How do you deal with life when you know your only child is dying and there is nothing you can do about it? This has been the question on my mind ever since she broke the news of her Cancer. I am a strong believer in God and I believe in miracles too, that’s why I pray every day to Him for one for my baby.
If God could transfer the cancer to me I wouldn’t mind.
At times, looking at her, I wonder what manner of pain she goes through. She is very good at masking her emotions I know but I can always see through her pain and discomfort. She thinks she is smart; well, she actually is. That’s my baby. As stubborn and strong willed as her mum. They are my two most favourite people in the world. I watch my wife age over since the news. She has even lost weight.
Hmmm… I don’t know what God is trying to tell us as a family but I don’t think we are ready for it yet.
My sister had told me yesterday at her place, “Don’t you think you are lucky to see her like this before she passes away than she would have died suddenly, leaving you unprepared for her demise?” The question got me all worked up and angry at her because what luck is there to see your very active child suffer in pain but then again, I saw her point. I think we would have been more devastated if she died suddenly. This brief period is just a time to prepare us for the inevitable when it happens. We can shower her with all the love we can think of. The truth, however, is that our lives had changed right from when we received the news about her condition and it will change even more if God does not make a miracle happen.
So we had agreed to at least break the news to Justice Onifade or Mrs. Onifade as she prefers being called by us, who would have been our in-law if this ugly thing called ‘cancer’ had not come to surprise us all.
She is a lovely and wise woman. At least she will know how best to tell her son the news. I feel sorry for him. I rang the bell and waited as I heard footsteps approach the door.
“Oh! Welcome sir. It’s been a long time.” Miss Grace the housekeeper said as she ushered me inside the stylishly designed, magnificent sitting room. The room stuns me each time I come here. The colour and the lighting even in daylight are awesome and pleasing to the eye. The interior design is in a class of its own. It screams of very good and eclectic taste. Classy doesn’t begin to define it. You can imagine how pleasantly shocked I was when I learned that Mrs. Onified designed this place herself. She is really gifted.
“Yes, Miss Grace! How are you?”
“I’m fine thank you, sir.” “Please make yourself comfortable while I inform His Lordship that you are here.” It felt strange to hear her referred to as ‘His Lordship’ at home because she had told us that she preferred Mrs. Onifade.
I took a seat as I waited for my never to be in-law.
I heard the piercing scream from up above me, it was one of fear. Probably coming from one of the rooms upstairs. I also heard shuffling of foots running towards the voice.
I leaped up, running up the winding stairs to see what was wrong. I saw her run into the room which I suppose the voice came from, so I followed suit.
Tito is lying on the bed as if asleep while a young man in a black corporate Jacket kneeling on the bed clutched his head shouting his name as if he was insane. Mrs. Onifade rushes to his side asking the young man, “what is wrong with him?” whilst calling out his name with so much dread in her voice.
“What is wrong with him?” I asked trying to be the only sane one in the room seeing Mrs. Onifade had gone almost frenetic what with the sound of her voice and the look on her face.
The young man who is now crying points to the white paper on the ground as he tries to say something legible as his tears stifle him. Just as I picked up the paper, I heard them gasp. “Tito!”
I turned to look at him as he asked: “What is wrong?” He looked stray-eyed and a little disorientated. I saw the shock and relief on everyone’s face.
“Are you mad? Why would you do that to your family?” the young, man screamed at him still crying but this time I believe they were tears of joy and obviously relieve as I could hear it in his voice.
“What did he do?” Mrs. Onifade asked in an almost cracked and tired voice as she cuddled his head lovingly with a sigh. Her eyes red and puffy from crying.
It was then I took a look at the paper in my hand and it was as if I was hit by with a sledgehammer as I felt around for a chair to help maintain my balance. This did not help Mrs. Onifade who saw my reaction and asked again, this time using the authoritative official tone Judges are known to use when soliciting an answer from people in court.
“What does that say?”
“Please ma, let’s talk outside” I suggested as I stood up rather slowly.
“What is wrong?” she asked exasperatedly as she threw suspicious darting looks between the young man, her son and I.
She stood and led the way to the living room as I walked behind her.
“I believe you have something to tell me Mr. Solomon.” She said as she suddenly spurned round looking me in the eye as though challenging me to say no.
“That paper says Tito tried to commit suicide because my daughter broke up with him today. But beyond that, he doesn’t know why she did break up with him which is why I came to see you.” I saw the glint of shock cast over her as her face clouded over and cleared immediately as she stood up.
“Excuse me. I’ll be right back.” She said as she walked out briskly.
I heard the conversation from where I sat because her voice was more or less thundering.
“Tito! How could you? That was bloody selfish of you. Did you ever pause to think what your stupidity would have caused us as a family? By the way; how come you are still alive since according to this note…” she waves the note in the air. “You took an overdose of the sleeping pill which is supposed to help you die as a coward.”
