By Bunmi Sofola
WHAT do you do when your lover’s wife dies suddenly? You’ve known her for years, have resigned yourself to be content with the part of him you could have. Then suddenly, there you are, faced with the possibility of being a replacement for his wife.
Sadly, things are not as cut-and-dried as they look when you’re enmeshed in a love triangle as Monica would find out. She tells her story:-
“For quite a while, it seemed Gboye, my lover of almost two decades wasn’t his usual bubbly self. He was a bit detached and I put it down to the prostrate cancer he had almost a year now which had been successfully operated on. He’d had to convince himself a bit of his potency was back. But his love life has suffered a bit of a setback too. On top of which age wasn’t on his side. Enough problems really to make the faint-hearted depressed, albeit slightly.
But Gboye is not the type to be despondent most on the time could he have more on his plate? This question played on my mind as I sat across my dining table with him. I hadn’t seen or heard from him in the past four weeks—which was very unusual. He loves long chats on the phone and for him not to call made me a bit concerned.
“What happened to you? I asked lightly as he finished the light supper he asked for. He’d always drummed it into me never to ask searching questions until he’d settled down and was ready to talk. This first happened when we both worked in the office and I was happily ensconce in the flat he rented for me—our love nest.
He was expected for dinner but didn’t show up until almost midnight. I was sick with apprehension—did he have an accident? Had ‘madam’ prevented him from leaving the house? The last option I dismissed as Gboye’s wife was one of the ‘hear no evil, see no evil” types. When he eventually surfaced, I flew at him, unleashing all my pent-up frustration. “Shut up!” he barked. I was shocked.
He’d never spoken to me that way before. “You wouldn’t know what happened to me, or in what frame of mind I am until you’ve made me comfortable and relaxed—instead of adding to my worries by being a shrew!
Well, that was new to me! But he had a point. So, I sat him down on his favourite chair and gave him a drink. He said I should forget dinner “A group of friends caught up with me unexpectedly at the house and we were entertaining,” he explained: “There was no way I could get in touch with you as the phone was in the living room and the bedroom extension was faulty, that I made it back now is due to my insisting I take one of the guests to his hotel.” Was that all? I seethed inwardly.
Was I to be grateful that he lied like a school boy just to be here with me for a few minutes whilst madam did the cleaning up? One look at his determined face shut me up. I knew better than to cross-examine him when he had that look. So, now I waited patiently for him to explain his long absence. “I was away,” he sighed again.
“I had to take ‘D’ to a hospital abroad.” ‘D’ is his pet-name for his wife. But hospital? Abroad? “What’s the matter with her?” I asked him. “Cancer,” he said resignedly as if he was reporting a slight case of the sniffle. “She has ovarian cancer, but by the time the hospital did the biopsy, it was discovered that it was in its advanced stage and had nymph nodes. All the pains she had in her groin when she was here was treated as
“But later, her consultant discovered a lump and urged me to take her abroad as quickly as I could. It’s ironic really. This is a woman I married as a virgin, who barely touched alcohol and had always been a health freek now being ravaged by the dreaded ‘C’ disease.” As he lapsed into silence, he looked so shrivelled and old that I wished I could comfort him.
“What were her chances with chemo and all they do to you these days when you have cancer? I asked. He looked sadly at me and said: “Nothing much could be done for her except to make the rest of her life as pain-free as possible.” What did he mean, the rest of her life? “She has only months left to live.” I felt numb as he told me she was being
flown back home soon to be with the family that loved her in her last days. Two of the children were abroad and they would bring their mother back as soon as possible.
“When he left, I felt really sad for Gboye. His wife was a gem, who, in spite of knowing I had a relationship with her husband, still treated me as a friend of the family. Now she’s being ravaged by ovarian cancer. I hurriedly thumped through my medical hand-book to find out that ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women. It’s treatable only if discovered early. But, most cases are not diagnosed until it has spread, making survival rates very low.
It is known as the silent killer because symptoms are not usually dramatic and can be confused with other illness like irritable bowel Syndrome. According to the handbook: “Symptoms include always feeling full, abdominal and pelvic pain, bloating and increased abdominal size. Abnormal vaginal
bleeding, an excessive need to pee, fatigue and a change in bowel habits may also be signs. In some cases, lumps can be felt, but it’s rare….”
“How would the poor woman be feeling with a death sentence hanging on her head? I felt genuinely sorry for her. She had her 60th birthday a couple of years ago. Thank goodness her children are all grown and doing well. Fleetingly, I remembered Buki, Gboye’s secretary of years back who, in spite of being nice and respectful to me, was having an affair with him behind my back. An affair that produced two children!
She now bears his middle name and lives in a flat bought for her by Gboye. Does she know about ‘D”s fate? If she eventually dies, would Buki be moved in as a replacement wife? Gboye is not the type to live alone, as for me, I doubt if I even want to live permanently with Gboye. His children know of me and his first daughter has always been hostile whenever I run into her.
“But what was I thinking? The poor woman is not dead yet—why was I thinking of a successor? What happens if ‘D’ beats the doctor’s odds in spite of her diagnosis? When she was eventually brought home Gboye told me she was kept stable by a lot of pain-killers and was floating in and out of consciousness. I was relaxing watching the box
the late night Gboye visited to tell me ‘D’ had passed on. He then started crying like a baby and I held him close, trying to comfort him the best I could. Poor thing. He obviously couldn’t break down in front of his children and close relatives who looked to him for strength.
“In a way, I’m glad that she didn’t suffer for too long,” he said sadly. Some cancers drag on for such a long time, ravishing their victims’ bodies and reducing them to a ghost of themselves before taking their lives.
‘D’ was a health nut, and I couldn’t begin to imagine how she would have felt being kept alive by drugs and chemicals.”
She was buried in Gboye’s home-town, but there was a commendation service for her at her church which I attended. The children looked determined to celebrate their mother’s life instead of mourn her.
They rallied round Gboye, chatting with him and, sometimes, making him smile wryly. It was a relief that giving ‘D’ a decent burial wouldn’t be a gloomy affair. She was a very bubbly woman when she was alive.
Fleetingly, I saw Buki skulking into the corner of a pew—thank goodness she didn’t bring the kids!
“For all you know, they might see Gboye and run towards him, squealing ‘daddy!’ What an embarrassment that will be—on top of mourning his dead wife! When I got back from the funeral, I became morbid-recalling friends and relatives who have died. Life is, indeed, a gift.
To wake up every morning and wallow in the joy of life should not be taken lightly. Nobody knows when his number would come up!”