Twenty five years later… Ikenna lay severely sick in the hospital. He coughed painfully, producing buckets of thick phlegm. “I am af...
Twenty five years later…
Ikenna lay severely sick in the hospital. He coughed painfully, producing buckets of thick phlegm. “I am afraid; his only hope is surgery, and the surgery cannot be performed in the country. We don’t have the equipment. He needs a trip abroad to remove the tumor in his lungs. If you cannot afford the surgery, you may have to start preparing for a funeral,” the doctor declared ominously to Irunna. She had been in hospital every day and night attending to her husband. On the other hand, Odinaka was either running her shop or visiting with her parents. She barely checked in on Ikenna at the hospital. “Have you sent for my son, Chukwuma?” Ikenna asked Irunna. His voice was laced with deep pain. “I have called him severally, my husband.” “Is he not coming home to find a possible solution to my ill health?” “He said he is busy.” “What of Kelechi?” “He is in London at the moment. He says he does not know when he will return home.” “I have sons that are doing very well and not a single one of them is willing to take care of their father? I labored all my life to raise them. Ewu atam igu n’isi (I am doomed),” Ikenna lamented. “If there is no other person who can shoulder the bill for a surgery abroad, he does not stand a chance,” she doctor repeated in a low tone as he left the room.
Irunna ran outside and rang up her daughters, one at a time. “Mama, I did not know that papa was this sick,” Akudo replied. She lived in Lagos with her husband who worked in a federal ministry, while she worked for Chevron. Akudo quickly discussed with her sisters, Azuka, Njideka and Olachi. Together with their husbands, they raised money and flew their father to London. When the girls returned to Enugu to see their father before he left for treatment in London, Ikenna could hardly look them in the eye. He was guilt-ridden. He remembered how he had treated them, refusing to pay their tuition in school. “It is a waste to train a girl,” he complained to Irunna every time she asked for money to pay her girls’ tuition. “I am investing in Chukwuma and Kelechi. They are my future,” he would argue. Irunna did whatever she could to put her daughters through school.
Kelechi only visited his father once while he was hospitalized in London. He claimed his work schedule was tight. The surgery was successful, and some weeks later, Ikenna was back In Enugu. Irunna had been with him all the way to London and back. Once he recovered, he was quick to send Odinaka packing. “You are an evil woman,” he shouted at her. “You and your sons have no soul. I spent just about everything I earned raising your children. In my most difficult circumstance, neither you nor your sons bothered to cater for me. I had been wrong all along. I thought sons were more important than daughters. If only I could have seen the future…I would have let you and your sons burn in hell,” he shouted at her as he tossed her things out of the house. “Stupid man, you should be thankful to God that I stooped so low to marry you. If not for me, you would have no sons to carry on your family name,” Odinaka rained insults on him as she picked her things to leave. Her shop at the market and her parents were more important to her than anything else, so she devoted her time to those. Even though she received a lot of money from her sons and daughters, she never stopped chasing after more.
“If they cannot look after me while I am still alive, then there is no sense in carrying on my family name. If they are too busy to take care of their sick father, then my family name is dead. In fact, they are not fit to bear our family name. The only children I have are my daughters, especially the ones from Irunna, and I treated them so badly,” Ikenna shouted at Odinaka as she walked out of the compound. “Please forgive me Irunna. I don’t deserve your care, yet you have stood by me. I slapped and kicked you like a bag of sand, and you never retaliated. I starved you and your daughters, yet you found a way to raise them, singlehandedly. I am alive today because of my daughters whom I placed way below my sons. I cannot even look them in the eye. I don’t deserve to be called their father, yet they are willing to cater for me…they saved my life. They still visit. They give everything they can to make life better for me, and I never gave them anything. Please forgive me, Irunna.” “I forgave you long ago, Ikenna. I thank God who gave me the strength to live through all that you did to us. When I married you, I married you for good. I don’t know why God refused to give me a son, but I would not trade my girls for anything. They are the power in my elbows; the fuel in my engine; the spring in my step. Train a child well and they will become responsible adults, whether it is a boy or girl,” Irunna said with a gentle smile on her face. “You are so right my wife. You are very right!” Ikenna answered. He could hardly look Irunna in the eye as he spoke. He lowered his face in tears of shame and guilt. “It is okay my husband. Stop crying…that is all in the past now,” said Irunna as she hugged him.
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