I was scared of going into the house of the Adelaja’s, because I had no idea of what to say to her. And even if I did, how was I going to tell her. As I parked my car along with the other cars that were parked outside the house, I was filled with dread. I was shocked that he was gone. It was two months ago that I visited the house on official assignment and we sat down to watch a football match between Arsenal FC versus Sunderland. I was the P. A to Mrs. Adelaja and it meant that sometimes she could summon me to carry out one or two assignments, this made me to go to her house almost every weekend.
My feet refused to move as I made an attempt to. The weather was cool enough, but I was wiping perspiration from my forehead with the bark of my hand, forgetting that I had a handkerchief with me.
“Hmmm…..” I sighed
Somehow my feet sprang to life and I began to move and make strides. It took me ten minutes before I got to the door. A walk that was suppose to take a minute. I got to the door and I refused to go in. The door was wide open because visitors were coming and going in. But I remained motionless.
“Sir, are you going in?” a young lady asked.
“Oh, I am sorry”. I moved away from the door.
As she went in, I went along with her. Her presence gave me courage. I knew my way around the house.
“ Mute, how are you?”, I asked, as she was coming down the stairs. She was one of the house helps that was in the service of the Adelaja’s.
She did not reply. Her eyes were swollen due to the frequent shedding of tears. I could see the pain that she was feeling at that particular moment. I would be lying if I said I understood what she was going through.
It was Mr. Adelaja that brought her from Warri to Lagos, when she was just eleven. He paid her fees through secondary school and she didn’t disappoint because she came out with a good result. This prompted Mr. Adelaja to promise to put her through higher institution. And even though she was a house help, she did not look like one. Right now I wasn’t sure if she was weeping, because of what she would miss or really weeping because he really cared about the family and the man who became the father that she never had.
“It’s okay. It’s Okay”, I said to her. She sniffed and then suddenly, she ran away from my presence, crying.
I felt a lot of pity for her. And then I wondered, “If she was feeling this so much hurt what would my boss be going through right this moment?” I am sure she never thought this was going to happen. Yes, her husband had been fighting with illness for the better part of the second half of last year. Christmas day was no Christmas for the Adelaja’s. It was at that time that the illness took a strong hold on him. The family thought he was going to give up the fight and capitulate to the darkness that threatened to take him away. Death resided in the house of the Adelaja’s during that period. We were all praying and fasting with so much faith and intensity, hoping and believing that heaven was going to let him be with his family for years to come or heaven had decided that, right now was the time for him to meet his maker.
Early January, this year, he won the battle against death and we were all relieved that our dear daddy would live more years to see his children making great strides in their careers and also he would have the chance to give his girls away in marriage. He spent almost three months to convalescence.
He was so emaciated that my boss didn’t want him to come out of the house. In the month of April, he returned to work. Everything was going well until a month later; he was admitted into the hospital. We continued with renewed prayers.We were all hopeful that he would get back on his feetand continue with existence. Two weeks later he was discharged, but his bed became his reside. My boss lost concentration. Sometimes when we were in a meeting she would ask a question more than once or call you to give you an order that she had given out before. She was so disorganized because of the health of her dear husband.
“Welcome back ma”, I said, when I entered her office. She had been away from for some days. I was glad to see her. We all at the office were all glad to see her
“How are you Ken?” she asked. She was always informal with me when we were alone. Some of her senior staffs noticed it. Most times, I have this feeling that other staffs were envious of me, because I was close to her, in just a short time that I had been in her service, more than those that had spent more years with her in the company.
“How is daddy Ma?” I asked.
“Hmmmmm. he is fine”, she said it with so much skeptism.
“Ma, did you come with the document that I told you about on phone yesterday?
“Oh! I’m sorry. I forgot”,
“It’s okay Ma. I will come by the house tomorrow”, I said.
“They want to kill him for me”, her voice tearful and sorrowful. I said nothing. I just sighed.
