She sat quietly beside me. Beautiful, dark solemn eyes, shoulder-length teased platinum hair clipped back in a twist, peaches and cream complexion, you could easily have mistaken her for a teenager, save the fact the toddler on her laps was her spitting image. And he was making it difficult for her to listen to the facilitator, which also was a distraction for me.
Handling a three year old could be demanding, I made a bold move and offered to help when he jumped down from her laps and ran to the front. I ran after him. He saw me coming, giggled and ran faster – he was really catching his fun. I caught up with him and swept him off the floor, then walked back to my seat beside his mother. She gestured to receive him and I smiled indicating I would carry him. She mumbled a Thank you and we both returned our attention to the facilitator.
I was pressed to engage in minor chats like introduce myself…How are you?….What’s the name?….Is he your son?…His dad is not here?
I was tempted to. But I knew better.
And she didn’t encourage it either. Poker-faced. Deadpan emotionless. She left me trying to figure out if her husband was busy at work, if he was not the religious type or he was just not available. Meeting ended, suffice it to say that, the little one eventually slept off in my arms. She picked up her bag and collected him from me.
“What’s his name?”
Finally, she looked at me.
‘No. Dave.’ Straight and unsmiling. She said as she walked away.
‘Okay. Have a great weekend.’
I’m not sure she answered.
Okay, I saw her again, and again, and again. And each time with the little one. Seemed I was always running into them. I thought my kind gesture was sufficient for us to at least exchange a greeting and allowed me greet the little boy, but she cut me dead each time. On one occasion I practically stood in her face just to say hello to my little friend.
I appeared like a bother the whole time I tickled the boy. While I was at it a friend came along and chatted her up. I looked up and he was one of my buddies. I beamed, we have a mutual friend. She left not long after. Then I blocked my friend, I needed to know. Men do gossip too.
‘Where is her husband?’
‘Late like how?’
‘Late, as in dead’
Picture my shock and surprise. ‘What happened?!’
‘Death hapened. He took ill few months after their son was born. He didn’t make it.’
How many stories have I fabricated about him? Death was not one of them. Was I wrong?
She is under 30. She is a mother. And she is a widow. Too much. Really too much.
It became all clear now. The straight blank face, the detached disposition, the carapace about her, it became clear. It explained why her smile was measured and conversations were guarded. It explained why she sat at the back and exited before dark.
“When did this happen?”
“I told you! Not long after she had the baby. It’s unfortunate. I have been trying to reach out and help with the little boy but she wouldn’t grant me access.”
‘You know…be a father figure, take him out on special days and have him spend some weekends with my family…you know, he’s same age with my son.’
Good intentions. Very noble gesture. The milk of human kindness.
And he had been on it for months but Uwem would not allow him. She knew he meant well. She knew his intentions were genuine but still she would not sign up for it. And he couldn’t comprehend.
“I mean, I’m trying to help here, I mean no harm.”
But who would blame her?
How could anyone blame her? Have you walked in her shoes and known exactly where it hurts? Have you had relations leave you to yourself when you needed help the most?
When you lose a loved one, sympathisers come and mourn with you. They flood your house and say all sorts. They dare to explain why it happened and analyse how it happened. They quote scriptures to encourage you and comfort you with some sweet words. They even dare to say they understand what you’re going through (How dare them!) Sometimes you wish they could just shut up. Sometimes when they knock on your door, you want to slam it in their face and tell them to sit in their houses. You wish you could scream and let them know how tiring and exhausting their unusable words are. But you bear. And after a few weeks, the number starts dwindling; from a crowd to a group, from scores to dozens, from tens to fives, then two, then one, then it’s all quiet. Empty house, lonely rooms, silence, you are left alone with your loss. And the weight of the loss sinks further in. Wasn’t that what you wanted? Wasn’t that what you wished for? They are gone now. And they have left you with your grief. You are left with clothes in wardrobes that no one else would wear. You are left with food in the fridge that no one else would share with you. You are left with your son, bounded by the narrow fences of life.
You are left.
No one told you your joy would be short-lived. No one warned you your life would take such a sharp turn. No one saw it coming. One moment the world was your oyster and the next you’re joining the choir invisible.
As much as Uwem would love to have some father-figure person for her son, she is wary of other morasses that come with this gesture.
One, society is cruel. The moment they start seeing a man around you their tongues start wagging. They are not prone to help yet they would denigrate those that offer to help.
Two, she is ‘disadvantaged’. When you look at the sea of single female homosapiens that are desirous of a relationship that would lead to marriage, she knows her chances, with her little boy, are very limited. When men are not even looking at those, how would they look in her direction? And really they are not.
What she gets are young married men who show concern and want to be involved in her son’s life. And that is laughable.
Why would they think they could get involved in her son’s life and not be automatically involved in hers? Why would they conceive that his need is not her need? How could they imagine reaching out to him isn’t same as reaching out to her? It’s pretty the same thing.
Even if he is devoted to God like Paul or is a saint like Joseph, would he be able to handle the complications? And if she is resolute like Mary and firm like Deborah, would she be able to endure?
Or how would she be able to restrain from pouring her fears and insecurities on him when he visits? Would she be able to prevent herself from calling him at odd hours anytime her son needs help that she is not capable of giving? How would she be able to hold back from bursting out when depression tightens its grip on her? And he offers an innocent hug, share a simple joke, give a modest gift? Would she be able to stop him? And in all these how would his wife feel? If he chose to help, shouldn’t he be prepared for all that would come with it? It’s thorny.
So, Uwem, probably realises how delicate this is. With a benefit of foresight she could tell it would get complicated. It is why she withdraws. It is why she carries her cross and shoulders the responsibility.
But for how long?
For as long as God decides to send her way a single guy, ready to accept her son, willing to bear her load, poised to handle societal insinuations and kind-hearted enough to foot her bill. Hahaha she should be ready to tarry long and be patient as trees. Until then, let all the young married men hold their good intentions and noble gestures. Let them leave her son alone, God will be his Father – God will give him movie nights and dinner dates.
Would you ask Uwem to do otherwise or would you tell her she could just be overreacting?
Photocredit: Google images