– the funloving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
Hi readers! Even though I hadnâ€™t shown any emotions when my aunt Adeline said that I needed to marry, and fast, I was amused. There she was, thinking that there was something amiss in my life because Iâ€™m not married, and there was her daughter, Bess, who would like to leave her alcoholic husband, but canâ€™t! Of the two of us, whoâ€™s better off? I think I am. Iâ€™m living my life the way I want to and Iâ€™m satisfied with it.
Iâ€™m not forced to live a life Iâ€™m unhappy with, just to satisfy a parent. I sneaked a look at my aunt and felt some pity. When her first husband died, she just kept re-marrying over and over again, until she hit her seventieth year and had to stop. Maybe the proposals stopped coming.
â€œItâ€™s not respectable to remain single,â€ she used to say. â€œEven if marriage proposals threaten to stop, you do something about it. You get a worthy man to propose to you. You make it happen.â€
This was the scenario all through her marrying years until she accepted a proposal. Her brothers, my dad and my uncle Richard, would approve whoever she chose, don their best suits and the rest of us would troop down to Accra to witness the wedding. For a while it would be pure bliss for her, then if the man didnâ€™t kick the bucket (two did), she would begin to lose interest in keeping home.
â€œItâ€™s too much stress looking after another human adult 24 hours a day, and forever,â€ she would tell her brothers. â€œOne feels like a slave! When would one breathe? My brothers, your only sister is slowly dying as you see her here. You have to do something. And do it quick.â€
Dad would want the marriage saved, but she would say that the responsibility of being married is too much. â€œItâ€™s not as if children are involved. One is past child-bearing age now, so, thereâ€™s nothing at stake.â€
Thereafter, we would all hold our breath until she comes to tell her brothers that the union has been mutually dissolved. The relief would last some time, until she would begin to feel â€˜lonelyâ€™.
My parents were secretly overjoyed when she announced on her 72nd birthday that since no man was with her when she clocked 70, she wouldnâ€™t marry again. Sheâ€™s kept her word since then. You would wonder then why sheâ€™s so concerned about female family members around her, having a husband.
â€œTreena dear,â€ she suddenly said during supper that day, â€œweâ€™re all family here. I find Seb a very nice, attractive and caring man. Years after you left him, he still plays a very vital role in this family. I like him. I canâ€™t remember why you divorced him, but since youâ€™re still good friends, why donâ€™t you re-marry?â€
The silence in the room was heavy. I got a discreet prod on my side. It was my mum who was in the seat next to mine. I understand that gesture so well. It means I shouldnâ€™t get angry; rather, I should reply sweetly.
â€œThank you, auntie, for the concern and interest in my life. I really appreciate this. Er, Seb and I havenâ€™t sat down to discuss our feelings for each other, let alone decide to start dating and then see if the dating will lead to a proposal of marriage from him.â€
â€œHuh? Do you have to go through all that process? You both did all that in your early days in Britain, didnâ€™t you? I donâ€™t think that would be necessary.â€
â€œYouâ€™re right, auntie. But thereâ€™s the little matter of him having a fiancee; Belinda. They have very strong feelings for each other and they can head for the altar any day.â€
â€œOh, but you have the upper hand there. Youâ€™re the only woman heâ€™s married and youâ€™re the mother of the only kids he has. Those are very strong ties. Heâ€™ll marry the said Belinda only if you allow him.â€
â€œWould you like me to propose to him, auntie?â€
â€œOh no! Ours is a proud family. Youâ€™re too young to propose to any man. If you were 70 and above, well, you could. Even then, you guide the man to propose marriage.â€
â€œThanks, auntie. Weâ€™ll wait to see what happens then.â€
â€œMy only fear is that lady with a posh car who he says is his public relations manager. They seem close.â€
â€œTheyâ€™ve been for years, Adeline dear,â€ said mum. â€œSheâ€™s very useful to him. But for her, our trip here would have been rough. She handled everything beautifully and even accompanied us to Lome. They had to leave for Lagos suddenly to see to business.â€
â€œThey were here yesterday,â€ said my aunt. â€œSeb said they were examining the possibility of reopening their Accra branch. I pray they do. Nancyâ€™s last born, Harry, is an employment-seeking graduate. Iâ€™ve already told him to consider employing him.â€
â€œOh, thank you, mum,â€ said my cousin Nancy. â€œSeb pays good salaries. You remember he allowed my son, Edward, to get some accounting experience in his organization before applying for a bank job. Seb is so helpful, but we must not take him for granted. Weâ€™ll wait until he says heâ€™s recruiting staff.â€
â€œOr better still, until he actually is certain about re-opening the branch,â€ said my dad. â€œAs for he and Treena getting back together, sis, I think we shouldnâ€™t push that. Heâ€™s engaged to be married. We would need to go to the priest for confession if we try to place Treena between him and his fiancee. Itâ€™s a sin to come between a couple. We donâ€™t want that on our conscience, do we?â€
I looked at my dad with admiration. He had hit the nail on the head without any fuss or argument. He doesnâ€™t talk much, so, when he speaks, people listen with respect. His sister went silent. My mum made her excuses and left the room. I suppose she didnâ€™t want the sister-in-law thinking she was on my dadâ€™s side.