“Will you open your mouth and talk to me, young man”.
“I thought about you and Ayobami and I couldn’t do it”. I think that was what he said since he wasn’t really audible from where I was sitting.
“So you didn’t swallow the pills after all, right?” I heard a tone of relief in her voice.
“I thought I taught you enough about life but obviously I haven’t”.
“No! I have taught you more than enough, you just refused to learn and act as the wise, courageous young man I have trained you to be”.
I couldn’t take it anymore; I had to stop her from lashing out at the young man and destroying what bit of self-esteem he had left.
“Mrs Onifade, please, let it be for now. It is not his fault. Just calm down.” I said as I strode into the room. Without turning to me she asked, “So are you trying to tell me to blame your daughter? I won’t do that. She has her reasons. It is up to him to work things out. There is no perfect relationship. There will be storms but couples have to wither through either collectively or individually as the case may be. So there is no excuse for this foolishness”. Her eyes still trained on Tito who sat head bowed as a criminal who had just been convicted of a heinous crime. She hisses, shakes her head, turns and walks out.
“Hey son, don’t you worry. You will be fine”. I said not believing those words.
I met her in the living room still fuming.
“Please calm down”. I said to her.
“Stop telling me to calm down. I would have lost my only son today!”
“My daughter has cancer. Cancer of the heart.” She gasped in shock. Blood drained from her face as her mouth hung open.
“How? Oh! My God. Why?” I knew that was an irrational question and she was trying to process what she just heard so I let it pass before adding, “She has less than three months to live”.
She stood up as if to walk out, a taut mask of pain on her face but her footsteps faltered as she fell to the ground.
I rushed towards her petrified as I screamed her name shaking her now limp body.
I pick up my phone to call Tosin as my driver eases the car into the traffic as we leave the hospital. Today has been quite a day indeed.
“Hello Love! Where are you?” I asked in a tired voice. I was hungry and worn out for the day.
“Hey love!” “I just got home. What’s Up! You sound really stressed out”.
“You got it right love. I’m really stressed out but believe me, it’s a short story. I can’t start telling you all about it on phone”.
“Argh…you’ve started with this your ‘short story ‘ talk.” she said testily.
I laughed. I think it is the first time I am laughing today.
“David! If I catch you ehn…!” she threatened mockingly.
“Okay. I will tell you but you have to prepare me that egusi soup and pounded yam you promised me last week at my mum’s place.”
“David! Repeat after me, ‘I am not serious’. Do you know what time it is? It’s past 7 pm already. But well, I may still surprise you because my sister prepared egusi soup and brought me some yesterday. ”
“I knew it! The Lord is directing my footsteps. Whew!” She laughed.
“Footsteps ni, footsteps ko. Shebi it is because of egusi soup that you are saying that He is directing your footsteps. For your information, there is no yam flour but I can prepare you amala if you don’t mind.” “Oh! Okay! It’s better than nothing jare. You think that will stop me from devouring that egusi soup. I don’t mind licking the soup without the amala sef.” She laughs.
“I believe that stress is really affecting you. You had better hurry and get here before I change my mind about giving you my egusi.”
“Babe, if you change your mind, then I guess I’ll just change my mind about you and check out that your knocked-knee office Secretary! Ermm…What’s that her name again? I said teasingly.
“David Oh!” She exclaimed laughing hard.
“Hey, you know I love you right?” I said.
“I know. That’s why I’m not serving you that egusi soup again but get here fast. I miss you.” she said as she hung up before I had the chance to chip in a reply.
God! I love this woman. For some reason I don’t know why I still have a huge grin on my face. I wonder if she will stop having this effect on me. She is always facetious. I don’t even remember I had a terrible day.
I told my driver to make a detour to her place.
We are driving home and I am seething at mum for being too headstrong by insisting to take her leave from the hospital when she came through after the doctors and resuscitated her. I am also mad at Dr Yetunde who acquiesced. How am I supposed to know that she will be okay at home? At least she should be kept in the hospital and be observed for at least a day to make sure that she is really okay. I mean, she gave me a scare there when I saw her lying lifeless on the ground today.
So the doctor says she has high blood pressure.
Now I feel bad. This is all my fault, if only had not written that stupid note; nobody would have had inkling as to my drama. She holds my hand intertwined in hers and has remained quiet ever since we left the hospital.
I’m wondering what is going on through her mind right now. I wouldn’t mind paying a penny for her thoughts right now. She looks pale, almost fragile. She looks very different now. I almost lost her. God!
Thank God for Mr Solomon who was with her. David has once again proved to be a friend in deed, coming through for me and running round with me and being part of the family drama. God bless him. Ayobami was frenetic when I called to inform her. She couldn’t make it to the hospital so she kept calling at thirty minutes interval for updates. She is now on her way home to receive us. I wonder what I would have done without her.