She continued, in her tearful voice, “He takes care of his extended family than his immediate one and yet they are not satisfied. Instead they want to end his life, because he has shifted attention from them to me and his children”. Tears rolled down her beautiful face and she started crying.
“I was at a loss. I had no idea of what to do or say, I felt so much pity for her, because she was a very nice and kindhearted person and I wonder why good people always find themselves in sorrowful situations like this one. Suddenly she stopped crying and then, I managed to find my voice, “Its well Ma. God will surely grant him perfect recovery”
She looked up at me and smiled. The smile wasn’t an assuring one. It wasn’t a smile of hope but a smile of loss and conceding to fate.
When I look back to that day, there is this conviction within me that made me believe that she knew that he was going to go over to the other side and when I received the call from her son on the early hours of that faithful Monday l knew he had given up the fight.
When I got into the sitting room, I met people there. People kept going in and out of a particular room. Obviously, that was the room that she was receiving people who came to pay their condolences. Beulah, one of her daughters had cried her eyes out, because her eyes were swollen and bloodshot like someone who had just finished five wraps of weed. The same could be said of Bolanle, the second child as well as the first daughter of the family. Tola, the third child as well as the second son of the family, appeared unaffected. Clearly, he was trying his best to be a man. A job he was succeeding at, that moment.
Some minutes later I was told to go. I was filled with dread but I couldn’t run away from this. When my presence graced her sight she looked up to me and smiled. It was the same smile as that day. This time it had a different meaning and it was not lost on me;
“I told you, didn’t I?” her smile said.
My vocal cords lost its vibe and vigor, it lost its voice but my tears did the talking for me.
I wiped my face when I came out of the room and realized that the visitors were increasing per minute per minute. Among them were his relatives. And then a thought occurred to me. His killer might be here, shedding tears that had no soul or life or honesty. And then I went over to where the children sat.
“I will be lying to you if I say that I know what you all are going through”, I paused as someone came to pat Beulah on the back.
“It would be a huge lie, because I have not experienced such a loss before. But one thing that I am going to say is……….” a greeting from someone to Bolanle interrupted me.
I continued, “You all have to be by her side right now, because everyone who is here right will leave, it will be you all that will remain”, I paused expecting someone to interrupt. No one did. I continued.
“You all have to be her anchor right now. No amount of sorry will soothe her soul or bring back your dad back to life”, I became emotional and I was embarrassed by it.
“I pray that God will give you all the strength to bear this loss”, I concluded and left.
On the 26th of last month, the burial ceremony took. During the pastor’s message, on the day of the wake keep, he said something that said got my attention because I was distracted the whole time.
He said, “Most of us here are crying not because he died at an early age but because of our selfishness”, that statement pricked my ears.
“Some of us are disappointed that the promise or promises he made to some of us will no longer come to pass anymore”, I nodded my head. He was a wealth man.
“We should all be grateful that our brother has left this terrible world to meet with his creator”, the pastor said.
I hoped right that moment that when I leave this existence, I will find myself at heaven’s gate. I don’t know how he lived his life but I do hope that right now he is in the presence of God the almighty.
It’s been about two weeks since his burial. My boss is yet to resume work. I was in the house yesterday and it was that she was still crying. I gave her progress report as regards the running of the company.
As I was about leaving she told me something that made me think, she said, “Make sure that you are living right with God because you don’t know when your end will come”.
Tola was in the car with me as I drove home that afternoon. He needed a lift to Ikeja. The silence was awkward as we said nothing to each other for almost twenty minutes of the drive. I decided to break the silence.
“I guess they are glad now that he is no more”,I said.
“Who” he asked, bewildered by my question.
I looked at him and said, “Your late dad’s relatives”.
His surprise increased.And he noticed that I was embarrassed.
“Mummy said they are the ones who killed him”, I said with conviction.
Tola just sighed and the question he asked me next, caught me off guard.
“Did mummy tell you that dad had Cancer of the stomach and that he was operated on before he died”.
“Huh!”. That was the only word that I could makeas I allowed silence to be our companion through the rest of the drive.