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“How do you feel, sweetheart?” Mary asked Roland. He had survived the onslaught of withdrawal from alcohol. He looked exhausted as he...

“How do you feel, sweetheart?” Mary asked Roland. He had survived the onslaught of withdrawal from alcohol. He looked exhausted as he lay on the bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. “Not too bad,” he answered. He managed a shallow smile on his face. “You know, I wish you would tell me what is going on in that mind of yours,” Mary remarked. He chuckled without answering. “I am serious, Roland. I get the feeling that there is more to this whole drinking habit than just losing your job. What is going on here? If you are going to be calling me to run to you when you need me, which I am more than happy to do; you must be willing to be completely open to me. I can’t have you relapsing into the same habit again. Let’s lay all the cards on the table. It is either we make this relationship work or not. What is going on with you? I promise to stand by you all the way, but I need to know what is going on.” He stared at her for a moment and then looked away, devoting his attention to the ceiling one more time. “I am here Roland…not up there. Talk to me. Do you remember how you made your way to Awka to see me? You were willing to cross the river for me…I am willing to do the same for you my love. Please talk to me.”
He took a deep breath. “I guess I have been pretending that everything was fine with me, but like everyone else, I have been carrying a burden around and it has been eating me up.” “What is it?” “To some, it may not mean much, but somehow, it has taken hold of me to a point that it controls me.” Mary listened attentively. She was full of elation and fear, not knowing what Roland’s problem might be. “How would you feel if you found out that your parents are not really your parents?” He asked her. “How do you mean?” “If you found out that the man and woman you know as your parents are not your biological parents, how would you feel? If you found out that your own parents, I guess I should say your mother gave you up at birth, how would that make you feel?” “You were adopted?” Mary asked. “Yes.” “I don’t know the details, but I like to think that your parents have taken very good care of you. Haven’t they?” “Of course they have, but ever since I found out as a child, I have been walking around with the gnawing feeling that I was somewhat worthless….not wanted. Why did my mother give me up for adoption? How come she did not fight to keep me? Was I not important to her?”

“Do you know anything about your biological parents?” “Not much except that they were broke and decided to give up one of their children for adoption at birth. There were two of us, my twin sister and I. They already had five other children, so in attempt to cut their burden, they gave me up for adoption, for which they got some money. That is all my adopted parents know.” He paused as a train of tears ‘zigzagged’ across his face. “I am sorry you feel left out…unwanted honey. You know I love and care for you from the core of my heart, and I know your adopted parents love you to death,” Mary said as she wiped his tears. “Why me? I was the only one they did not really find worthy of keeping.” “I am sure the choice must have been very hard for them. I don’t think they gave you up because they did not like you.” “But why would they give any of their children up at all? Parents stick it out…they fight for their children no matter what life throws their way!!!” “Maybe God set all that in motion. You may have had a far better life than your siblings. Maybe you are meant to be the one that will lift them out of the pit of poverty.” “But they gave me up and they have not bothered to look for me all these years!!! I feel guilty taking things from my adopted parents sometimes. I feel like I belong elsewhere. I want to go through the same trials as my sibling and eke out a living for myself and not have things handed down to me.”

“But you can be grateful for the privileges you have had. Some people would kill for that.” “But it does not fill the void that is in my heart…the emptiness that haunts me like a ghost at day and at night. I wonder who my twin sister is. Does she know about me? Who is she dating? What has she suffered in life, perhaps without me there to give her a hand?” “You have been carrying all these anger with you all these years?” “Yes. I think losing my job and having things handed to me again triggered some sort of search for my identity.” “Roland, I don’t lay claim to understanding how you feel deep inside, but what I know is that I have seen how much your adopted parents love you. To them, adoption means nothing. They love you and they are willing to die for you. Never you forget that. Secondly, you and I have never raised children, so we can’t tell how hard it is to raise many of them at the time with little resources. You have no idea if your biological parents have tried to find you and failed. You cannot tell what pains they have carried with them just like you every day. You cannot lie here and cry my love. If you want to reconnect with them, do something about it. Before that, I suggest you take a minute to appreciate your biological parents. They love you more than words can explain. I was raised in poverty, I can tell you this, it can be very tough sometimes. Be thankful for what you have…for what you have had all your life.”

