THE SORROW BEHIND MY SMILE CHAPTER FOUR

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Fast forward to several years after, My Mother had been totally cured of VVF after series of repair surgeries and rehabilitation.

The ailment saw mother and daughter and the new baby relocate to Lagos since the local private hospital does not have the facilities to cure the ailment.

With the financial assistance from the Matron, and contribution from members of staff of the hospital, My mother was referred to the Lagos State University teaching Hospital [LUTH] Idi-Araba in Lagos where she was a patient for several years undergoing repair surgeries and rehabilitation.

Grandmother stood firmly by her daughter, taking a very good care of her and her new baby which she was emotionally detached from. According to Grandma she went through a very horrible experience having to beg for alms to take care of her daughter and her baby. She would beg for Alms at motor packs, mosques and even churches just to feed mother and daughter and to buy drugs and other necessary things needed in the hospital.

The hospital became their home and they were well known by the staffs and other patients. Patients come and go but they remain there having great hope of a brighter ray. They celebrated several festivals at the hospital and even Grandma later left alms begging and was given a job as a cleaner in the hospital by the management who saw her struggles and pitied her condition.

Patients come and go which made mother so unhappy and never stopped asking when she would leave the hospital but Grandmother being a very strong and highly spiritual woman would console her that they wouldn’t be there forever.

I grew up at the hospital environment and was privileged to attend a nearby public primary school, as my Grandmother would say ‘Three generations must not be unfortunate’ She would do anything to see me through school, even if it means working 24hours non-stop. She would make sure I’m literate. I grew up in lack, taking a polythene bag to school with rough and tattered uniform. Apart from the breakfast I take before going to school, I had no privilege of taking another meal to school neither do I have money to buy snacks but I have just one thing which my mates and teachers envy and admire, I’ve got brain.

First position never elude me, I effortlessly cling to a first position from primary one to primary six. I even had a double promotion twice, from primary 2 to primary 4 and from primary 4 to primary 6 which made me spent only 4 years in primary school instead of the normal 6 years.

It wasn’t as if we could not leave the hospital and receive treatment from home but we had no home and so preferred the hospital environment. I grew up loving the white coat which gave me an inspiration to become a doctor in the future.

Despite having a sick mother and a troubled Grandmother, what do I know as a child, I go about wearing a smile and never failed to greet whoever I meet on my way anytime of the day. My heart warming smile earned me a lot of friends, from patients to doctors and nurses and non medical staffs, I was endeared to all. My cheerfulness also earned me a lot of gifts, both money and material. I became the darling of everyone. I remembered being called ‘Sunshine’ to which I always respond with a smile and which became my identity.

There was a particular female doctor who loved me extra ordinarily and showers me with gifts and a lot of affection. Doctor Giwa was the one who had a soft spot for me, she would take me to her home on alternate weekends to play with her children. She was amazed by my brilliance and loving soul. Whenever I visited her house, I got to eat good food I never tasted before, I got to eat chicken and ice-cream and would boast about it to my mates in school.

With the full assistance of Dr Giwa, We were able to get a room and a parlour apartment when my mother was finally discharged from the hospital. I could remember when I was told that we were leaving the hospital, I wasn’t happy. I was sad because I would miss the numerous attention I get from people especially Doctor Giwa who showered me with an indescribable love and affection which I couldn’t get from my own mother who always serve me a disgustful look. Grandmother on the other hand was too busy caring for her daughter to give me the full attention I wanted, therefore sadness of leaving people who gave me attention engulfed my whole being.

At first I thought my mother never smiled at all because she never smiled to me, until I saw her on several occasions talking and giggling with Grandmother and other people. She always gave me this stern look which made me tumble on my feet. I could count the number of time she spoke to me, and it was either ‘shut up your mouth’ or ‘get out of my sight. As a child I thought Grandmother was my real mother and my mother, just a big sister who Grandma was taking care of. My thought was however changed when I overheard the nurses discussing within themselves that she had the ailment when she gave birth to me.

Unhappy and disturbed about her behavior towards me, I couldn’t stop asking Grandma why she was like that to me but grandma would tell me that she had been through a lot and that I owe her all the goodness a child can give her mother and with time she would come around to love me.

Since I heard this I started putting extra effort to be good to her but as much as I tried to draw nearer to her and receive her love, she kept keeping a distance from me and her cold attitudes towards me got intensified.

We finally moved to the house that our amiable Doctor Giwa rented for us. I was 6 years old this time and experienced for the first time, a life outside the hospital environment. The house was not too far from the hospital so I continued attending my school. Mother who had also clocked 21 at this time also went back to finish learning the hairdressing skill she couldn’t finish when she was in Abeokuta. Grandma on the other hand continued working as a cleaner in LUTH.