She has been a great influence on me just like mum.
The whole events of today won’t stop playing in my head because I can’t stop thinking about it. Everything happened so fast. It felt surreal. It more or less ranked among one of those things that happen that you will rather want to believe is a dream. Tito and his friend had run out to see why I had screamed. I thank God Tito was composed enough to rap his head round the whole thing and stayed sane enough to call the family doctor. Same could not be said about the young man who was his friend as he cried and whimpered like a baby all through the journey to the hospital. As for me I was dazed and plagued by guilt as I blamed myself for breaking the news of my daughter’s cancer to her . I knew she was going to be shocked just like we were when we first heard about it but I had not anticipated this. “What have I done?” I took my leave when the doctor said she had been resuscitated and stable. She was diagnosed of high blood pressure.
I should have just stayed back home. This was all a bad idea.
My phone buzzed. It’s my wife. Apparently she has called me more than ten times. I missed some. Actually, I missed all. I know how frantic with worry she must have been by now. In the rush to get Mrs Onifade to the hospital and all, I had literally zoned out, focusing on the situation at hand.
“Hello babe!” “Before you say anything, I am fine and very sorry for not picking your calls.” I rushed over my words anticipating the panic-questions that may follow.
“Thank God!” “I was so worried-sick. I even had to call Mrs Onifade to check in with you but her phone was switched off.” “What happened?” I heard the worry and relief in her voice all at once.
“Babe I’m driving in now. We’ll talk.” I replied as I hung up. She was already outside waiting for me. “Hey babe!” I said as I gave her a tired smile.
“Hey!” she said as she kissed and hugged me tight. I was lost in that moment. This is why I always look forward to coming back home no matter how bad my day has been because God had given me a woman who is crazy in love with me who will give me a kiss and a warm hug and tell me everything is alright. Sometimes when I am going through a very terrible day, I close my eyes and begin to imagine the fecundity of her love for me and everything dissipates to nothingness because I know I have her. Love is a beautiful thing.
We walked hand in hand inside the house.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Tito attempted suicide and Mrs Onifade collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. It…”
“Oh! My God!” she gasped as she covered her mouth with her hands and her eyes wide in alarm.
The sound of a shattered glass startled us as we looked from across the room to see our daughter look at us glazed and crying hysterically as she kept saying, “it is all my fault.”
Dr Morgan Ebong MD
As he reversed the black Ford Edge SUV out of the car park reserved for him and heading for his aunt’s place at the highbrow area of Ikoyi, he thought about the young man who he had just operated upon and how he had almost lost him when he suddenly went into shock. He wasn’t even sure if he was going to make it to the next day. His experience in the medical profession as a surgeon had taught him one thing; life is very delicate. So sometimes, people’s actions can be very intrinsic to the totality of how a person’s life is summed up.
He increased the volume of his car stereo as he slotted in the ‘Bed of Stones’ album by Asa.
The traffic was building up. He prayed silently that he would get past it before he got stuck. But that was not to be. He was stuck in traffic for forty – five minutes as the cars in front of him moved at a snail pace.
Frustration crept in and he was tired as he had a very busy day. The ‘Moving On’ song by Asa who happens to be his favourite Nigerian soul music artiste failed to fill the void as usual in circumstances like this.
His aunt had better not be annoyed about his lateness. He thought. She had left for home after rushing in to attend to her friend, Justice Onifade.
She wasn’t feeling too well herself and had decided to take the day off but when she got the call about her friend, she had suddenly sacrificed her rest. It’s pretty amazing what we can give up and to what extent we can go all out for our friends. She once told him, “When God brings certain people your way, He makes them your family and not just mere friends.” His taut facial muscles relaxed as he thought about her.
She had taken him in and became his guardian when he lost his parents in a car accident while he was still a child. She had played the role of mother and father all at once. He became her only child since she had none of her own and has been a divorcee twice.
Marriage just did not work for her.
She had done well for herself though, she took over from her dad as the Chief Medical Director of ‘The Blue Chest specialist Hospital’ where he is now helping out as a Surgeon after taking a years’ break from working as a volunteer senior medical personnel for the United Nations in Afghanistan to have a feel of what it is like to practice in Nigeria.
The traffic light ahead turns green as the cars ease forward faster than ever. “Thank God! At least we are moving” He thinks to himself. He steps on the accelerator hoping to beat the red light he is sure is going to come up very soon. He is startled when he sees the mono-chrome black BMW 6 series Grand Coupé drive across him. He hits the break but it was no use as the impact of the two cars sent him to murky darkness. The BMW lay up-turned after somersaulting four times. The Peace Corps and other motorist ran off to help the occupants of both cars as people screamed and cried as blood trickled from both cars.
It was total pandemonium.
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