her wealth.
While these thoughts were running through my mind, Tayo had helped to bathe and feed the baby who’s now back in his cot, asleep. Junior was playing with his toy train in a corner. How cosy! Bayo’s mum had left to go have a bath.
“Treena dear,” said Tayo, suddenly. “It’s your turn next to become a grandmother. I can feel it in my bones, so, don’t look on with such envy.”
“How? I don’t think Heather’s pregnant yet.”
“If she isn’t already, then it will happen soon. Start choosing names. Right? Meanwhile, let’s help get this sitting room into shape. It is untidy! Ready to help?”
“Oh yes! Where’s the vacuum cleaner?”
“Over there! Come on! It’s like our student days again. Sorry, I don’t know where Dupe’s aprons are.”
“Don’t worry,” I told her as we set to work.
Within twenty minutes, we had fixed the place, and moved the furniture around a bit. We then made ourselves some coffee, put on the television and put our feet up.
When we hadn’t seen Bayo’s mum for close to an hour, Tayo went to the guest room to find out if she was alright. She returned to say that the poor woman was asleep soundly on the bed, and looked quite tired.
Suddenly, it hit us that it’s no honeymoon when one comes out here to help take care of babies. “Hm! Rather her than me,” said Tayo pensively. “It’s okay for me to come every other month, but it is quite a job, staying to handle babies on a full time basis.”
“I know, Tayo dear. To think that one didn’t want her here because we thought she would disturb the couple! She’s so useful to them.”
“Oh yes! Look, let’s go out and get her some nice things to butter her up.”
“Okay. Oh, by the way, here’s a cheque for Dupe to cash and get some gifts for both babies. Here also are envelopes from Liz, Becky and Boma.”
“Oh no! How sweet of the gals. God bless and replenish your pockets. I’ll keep them where Dupe can find them. I leave tonight, remember?”
“Ah yes! I’ll miss you. I still have four days to go.”
Tayo had to go wake up Bayo’s mum and we left to get her some mint chocolates that Tayo says she likes. We returned to find Seb and Belinda waiting for us.
“Er, madam, your husband and a friend are waiting for you,” Bayo’s mum told me when she came to open the door for us. “My what?” “He told me that he’s your husband.” Tayo asked her how he looks like. She described him. “It’s her husband. His name is Seb. “ “That was the name he gave,” said the poor woman in relief.
As Seb stood up to welcome us in, I could see gross unhappiness in his eyes. Then he took Tayo aside. Belinda was staring at me, her eyes full of concern too. Oh dear! My heart tugged. What has happened? My heart flew to my children. I was about asking Belinda if there was anything amiss when Tayo returned to the sitting room without Seb. Belinda got up, bid us ‘goodbye’ and left. The front door slammed. My alarm level began to rise fast.
Tayo came to sit with me on the couch., and took my hand. “Er, Treena dear. Er, Joe rang Seb to tell him that Papa fell on his way to the bathroom in Accra yesterday, became unconscious and he was taken to the hospital. He’s still unconscious, so, Joe felt that you all should assemble in Accra to support mama.”
I don’t know how I found the strength to be calm, but while I didn’t panic, my heart was racing away.
“Seb has gone to see if he can get flights for you and me tomorrow, direct to Accra. He couldn’t get seats for tonight.”
“You mean you’re no longer traveling tonight?”
“Oh, no. I have to accompany you there. Seb is distressed because he can’t come. He has an appointment with his doctor for two days’ time, and he can’t afford to miss it. Joe, Benny, Dicta, and their spouses must be in Accra by now. Papa will be alright. He’s only in his mid-eighties and is still quite strong. God is healing him already.”
The rest of that day and the next passed in a haze, as I packed, the children all rallied round, and mid-morning, Tayo and I were on our way to Accra.
Aunt Adeline’s banker son picked us up at the airport, told us my dad’s condition was stable, though he was still unconscious, and then it was silence all the way to the house.