Slowly and steadily, mother became a skillful hairdresser, had her freedom and set up her own salon. She put behind all the bitter experience that came with my birth and opened her heart for the first time to a man. At 22 she found love in the arms of a gentle man who married her and paid her dowry. She moved from the house Doctor Giwa rented for us to her husband’s house. Leaving me and Grandma, I was so elated, I would experience a breath of a fresh air in her absence. It was a good riddance to bad rubbish since we never really shared a bond as mother and daughter. I would sure be relieved of her cold attitude and stern looks.

Allah blessed her womb for the second time, She gave birth to my sister, Rodiyah. Grandma went for the Omugwo but couldn’t stay for long since mother had a mother-in –law who was also there with her. I was happy we didn’t stay long as I was beginning to feel uneasy around my mother again. I needed someone to tell me what my crime was exactly.

Life continued with living with only grandmother, She was everything to me, a mother, father and confidant. She would visit my mum but I would choose to stay behind. My heart always race whenever I see the woman who birth me. The only mother I feel comfortable around apart from Grandma was Doctor Giwa. She never forsake us since we left the hospital. She would visit us with food items and beverages. I always look forward to her visits and she never disappointed me. She sure would show up whenever I needed comfort. I couldn’t however visit her house again because her children are all away in the boarding school.

At ten I completed my primary Education with an outstanding result. Being the best student overall in the Common Entrance Examination, I was given a scholarship to any secondary school of my choice by the Lagos State Government. I chose Queens College Yaba, not because of her academic brilliance but because it was nearer to my place of residence.

I held my result and the scholarship offer close to my chest and ran home beaming with joy and a sense of fulfillment. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me to share the good news with my Grandmother but what I met at home sealed my mouth of the good news. I got home and met my mother in our house crying while Grandma was carrying little Rodiyah.

As usual my mother welcomed me with a stern look, her eyes full of tears and excruciating pains. I greeted her but she ignored, I greeted Grandma and walked briskly to the room to change my uniform after which I unwillingly went outside to play. I couldn’t stand the tensed environment.

Expecting my mother to have gone back to her husband’s house, I went back to the house very late in the evening but alas, she was still there. She was seated on the chair comfortably breaking melons. I didn’t see grandma in the room so I silently grumbled to the kitchen to go check on her. I met her there preparing dinner. I stood by the door staring at her in silence. She was able to read my thoughts and invited me to come sit on her laps.

“Don’t worry about your mother, at least I’m here with you” Grandma consoled.

“When is she leaving?” I asked in a selfish tone.

“Hmmmmmmmmmmm” Grandmother sighed heavily and opened up to me

My mother actually had a fight with her husband. The man had impregnated another woman but hid it from mother. The new woman gave birth last week and was brought in with her baby. This generated into a row. It started with an argument which got heated and her husband pounced on her. In a bid to defend herself from being beaten to death, she carried a stool and smashed it on his head. He got injured so badly and sent mother packing.

As young as I was then, I knew there should be a second chance to a relationship though domestic violence shouldn’t be tolerated but there should be a remedy. I asked Grandmother if the situation could still be redeemed but she said she’d already gone with her to plead with her husband but they were stoned like a common thief. She added that she was not willing to go again at least for now.

Sadly I had no choice but to adjust to seeing my mother’s face again which always send a cold shiver through my spine. Our relationship doesn’t get any better and since I wasn’t a baby anymore I tried as much as possible to avoid her like a plaque.

The long Holiday finally came to an end and it was my first day in secondary school. What my Grandmother needed to get for me was only shoe and bag, the rest had been catered for by the government.

School life was full of fun and excitement. I stepped up my game once again beating other students to the first position with no extra effort. As soon as I hear the bell ring for the close of the day, I always feel unhappy to go home. The only thing that geared me was seeing grandma and my little Radiyah, but it wasn’t as if I could carry Rodiyah without mother snapping at me but knowing I had a little sister to return to gave me inner joy.

One day, Grandma was on a night shift at the hospital and was to return the following morning. I slept at home with Mother and Radiyah alone. I woke up early to prepare for school, filled my bucket with water and went to the room to get my bathing sponge. I came back to meet a pool of water on the floor, little Radiyah had poured my bucket of water all over the floor. I gave her a light smack on her buttocks which opened her mouth to a loud cry. Mother ran out of the room on hearing Radiyah’s cry and without asking what went wrong, She charged fiercely towards me and gave me the beating of my life. She beat me as though she was wrestling with an adult.

