By Bunmi Sofola
When Bukky’s husband died suddenly of a heart attack in his early 60s, she was inconsolable. They’d been inseparable for decades, and the obituary she put in the papers would draw tears from a sadist’s eyes. She cut a pitiable figure as her husband laid in state in the expensive casket she had insisted be bought. As sympathizers filed past the corpse, a little boy of about ten stood rooted to the spot, gazing with the morbid fascination children have for the dead. The widow was now curious… “Whose child is that?”
She wanted to know thinking he might be a relative’s child. Nobody offered an answer in spite of the fact she could be heard loud and clear. That really made her suspicious. She then asked one of her daughters to find out who the little boy was. The daughter shrugged and told her mother they would discuss the matter later. That she knew who the boy was. She quickly forgot her grief and comported herself. Were people laughing of her show of deep bereavement, knowing of the little boy’s presence and probably her mother’s? Or do they feel sorry for her? Talk about the wife being the last to know! But did that make her departed husband any
less a wonderful husband and father she remembered him to be? “That’s hardly the point, is it?” She said heatedly a few weeks after the funeral. “He succeeded in deceiving me over the years. Things like this happen all of the time for heaven’s sake. Everyone has their skeletons rattling in the cupboard and I would have preferred my late husband to tell me about the existence of a child rather than find out in this cruel way. I mean you can imagine how desperate the boy’s mother would have been for her little son to pay his last respect to his father.
“She’d carefully dressed him up in his best suit and the boy had obviously been schooled not to utter a word. He just stared…. I will never forget that scene as long as I live. It is said that we were married for so long without my husband trusting me enough to tell me of the existence of a lover with whom he had a child who was as precious to him as my children.” Wouldn’t it have saved a lot of people unnecessary heartaches if Buki’s husband had come clean about his other child before he died? And poor Buki’s daughter was so afraid to tell her mum about her half-brother for fear of what?
Some years back, I was with a relation when she had this male visitor who looked a bit apologetic when he was ushered in. He’d obviously discussed money matters with her as she presented him with a fat envelope. His gratitude was touching, refusing the refreshments offered to him, he bolted away. “That was my half-brother” Wemi, my relative told me, “but my mum knows nothing about him, and I will be the last person to tell her.” Apparently, Wemi’s mum is the type who has a tight control over her husband. He’d promised her when they got married that he would never take a second wife.
But did that mean he would never have children by other women? Wemi was just 15 when her half-brother was born. “My dad never acknowledged him publicly for fear mum would leave him,” she said. “As a matter of fact, it was the lad who came to introduce himself to me when he got admission into a polytechnic and his mother couldn’t afford the fees. He was a spitting image of my dad too and I promised to see him through his higher education. Since then, he’d always been there for me whenever I want anything done— unlike my full siblings.
“When I asked dad about him, he looked a bit frightened. He pleaded I shouldn’t tell my mum but when I told him that I’d already agreed to see the poor lad through school, he was so pathetically grateful that I felt sorry for him. Why was he hiding the child? What about the poor boy’s mother? I later learnt she hadn’t married, and her three other children weren’t better off than my half-brother. A little financial help from dad from time to time would have made a lot of difference. The thing is dad had been in trouble with the law once, and it was mum’s family that bailed him out. But that doesn’t mean he has to be grateful to her for the rest of his life.”
Wemi’s dad finally kicked the bucket early this year and the truth was out when the obituary came out with the man’s name as the third child. He’s done well at school and has a very good business selling cell phones and SIM cards to various outlets all over the place.” Mum pretended to be shocked at first,” Wemi said. “But I had this feeling she knew all along about this man (you can hardly call him a boy now!) He formally met mum before the funeral and on the day of the funeral reception, his table was impressive. It was with pride that I poached choice wine and food from his wife who showed me more respect than my siblings and their partners! I was proud of the difference I made in his life.
“I wish dad were alive to see how well turned out his secret son had been. He knew he was doing well, but he would never guess it was well enough to almost outshine his other ‘legitimate’ children. Nobody gives a damn these days how you have your child or with whom as long as that child is not delinquent!” Thankfully, as far as the law goes now, there’s no ‘illegitimate’ child as long as such child is acknowledged by its dad. This will surely bring some sanity to inheritance law and the right of the ‘other’ child.