After several months of searching, their efforts had brought them to a shabby old house in Ajegunle. Mary and Roland’s adopted parents had been fiercely supportive. Mary took several days off to sift through documents from the hospital and the orphanage that handled the adoption. Roland’s biological parents had made efforts to cover their tracks, perhaps out of guilt. His adopted parents sat prayerfully in the car while he and Mary stood in front of the house. Roland’s heart was beating violently, while Mary was shaking feverishly. “Should I go and knock?” Mary asked. “No, I will do it myself.” Roland’s legs felt heavier as he dragged himself to the door. He raised his hand and knocked. There was no answer, and then he knocked again. This time, the door opened. A young girl opened the door. The moment Roland saw her, his heart sank into his stomach. He knew for sure that he was biologically related to her. “Can I help you?” She asked. “Yes, I am looking for your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Okoroafor.” Roland could not take his eyes off her. Her eyes, her lips, her nose and ears were strikingly similar to his.

“Come in,” she said holding the door for him and Mary. The living room was tiny. A set of old couches were positioned opposite an old television with a mighty bulging back. The paint on the walls was long gone, leaving a rough, tacky wall that stared at you like a harmattan-stricken face inundated with dust and dry, peeling skin. The ceiling was caving inwards in some sections. His buttocks were greeted by jagged metal springs as soon as he sat on the couch. Mary received similar reception on seating down. A grey-haired man appeared from behind the old shriveled curtain at the door leading to the bedroom. He was shell-shocked on seeing Roland. The resemblance was unmistakable. “Ugodiya bia oh! (Ugodiya please come!),” he shouted. His wife ran into the living room. Her hair was disheveled. She was in the process of getting rid of her braids for a new one. Mr. Okoroafor walked across the room and took Roland in his arms. Then he stepped aside, and stood beside him. “It is him, Ugodiya,” he said with elation. Ugodiya walked over and touched Roland’s face. She stared piercingly into his eyes and said, “We have been looking for you. It is you…it is you my son!”

Mr. Okoroafor brought down an enlarged picture of two babies hanging on the wall. “Elochukwu please come here,” he shouted, calling to his daughter. Elochukwu was the daughter who had answered the door earlier. “Where are your brothers and sisters? This is your twin brother. You children of these days, didn’t you notice the resemblance between him and you,” Mr. Okoroafor asked his daughter. “This is the only picture of you that we have,” he said to Roland pointing at a picture of him at five days old. “That is you and Elochukwu five days after you were born. We have hung onto this picture with the hope that you would come home someday,” he said to Roland who was peering at the picture. “We are very sorry, my son. We could barely feed. We never meant to hurt you. I hope your adopted parents treated you well,” Ugodiya asked. Specks of tears had begun to appear around her eyes. “My twin brother? Is this for real? My parents have told me all about you. I never thought I would ever meet you,” Elochukwu said, sitting closer to him. Soon, her siblings began to throng to the living room. They stared at Roland with deep excitement and anticipation.

“You have not spoken a word,” Ugodiya pointed out. “Who is the young girl with you?” Okoroafor asked. All of a sudden, Rolland burst into tears. “We are very sorry, Ikemefuna,” Okoroafor said to him. That was the name they had given him at birth. They gathered around him. Ugodiya was on her knees with her arms clasped. She was praying fervently that God would touch Roland’s heart to forgive them. “When I am walking the streets, I stare into the faces of any young man that walks past me. I did the same years ago too, when you were young with the hope that I would find you. I have asked God to forgive me every day. We have carried the pain in our hearts for what we did, but our circumstance was terrible. We told your siblings here all about you when they came of age. We are very sorry. Please forgive us. We…never meant to…to hurt you. I know it is hard for you to believe, but we truly love you. I have gone to the priest to confess my sins over and over again, yet I am tormented by the overwhelming guilt. Please forgive us,” Ugodiya pleaded with him. Mary could not hold back her tears.

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