By Treena Kwenta
Strangely I was able to sleep soundly that first night in Accra, in spite of my anxiety over my dad’s health. It must have been exhaustion. I’m sure I would have continued sleeping till evening, if Dicta, who was sharing a room with me hadn’t woken me up at eight to tell me that breakfast was almost ready.
I raced through my morning routine. Joe and Benny had already started eating.
“Pardon us, my dear lovely sisters,” said Joe, “but we had to start without you. We were hungry, and besides, we know that you ladies, always watching your waistline, only peck at your food, and in no time you’re through.”
“Thank you, brother,” Dicta and I told him, and we settled down to do the food justice. My appetite couldn’t match the hunger pangs I had, and after a few minutes, I was through. A desire to go see my dad was what was uppermost in my mind.
I asked Joe if there was any message from mum already.
“Oh, we’ve been in touch with her twice already. Dad made tremendous progress in the night, and apart from having his eyes open, he can move and turn.”
“Halleluiah!” I shouted. “What a relief! Is he able to eat yet, do you know?”
“Easy, sister. That will come later. The important thing is that he’s getting better and can now recognize people, even though he’s too weak to hold a conversation.”
“That’s something. We thank God. When do we leave for the hospital?”
“At nine. So, you still have some minutes for you to go and freshen up, if you like. I’ll just have another cup of coffee and I’d be through. What about you, Benny?”
“I’m through; almost. Now, please listen to this folks. What do you say to our telling mum to come rest at home for the day and return to the hospital tomorrow morning? She’s been there two straight days now, sleeping on a strange bed. She’s not getting any younger herself, so she has to be careful about her health. What do you think, Joe, Treena, Dicta? Shouldn’t mum come rest at home for the day? We can take it in turns to sleep in dad’s room throughout the night.”
“I’m game for that,” responded Joe at once. “Actually, I’ve been thinking along those lines, but I had this fear at the back of my mind that mum wouldn’t agree. Treena, what do you think?”
“I go with the suggestion.” I said. “If we put it to mum gently, I think she would agree. Maybe she should be told that she should come rest away from the hospital a bit and return later. Any break for her is better than none at all. The hospital atmosphere is no fun in any way.”
“Sister is right, and I think brother Joe should be the one to broach the topic.”
“Yes, of course,” laughed Joe. “The eldest always carries the burden, isn’t it? Neat.”
Before we left home I quickly put a call through to Seb. There must have been a power shift in his home, concerning phone calls, because he took my call himself.
“Seb dear, how are you feeling this morning?” I asked with much concern.
“Well, I had a fairly good night. I’m told my health is getting better but I’m yet to feel that. But I have every reason to be thankful to God for sparing my life. If I hadn’t come to check my appointment physically, it would have been another story.”
“Yes, we thank God for that. How much longer are you going to stay there? In the hospital, I mean.”
“Er, more tests are going to be carried out. Today, for instance, I’m going to have one to determine if I have stomach ulcer or just bouts of indigestion.”
“I’m sure it’s just a feeling of indigestion not stomach ulcer. You’ve never had it. It can’t develop overnight. You don’t smoke, you don’t take drinks with a high content of alcohol , you don’t take peppery stuff, and you’re not a worrier. What will bring you stomach ulcer?”
“Anything can, apparently. By the way, I think I’m a worrier. I worry about every body and every thing. The doctor says that before I return to Nigeria, I’ll undergo therapy that will reduce the level of anxiety and stress in me. That should help. Enough about myself. I spoke with mama early this morning and she told me that papa’s eyes are open now, and he can move his body around on the bed. I spoke to him actually.”
“You did what? That’s not possible. You didn’t really speak with him, did you?”
“I spoke to him, not with him, Treena dear. Two different things. I told mama to put the phone near his ear, then I said a few words to him. Mama said he smiled faintly.”
“He did? Now, that’s great progress in his condition. Praise God!”
“Yes, I was so happy to know that. Are you there now, or, are you still at home?”
I told him I was waiting for others to get ready and that we’ll leave at nine. As I waited for his response, Belinda’s voice came on.
“Sorry, Treena. Good morning. I have to stop the conversation. They’’ll come take him away for surgery soon, and he needs to rest a bit before that. Sorry. ”
“Good morning, Belinda. Surgery? He’s just told me that it’s a test to determine if he has stomach ulcer or not. That’s not surgery. Still, you’re wise to want him to gather his strength together before the exercise. So, I’ll ring off now. Well done.”
“Hold on, Treena. It’s important for you to know the truth. It’s not stomach ulcer. He didn’t want to frighten you. They’re going to investigate around his heart, and correct something.”
“Oh my God! Is that the truth, Belinda?”