Surprisingly, Nancy spoke up. â€œMum, Treenaâ€™s alright as she is. Sheâ€™s leading a fulfilled life. Why insist that she must get married?â€
â€œSheâ€™s young. She should be married. Now, youâ€™re a widow, and a recent one too, so, you can afford to stay single for a while.â€
â€œIsnâ€™t Treena like a widow too?â€ asked Bess. â€œWe seem to forget that her fiance has recently passed on, too.â€
â€œDonâ€™t bring up that fellow,â€ my aunt snapped, glad to have someone on whom to release her displeasure at my dad not supporting her view. â€œMy niece is not his widow. Treena, have you seen where heâ€™s buried?â€ I shook my head.
â€œSee? Sheâ€™s not his widow and sheâ€™s not grieving him. So, she should get married. Thereâ€™s Alfred, on the next street whoâ€™s been in love with Treena for decades. Right from her early visits when she and Seb returned from Britain. Heâ€™s divorced now. Iâ€™m sure heâ€™d jump at the chance to date Treena. Bro, you donâ€™t mind if Alfie joins us for dinner tomorrow, do you?â€
â€œYou know I donâ€™t like his company,â€ protested dad. I was surprised. I didnâ€™t know that there are people whose company he doesnâ€™t care for. Normally, he tolerates everyone.
â€œOkay, okay, he behaved badly when his driver rammed into our fence many years ago, and he refused to pay for the damage, but heâ€™s a nice man. You know that.â€
â€œMy dinner wouldnâ€™t go well if I have to see that manâ€™s face at my table,â€ insisted my dad. â€œYou can invite him, if you like, but Iâ€™ll have my dinner set for me in another room. He not only failed to repair or pay for the damaged fence, he has not apologized till date. Thatâ€™s very rude of him.â€
Hm! I was seeing a new side to him. He could be tough, yes? By now it was just the three of us at the table. Nancy, Bess, Ify, had all melted away from the room. I had stayed because I was the one my aunt was trying to â€˜find a husband forâ€™.
If I left the room, she would be offended. And dad never wants any of us, including mum, to upset his sister. Also, I must have juicy stories for this page. So, I stayed; pretending that I was pre-occupied with my glass of wine. My ears were flapping wildly, waiting to hear more.
My aunt was alarmed to see the brother getting upset, so, she got up to go massage his shoulders to calm him down. â€œOh, bro, come on now,â€ she cooed to him. â€œI didnâ€™t mean any harm. Alfieâ€™s a nice person and he used to be a good neighbour. His wifeâ€™s death left him shattered and he became a bit angry with the world.
â€œAnd you want me to spend an evening with such a person? I mean, I sympathized with him for his loss and we were supportive to him and there for him, but he behaved like a pig when the damage his driver did was reported to him. He refused to accept liability and told us to hold his driver responsible! Can you imagine that! All that was needed was for him to apologize like a civilized person. And youâ€™re thinking of matching up your own niece with a man like that!â€
Mum appeared at the door and beckoned silently to me. I suppose she felt I had heard enough. I obeyed and murmuring my excuses, I left the room.
Personally, I was glad at dadâ€™s opposition to the said Alfred who I had known most of my adult life. About twelve years older and achieving, ladies find him attractive and he knows it. But that name puts me off. Alfie! That doesnâ€™t go with Treena, does it? Not my type of man at all.