By Sunmola Olowookere
Today’s edition of the stories that touch the heart is the tale of an old woman whose life is almost a reflection of her success and setbacks. There comes a time in an individual’s life when past events in his or her life flash before him/her.
What he or she should or should not have done and what would have happened if some steps had been taken becomes clarified.
I am feeling very old today, more than my eighty years of age. I have lived a full and nearly fulfilled life but I am not contented. There is one thing that still remains to fill that hollow and aching hole inside me.
I look around me, many people are dying day in, day out. The world, I sometimes feel, is full of vanity.An incident happened recently that made me sit up and take notice that time waits for no man. At each tick-tock of the clock, the days are running by ceaselessly like a stream, never looking back.
One of my neighbours, a woman who was in her early 50s woke up one morning, joined her tenants for morning devotion and went back to her room probably to go for her daily business.
One of her tenants who had later gone to see her discovered she had slumped in an armchair in her room with her mouth foaming.Pandemonium! The tenant’s cry for help attracted people to the scene. All efforts to revive her proved futile. She had given up the ghost.
I was shocked to my marrow. I had exchanged pleasantries with the woman the day before she died. Who would have thought she would be dead by the morning?Unconsciously, I wondered aloud. “One day, I would be like this, cold, still and unmoving”. This statement had earned me odd, sympathetic and embarrassed looksfrom the other sympathizers as they did not know how to react to my statement.
Unbiddingly, the face of my first son came to my mind. And I knew that if I die now, my set goals in life will be unfulfilled and my spirit will not really be at rest.My son had been a source of worry to me since I was carrying his pregnancy. I was often sick during the pregnancy that I thought I would die.It was God who saw me through even to the day I delivered him. There was nothing like hospital in the village where we lived then. It was in the year 1938, twelve years before Nigeria gained her independence.
That day, I nearly died while delivering the baby. He had decided to come butt first. But for the dexterity of the local mid-wife, I would have been torn into two.Till this day, I never knew how she maneuvered it. All I knew was that the baby finally came out the normal position.
I was already dozing when she placed the baby in my arms after bathing him. She told me “Woman, brace yourself, this is a bundle of problem you are holding in your arms. I pray God will see you through.” I had looked at the child’s innocent face and wondered at the gibberish she was spouting.
“How can this innocent little baby be a bundle of problems?” I wondered silently. But wisely, I kept my face devoid of all feelings as she was a respected soothsayer in the area then.Today, I remember her words and realized they were not gibberish. I also realized that my son since his childhood had been dragging me into one problem or the other.
Other children avoided him like plague because he was quick with a stone whenever he was provoked. Many a head had been smashed by him. He would have been killed but for the sympathy people had for me. For a while, I had no issue after him.
It was after I visited an herbalist who told me to make sacrifice to the gods that I got pregnant. I had three issues after him.
Then tragedy struck as my husband died. His family treated us badly. They collected everything he had. They claimed I was the one who killed him.
“If you were not the one who killed him, why didn’t you tell us when he was sick”? His elder brother demanded.
Amidst tears, I reminded him. “But I told you that he started complaining of headache in the night and he died an hour later, if i had known it was that serious, I would have called you. Please, don’t take away his properties, how do we survive?” I pleaded.
They merely shrugged their shoulders indifferently, we were ejected out of the house. I took my children and we fled from Ilorin down to Akure.We settled down. I continued my business and it prospered. I was a food-seller then. All my children finished from school and settled down.
My second son is my comfort. He had settled down in Lagos. He built two houses and gave me one with two shops. I was able to retire from food-selling and started selling provisions and the rent from the other shop and the remaining rooms were for my upkeep.
My third son and my daughter had both settled down and lived in Ibadan.It is only my nemesis that lived in Akure with me. His brother had given him a flat out of the four flats he built. Yet, he still scrounges off me. However, I love him.
He and his wife fought every day. They were married for seven years, yet no issue.The day I had tried to counsel them, the wife had flown off the handle and screamed at me.
“Witch! What do you want here again? Out of all your children, it is only your first issue that is suffering. You have made him your servant. He is his brothers’ house care-taker. Well, I don’t blame you, he himselfdoes not have any sense of self-value”.
I was staring at her open-mouthed. I never knew she could be so vitriolic.Her husband at the end of his tether had pounced on her and had nearly beaten the living day light out of her.
Tunde, truly was the only one suffering among his siblings. That fish-wife of his had been right although she was unkind with it.He has a job, he owns a car and he does not pay any rent. Only God knows how he spends his money.
Now, his wife has finally left him, when they were together they fought every other day. He eats at my house and collects money from me. He is the laughing-stock of all our friends and neighbours. And this is what makes me sad.
What could be the source of his problems? He drinks, smokes, gambles and womanizes. Could that be the cause?You would be wondering what has caused this venturing back into the past.
Just this week, I learnt that the wife who left my son is pregnant.I felt unhappy and shocked to my cramped bones. Could it be that my son has a problem with his system?
I had tried discussing the issue with him but he was short with me. I admit that I had not been very strict with him and has spoilt him.I wish I had gotten to the bottom of this long ago. Now I can no longer pray, I feel like sleeping every day.
I now remember the Bible verse that said ‘the young shall see vision while the old will dream dreams”.What is the use of a dream that has no hope of actualization?
Readers, I hope wishes could become horses, so I could ride.I wished things were different. I wished my eldest son had lived up to people’s expectation.