I was almost beaten to a coma, hadn’t it been for the intervention of the neighbours who rescued me from her, she would have murdered me. Grandmother returned and couldn’t recognize me. My eyes were swollen and shut from beating. I had bruises all over my body which hurts like fire. Grandma was mad, really mad and disappointed at her.

“How could you beat your daughter like this, you’re really wicked, do you want to kill her. If I had beaten you like this while you were growing up would you have grown up with all your limbs complete?” Grandmother retorted.

“She is not my daughter and please don’t you ever call her my daughter again. Warn her never to beat my child again else I’ll kill her completely.” She charged back at Grandma and the neighbor’s mouths were agape.

Grandma shook her head, took me inside and applied some medications on my bruises. She also gave me a delicious meal which left a bitter taste in my mouth. I fell ill all of a sudden, the beating was too much. I couldn’t go to school that day, the incidence left me heartbroken, before it was cold attitude and stern looks, but now she had taken her hatred to the next level. For days the beating left me in pains and it took me weeks to fully recover.

One midnight I overheard grandma talking to my mother about changing her bad attitude towards me. She told her she gave birth to me the same way as Radiyah whom she pampered like an egg. Grandma told her if it was because of what my father did to her that she’s maltreating me, Radiyah’s father had also hurt her, why is she not taking it out on Radiyah. She didn’t allow Grandma finished before getting infuriated.

“Please don’t compare the two, I have told you times without number, that girl” she said pointing at me while I quickly close my eyes “That girl is not my daughter” She said with so much hatred gnashing her teeth as she did.

“Then whose daughter is she?” Grandma asked simply.

“I don’t know, all I know is that she isn’t my daughter. Whenever I see her, I boil with fury. I feel like dumping her in the sea. Can’t you just take her out of this house?” She shouted.

“She’s going nowhere. The earlier you give yourself inner peace by accepting her, the better for you. She’s your flesh and blood and it’s high time you forgot the circumstances surrounding her birth and embrace her. The innocent girl is not the one who offended you so why are you melting out her father’s punishment on her. She’s nothing but a good girl and a pride to this household. You should be proud of her if not for anything but for her academic outstanding. She’s excelling brilliantly well and also of good moral character, she’s not giving us any problem. What else can she be to appease you?” Grandma asked in a softer tone.

“Nothing, she doesn’t have to be anything for me. I don’t want anything to do with her. If she likes, let her acquire all the degree in this world, go to America and come back, let her wake up and lick the dirt on my feet everyday. It doesn’t change the way I feel about her, She’s an unwanted child and an unwanted child she would remain for life.” She poured out with so much hatred.

Upon hearing her hate speech, I burst into tears from my sleep. Grandma quickly stood up to pacify me, my mother hissed and went back to sleep. “You are not an unwanted child, I love you and you shall live to fulfill your destiny in life. You shall know no sorrow and Allah will crown all you lay your heads on with success” Grandma supplicated, cleaning my tears with her wrapper. Her words were soothing and I went back to sleep feeling relieved a little.

A dog and cat relationship continued between my mother and I. I tried my best to be good to her always but it seemed my best was not good enough to earn her love. I could count the number of times she called me by my name ‘Habeebah. As if in a ‘no talk’ relationship, she hardly speaks to me.

I guess she had had her own share of bad marriage and wasn’t willing to marry again but chose to use men as a fiddle. She had series of relationships, she would sometimes spend days outside the house or even weeks leaving Radiyah in Grandma’s care, by this time Radiyah was already four while I was twelve.

Finally she settled for an Otunba after Grandma’s unending pleas and advice for her to choose a man from her numerous flings and stop opening her legs for every Tom Dick and Harry who comes her way. Otunba rented a 2 bedroom flat for us and we moved from the one room and parlour apartment we were staying.

Another baby girl arrived between her and Otunba. Rahmah looks so much like me. I was a complete replica of my mum but she would always deny it because of the hatred she had for me. “Let’s see if Nabilah is also going to deny the fact that Rahmah looks like Habeebah” Grandma teased her and the guest laughed. “It’s only Radiyah that looks like her father” Grandma continued “ Both Habeebah and Rahmah looks exactly like Nabilah” Grandma said while my mother gave her a nasty look. She couldn’t respond the way she always does because of the guests.

Otunba was everything to us, my mother’s husband and our financial helper. I found a father I never had in him, he was really good to me. He already had a wife and so he shuttled between his first wife and my mum. His first wife was also a friend, she visited once in a while alongside her kids and mum too do visit her house. Otunba adore my Grandmother and always praise her for raising my mother so well.