“Why would I tell you a lie concerning such a thing? It is the truth. You must have noticed that I left his telephones with him. I didn’t want to be accused by you of blocking your calls. I’ve read that several times in your column. I know your readers don’t know me from Eve, but you’ve given me a bad reputation. However, this is not the time to discuss such a thing. Yes, Heather and I broke into tears when the doctor told us.
As lay people anything concerning the heart is considered serious by us. The doctor assured us that it’s nothing. Hello? Hello? Treena are you there?”
“Yes, I’m here, Belinda. You’ve hurt me, you know.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. In what way?”
“I’m hurt because you’re so insensitive to my situation. With my dad in hospital, only just coming out of unconsciousness, and with Seb over there waiting to have his heart investigated, is this the time to accuse me of some petty thing? Is this the time to moan over a truth that I revealed on my page? This is not the time to join issues with you on the way you’ve been treating me, so, I’ll ring off now. Thank you very much. Have a wonderful day. Bye.”
I rang off and switched off all my lines. Dicta who had been following my own end of the conversation asked what the matter was. I told her and she applauded the way I told the vixen off.
“Sister, I don’t mind her much, but sometimes she can be a bit over the top. What a time to bring up such a non-issue.”
Tayo, who had gone to spend the night with Coco, and who met up with us at the hospital, was also of the same view.
“Look, switch back on, all your lines, Treena dear.” she told me. “It’s childish to cut off communication with the entire world by phone just because of some silly remark like that. What if the children, or even Seb himself wants to speak with you? Her remark was tactless at this point in time.
You have a choice of not taking her calls if your phone rings and you discover that she’s at the other end, but keep your lines open. Got that?”
“I guess so. What do you think of Seb’s condition? This investigation Belinda spoke of?”
“It sounds frightening, but it’s nothing to worry about. Besides, it’s something that Seb has always known about, and he knew they were going to carry out an investigation this visit. We even discussed it the other day outside the Bayswater restaurant.
He said he would only tell you about it, after it was done. That was well before we heard of papa’s condition. He then came up with the idea that he would tell you it was stomach ulcer. Milwan and Heather got to know when they went to discuss his condition with the doctor. You know that doctors don’t hide anything about a patient over there. They tell you the truth as they know it. Edmund volunteered to stay on in London until Seb leaves the hospital. He’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Coco here also cried a bit when Heather told her. ”
“Coco, Heather told you about her dad’s condition? And she didn’t tell me the mother?”
“Sorry, she didn’t want you worried. Actually, I got to know because I needed to send down some money for the hospital bills to Milwan.”
“Oh? Well done.”
I couldn’t control myself, but burst into tears when I entered dad’s hospital room and saw him lying helplessly there. That wasn’t my dad there; looking so old and shrunk! Oh my God! Was that how sickness in old age is? My tall, handsome and stately father! I couldn’t take it in. I was going to lie on the bed to cuddle him, but my siblings restrained me.
“You can’t do that here, sis,” Joe told me. “They’re very strict here. Patients must not be touched without the permission of the hospital staff. Only mum was given that permission.”
I wiped my eyes and then went to give my mum an affectionate hug. The tears came back. She smiled at me but was looking so tired and weary herself. I made a sign to Joe to indicate that he should take her aside and tell her our proposal. He sprang into action at once. I turned my attention to my dad again. He seemed to be watching us all. I went to whisper in his ears. He smiled at me, shut his eyes and then opened them again, and moved his lips. My heart leapt with joy and relief. In my mind’s eye, I could see him leave the hospital soon; restored to full health. Amen.
Mum must have been very tired because she didn’t need much persuasion to go rest at home. She went to brush her lips against dad’s cheek, and Coco took her , aunt Adeline and Dicta home. I told my brothers that I would take her place and sleep in dad’s room and there wasn’t any need for her to return soon. She needed the rest.
“Sis, that’s just great of you,”said Joe. He and Benny came to part me on my back.
I heard a sob coming from Tayo’s corner and I turned to look at her. What was the matter? Tears were trickling down her cheeks. What? Tayo? She’s one of the bravest persons I know. Joe and Benny looked at her but said nothing.
“Leave her to cry out whatever is ailing her,” Joe whispered to me as they left the room. On their way out, they patted her on the shoulder.
After a minute or two, I went to put an arm around her. “Tayo dear, do you want to share whatever is making you cry?”
She went silent for a minute or two, composed herself and wiped away her tears.
“Seeing you all around papa fussing over him and showing him love, fills me with regret that I wasn’t with my dad before he slipped into a permanent coma. I was in Lagos and he was in Abeokuta. I never had the opportunity to cuddle him while he was still conscious and show him that I loved him.”
“Tayo dear, you did all you could to make your dad’s life comfortable, and you showed him a lot of attention, love and care. You couldn’t have done more than that. May his nice soul rest in peace. Amen. You shouldn’t regret anything.”
After a while, she brightened up and she and I sat watching dad turn in his sleep. What joy! We held hands and began to pray.