It was April fool’s day 2005. Dike Obiora was forty-two and Tonto Nwankwo was thirty-eight years old. “Sir, Madam has died” says Mallama the house girl. Between their difficult thirteen years of marriage and a dreadful time now ahead, Dike would cling on these dark clouds, perhaps to find and surf their silvery crests. The doctors explained the primary cause of death was heart failure and secondary as cancer of the colon. Tonto had lost the last drop of her blood to the killer tumour which she had fought 18 months long. Crucial on Dike’s mind was their children. How was he to explain these concepts; death and bereavement to them?
“My soul is tired for the things that have been done on it. My body is weak. I am older than my age and sometimes I am ashamed of what you could remember behind this thick love you have for me. I have squandered everything for nothing, not really nothing but what my heart yearns for, though most times I am led to nowhere by it. You have often done more than I could have done for myself; definitely anybody has done for me. The emptiness catches up with me and so often overwhelms me…”
Dike awakes. He finally walks into the room where the children were watching television. They barely noticed him. Confused and wary not to alarm them, he took another deep breath. “Guys, please ‘pause’ the cartoon channel and listen to me for a minute”. As they turned their heads and flashed their pools of clear large eyes towards him, he clinched his hands and took another deep breath.
“God has taken mummy to heaven to rest. You all know that she has suffered a lot this past year and half”
“Yes Daddy” they said. They were merely seven, six and three years old. He was unsure how they were processing the information, but he resolved to be strong for them and to never let them off his sight for a very very long time.
Tonto was a sweet soul whose troubles were overwhelming. Her mind wrinkled as it destroyed her body. Despite her rage and destruction, she was consistently a troubled mind and never a wallowing sordid soul.
“I heard a voice when I was 3 years old. Something told me He was God and that he loved me. I was over joyed and loved it. The days after, I heard it so much as he came around so often, that I began to live in dread of it” she says.
Tonto loved her mother, three sisters and two brothers. They probably loved her more than she felt. But for every other person who tried to love her, the trauma of her natal scourge snuffed every effort to fill her gnawing emptiness.
“I struggle for love, may be because I don’t understand love. Like every child, I want to own my own sisters, brothers and mother. I should have the same surname with my siblings because I share the same womb with them. I want to be theirs. I don’t want to be accepted, because that says something about being an outsider. I don’t want them to be nice to me, because that is about hospitality, may be to a stranger. I want to be them, family, and love, not given but co-owns, not logical but emotional. You understand, don’t you? She asks.
What tears the fabric and tissues of a child’s soul and refuses to heal for 38 years? What wakes a baby from sleep to stack adulthood, and keeps her up for 38 years? moans Dike.
“I hate you Dike. You think am not good for you, you want to marry one of those girls when I die. Good man, you think you have won? I will tell everybody what evil you have been to me. You don’t like me. You snuff off everything I ignite. You don’t encourage me. You are always competing with me. I am never sufficiently good enough at anything. You love your mother, your sister, my mother, my sisters more than me”.
Dike reaches out to love his wife, but sometimes in logic, and once again fails.
“You always make me feel guilty. What is the point of this love when you make me feel am no good? Your love, your mother, everything, even God, yes God, all of you can go to hell”
The phone rings “Hello sister, yes I am fine today… yes, yes. I just want you to know that it is my husband who’s killing me. He is responsible for my illness and death when it comes. Yes, yes. Thank you, sister. I love you too”
Towards the last days, on her death bed, she came near to that conviction that she has now gained her family’s undivided attention. They love her. They are all now preoccupied with her in that special way she has always wanted. If this was it, then she may have lived all her life to get it. She wanted her ‘mommy’ and it was all worth it.
Listening and Creative Communication Artist
BA Fine Art (Painting) University of Benin 1986
These are real life stories. I will love hear your comments, questions, and suggestions please. Thank you.