Soon he bought a house for my mother at Ebutte-Metta and we all moved in. Otunba and mum had a jolly relationship, It was an unconditional love, Otunba loved her so dearly regardless of her past. Grandmother would not stop thanking Allah and asked rhetorically that where was Otunba all this years. He was indeed a succor sent from above.

Otunba was interested in my life, he would ask about school and my studies, he would buy me stuffs which mother would deliberately cease from me. Surprisedly my mother had one or two reasons to distract Otunba whenever he was chatting with me. If she didn’t call him to table, she would need his attention in the bedroom. Apparently she couldn’t stand her man being good to me. Grandma was worried and asked her if she was rivaling with her own daughter in which she rolled her eyes and walked away.

Doctor Giwa came to pay us a visit in our new home with her children, grandma had already quit her job as a cleaner at this time. Doctor came with a lot of gifts and was so glad we were now living comfortably. She gave me a landline telephone no to call her on whenever I needed anything. The most precious gift she gave to me that I still cherished till date was a 30 pieces detachable Qur’an. The Quran geared me into attending a madrasah for the first time in my existence.

A nightmare I never envisaged came when I lost a precious jewel. It was an early hour of a Friday. As usual I had woken up early to say my morning sallah, a value which my grandmother had instilled in me. Allah does not free anyone of sallah, even if you’re sick, you must find a way to say your prayers. A morning without Sallah is not a good morning. My grandmother would always say.

I had woken up and went to grandma’s room to also wake her up for sallah. Grandma was always mentally alert, whenever I opened the door to her room, she would get up even before I step my foot inside. That particular day, I opened the door, she didn’t get up, I moved nearer to her, she didn’t get up, I tapped her gently on her back, she wouldn’t respond. I called out Grandma severally while tapping her but she refused to get up. I started tapping her very hard yet there was no response. At this point I knew something was wrong and had to shout loudly for help. “Help me o” I cried out and both mother and Otunba rushed into grandma’s room. Otunba felt her pulse, he observed her breathing by putting his ear on her chest. He shut grandma’s eyes and sent me out.

I stood still and asked questions instead of going out. “What happened to grandma? Wake her very well, she’ll answer you. Please tell Grandma it’s already morning , please tell her to wake up and observe her morning sallah. Tell her Subh will soon lapse” I continued like this in tears with no one to respond to me.

When my noise was getting too much, mother later shouted at me to get out of the room to which I refused. I dared her to do her worst this time. I moved closer to grandma instead and started shaking her profusely.

“Grandma wake up now, grandma it’s morning already. Grandma stop SLEEPING. Won’t you wake up now before Subh lapses” I shouted and cried bitterly. I turned to Otunba and asked questions

“Daddy please don’t tell me my grandma is dead, when will grandma wake up. She promised to go with me to Friday congregational prayer today. She promised to buy me Aso-Ofi when I complete my secondary education. She promised to marry me off to a good man and help me raise my children. She promised to be there with me on my wedding day. Grandma must not die now, continue waking her for me, she’ll respond eventually” I cried and lamented in hot tears.

Otunba had to bundle me out of grandma’s room and locked the door. I cried like a bereaved that I was, I felt hot and salty tears cascading my cheeks. I cried till my eyes were tired and my tears could drop no more. Sympathizers started trooping in and out of our house. Her family at Ede were contacted, few of them came with the message that the head of the family requested that her corpse be brought to Ede which my mother refused. With the support of Otunba, Grandmother was buried same day at a nearby Muslim cemetery. I remembered I had to inform Doctor Giwa of Grandma’s death and so I called the no she gave to me, she came before grandma was buried after solatul Asr.

I hugged Doctor Giwa so tightly, she gave me her shoulder to cry on and I lamented my worries to her in tears.

“Who will be my confidant now, who will I tell my worries, who will be my consoler, who will intercede for me. I’ve lost the only one I know as a mother. How will my life continue” I lamented to Doctor Giwa in tears.

“Now Allah will be your comforter, your confidant, consoler and intercessor. He has always been anyway so stop crying and dry your tears.” She said and embraced me, I leaned on her and cried the more.

“Okay, let’s let the tears out, pains are not to be kept in. Let it out my dear and you’ll feel much better and light hearted Afterwards.”  Doctor Giwa consoled me.  She told me she needed to tell me something before she leaves but unfortunately I forgot to ask her.

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3 Comments

  1. Asalam alaikunm warahmotullahi wabarakatuh ma’am, please the story “the sorrow behind my smile” is it only 4 &19 chapter that it contained because I didn’t see the remaining chapter.

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