– the funloving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers! I returned to Lagos from Jos with a heavy heart. We had all had a marvellous time in Jos, but I hadn’t planned the after-event properly.
In my innocence, I had assumed that my two children and my son-in-law would return to Lagos with the gals and me, to spend a day or two, before returning to Abuja to take their flight to Accra. I was even willing to pay for them to fly from Lagos to Accra, but they had their own plans.
“Cheer up, Treena dear,” urged Tayo while we were waiting for our plane. “There comes a time when we have to let go our children. Heather is married now, so, she makes plans with her husband. It’s a rude awakening for any parent, but that’s how it is. Count yourself lucky that they submitted themselves to all that the families wanted. Unlike Dupe and Bayo who got engaged without my knowledge, had the registry wedding and decided to start a family before they brought me and Bayo’s mum in. That really hurt. I couldn’t give them a wedding that is befitting a daughter of mine.”
“Hm!” said Liz. “Let that go, Tayo dear. Look at the two lovely grand children they’ve brought into the world to bless your life. A boy and a girl, within record time. What more could you want? You’re blessed, my dear.”
“Thanks, Liz dear, for asking me to count my blessings” said a grateful Tayo. “Those my grand children are part of the jewels in my crown. I can’t have enough of them.”
“That’s how it is,” chorused Boma and Becky. I have no experience of being a grand mother to share, so, I kept quiet. How soon would Robert and Heather begin to give me grandchildren, I wondered. They will get married in April, by the grace of God, and since the couple is born-again, there would be no action until they take their vows before God in a church.
It was as if Tayo was reading my mind. She reached over to pat my knee and tell me that I’m lucky that I don’t have to wait anxiously for another daughter to get married.
“The rest of us here, Liz, Boma, Becky and I, still have a daughter each to give out in marriage. Oh, the agony of waiting for the right date that would lead to marriage to the right guy! That’s no longer your portion, Treena dear. Thank your God for that, and cheer up. Heather is in good hands. They’ll come to Lagos another time.”
“Thanks, Tayo dear, but what about Milwan? He’s not married yet. One would think that he would want to accompany mum to Lagos, stay a day or two, before heading back to Britain. He doesn’t have to go with his sister and her husband.”
Tayo glanced at the other gals and they murmured their sympathy. I felt some consolation. Nanny, on the other hand, was in high spirits at the airport. The thought of travelling by air is always blissful for her, so, she had no time to hold her madam’s hand in sympathy.
Michel and Robert had left Jos two days earlier for Lagos, but we had remained behind to go on a ‘thank you’ visit to the friends and relations in Jos, and Seb and I had gone to their village, close to Makurdi in Benue State, to thank the relatives who had come from there for the wedding. Belinda? She wanted to come on the trip, but Seb had put his foot down and told her that he didn’t want to have to explain to the villagers, who the two women with him are. He would take her there on another trip, he promised her. On the way there, he told me that those relatives of his were not aware of our divorce, so, I should behave like we’re still together as man and wife. I thought that was ridiculous.
“Are you sure they don’t know already, after all these years? And does it matter if they know we’re divorced? I don’t mind.” I asked him.
“I do. They are all staunch Catholics, so, divorce is not part of their vocabulary. If Belinda came along, they would want to know what she is to me, and that may lead to another wife being got me, since they’d assume that I’ve become polygamous. I annoyed them when I married you, a nonBenue lady. If I show up and introduce another wife to them who’s non-Benue, the offence would be greater this time around, and they would want me to have a girl from our village.”
“They can’t force you.”
“Oh yes, they can. If those in Jos could send Patricia to Lagos for me to tryout, these ones here can produce a girl out of a hat for me to marry. You forget that many girls are anxious to get married to a man from the city. Lagos is like the moon to them, so, they could be summoned at a moment’s notice, and they would be willing to accompany me. No, it’s best for them to see us as man and wife. They would know that I’ve stuck to the same wife and there’s no room for another. Belinda understood perfectly well, thank God.”
As it were, we had been fretting for nothing. All the relatives we went to see were away on their farms, which were quite a distance away on un-motorable roads. So all we did was leave them gifts of money and parcels of provisions in their houses, to express our gratitude. Phew!
Next day, Seb and his lady headed for Abuja where they would board a plane for Accra, while the gals headed for Lagos. I felt a bit bad that it would be Seb and Belinda who would be around my children and son-in-law in Accra, while I’m in Lagos.
If I had had a fore knowledge of their plans, I would have accompanied the couple and Milwan to Accra myself. No, it isn’t competition for the affection of my children, but it would have been the right thing to do. It would have been an opportunity to see my parents and other relatives in Accra, and also meet the priests who would officiate at the white wedding.
Aren’t they supposed to counsel the couple’s parents too? Oh, Robert’s parents had left for Lagos along with Michel, so, they wouldn’t be available for counselling in Accra. They were going to fly to Britain and then out to the West Indies, if the weather permitted them. I sighed, helplessly.
All our drivers met us at the domestic airport in Lagos. Oh boy, was I glad to be back! You should see the smile on my face as my driver came forward to greet me. The gals hugged one another and I went from one to the other to thank them again for coming along to Jos to give me support at my daughter’s wedding.
“Gal, don’t smother us with your thanks,” said Tayo. “It was an enjoyable time for us all. Thanks to you and dear nanny for the care you took of us. We must thank Seb too. He was a wonderful host. That man is a gem. He must be in Accra by now. Okay, Treena dear, see you.” And she and the others got into their vehicles and left.
As I was about to join nanny in my car, I noticed Seb’s driver hovering around.
“Ho! “I called over to him. He came at once to wish me ‘Compliments of the season.’ That required money changing hands, so, I brought out my purse and gave him money for Christmas. His thanks were effusive.
“Compliments of the season,” I told him. “How are you? What are you doing here? You’re meeting someone?”
He looked surprised. “Er, I came to meet oga. He’s arriving from Abuja. Ah, there he is.”
He left me to dash forward. I turned, and there was Seb and his madam. He came forward to give me a light hug, grinning. “Welcome back to our land,” he said. His madam and I shook hands. “What happened? Did you miss your flight to Accra?” I asked.
“Where we supposed to be in Accra, dear?” Belinda asked him.
“That was a whim,” he said, explaining nothing. He gave me another light hug, took Belinda’s hand and made for their vehicle. I sighed. Fancy me being in agony for not accompanying my children to Accra!
I resolved to check that my new habit of worrying about everything. Could it be age or what? I’m normally a carefree person; seeing mostly the bright side of things.
The traffic from lkeja to Amuwo Odofin was terrible. My driver said it was because of Christmas, which was two days away then. It was a relied when we turned off the Oshodi/Apapa Expressway into the link road to Crystal Estate. I glanced at nanny. She seemed glad to be back in Lagos too. Malam welcomed us into the premises with so much joy. It was as if he hadn’t seen us for many months, instead of the fortnight we had been away.
I looked at the premises; it was very clean, so, I commended him for doing a good job. “Thank you, madam.”
As I turned to go to the house, I noticed movements within. My heart skipped a beat.
I was about to ask malam what was happening when the door was flung open and Milwan, Heather and Robert came out of the house to meet us. I got dizzy with confusion. What a surprise! And there was I fretting that I hadn’t accompanied them to Accra, and that Seb and his lady had scored a point over me in that! Have I said that before? Bear with me. We hugged and hugged and I was virtually lifted up and carried into the house by Milwan and Robert, as if I was a bride being carried across the threshold! My heart was bursting with so much joy!
“What happened?” I asked when we were all seated in the sitting room. “Did you change your plans?”
“Nope,” said Milwan. “We meant this to be a surprise, and dad and nanny were in on it.”
“Michel, too, and also aunties Tayo, Liz, Becky and Boma,” said Heather. “Oh, mum, it’s nice to be home to Lagos.”
“And to sleep in our old beds,” said Milwan. “Mum, you’ve kept the house so beautiful.”
“Mum,” said Robert, “this is a fantastic house. We’ve been enjoying ourselves here, along with Milwan and Heather’s friends, since we got in two days ago. We’ve done a lot of sight-seeing too. I like Lagos. It buzzes.”
“We made a hop to see our cousins in Ibadan” said Milwan. “We saw Uncle Benny’s children and grand children, and also auntie Sally’s married daughter and her family. Auntie Sally’s still in the U.S. along with the other children.”
“Mum, auntie Dicta was looking so drained, looking after Uncle Chuma,” said Heather. “No wonder she wasn’t able to come to Jos. Uncle Chuma is still very ill. Hm! God will heal him. He can speak, though.”
“Yes, his recovery is a very slow process. He got the beating of his life at that political rally in the East. He’s promised his wife and kids to abandon politics. We all warned him not to take part, but he thought he was cut out for it. Do you know Dicta had to take two months on half pay from work in order to look after him? We thank God he’s alive. Where else did you visit?”
“We spent several hours with Uncle Joe and his family, and then went sight-seeing allover Lagos, up to Epe. We won’t try that again. The traffic was unbelievable. Welcome home, mum.”
My joy seemed complete, seeing my children in the house again; only this time, they were like visitors.
Well, that’s how God made life.