I met my SHS mate recently at the market. She said something she thought was a compliment. She said I looked older now though I was the youngest among the squad while in school. I looked at her pretty young face and laughed. When I got home, I looked in the mirror and took a proper look at myself. My eyes had sunk. My hands appeared longer than they should while hanging loosely by my side. My chubby cheeks had sunk. Even when I put my best face on, my face still looked sad and tired. I turned back and looked at my husband. He was lying in bed with a cloth covering his body up to his neck. His eyes were closed but he wasn’t sleeping. I said quietly to myself, “Age is not a number. Age is the trouble we go through.”
What’s my trouble?
We married quite young. He was twenty-nine and I was twenty-five. I was a new teacher when he found me. He was an engineer, working with one of the mining companies in Ghana. We dated for a year and got married in the church I spent my whole childhood in. We didn’t have rules for the marriage. We lived one day at a time. He was a good man who didn’t make me lack anything. His weakness was his kindness. He came from a poor background. He said, “I’m here today due to the benevolence of the community I was raised in. I was their child and they all contributed to my upbringing.”
So as young as twenty-nine, my husband was the one taking care of his junior sister’s two kids, his senior brother’s two kids, and sending money home monthly to his parents and some other groups in his extended family. He made a lot of money but in the end, it all went into catering for others. I didn’t complain. He was paying back to those he thought he owed.
We had our first child a year after marriage. A year and a half later, the second one came. The third followed and we put a stop to childbearing. I was a mother of three when I was twenty-nine. And then disaster struck. It was the early morning of November 10th, 2016. I had a call at 6am. The voice said, “Your husband was involved in an accident some hours ago. You need to come around very quickly.” I hadn’t recovered fully from the night’s sleep but immediately I heard what the voice said, my soul jumped and my heart started racing. Thirty-minutes or so later, I was there next to him at the hospital. His eyes were closed and his body was covered in band-aids. I put my hand on his chest to feel his heartbeat. He was breathing feebly.
Three months later, he sat in a wheelchair while I pushed him out of the hospital to the house. The accident divided his being into two; from his feet up to his waist was completely numb. From his waist up was ok. He could move his hands and touch things. He struggled to speak clearly. “For the rest of his life, he’s going to remain like this.” They told me. One evening, my husband left the house to work an able man. Three months later, I brought him home in a wheelchair. Sometimes we wake up in the morning believing our day would end just as we’ve imagined it. Mostly it happens but sometimes, just one day, everything would go wrong and our day would end the worse way possible.
The man who stood on top of the tree and threw fruits at us is no longer able to climb the tree. All the amount left in his account was used to pay medical bills including the little compensation the company paid him. We had nothing except my meager salary as a teacher. All the people he once cared for disappeared. They saw my call for help and turned their backs on me. At first, they asked, “How’s our husband doing? Or “How’s our son doing?” Now they meet me and ask, “How’s your husband doing?” Because why not? He no longer serves their purpose so he’s all mine
But I swore never to let him down, not even a single day. In the morning, I will bathe him, clothe him, and put him at the side of the bed where he could see the sunrise in the morning. Where he could see the birds fly so he could have some peace in his heart. One of his distant family members lives with us now. She takes over when I leave for school but when I return, he’s all mine to care for. The kids hover around his bed and make noise in his ears. Sometimes I shout at them to stop, but he will say to me slowly, “Allow them. Don’t shout at them.” Maybe what I hear as noise sounds like music in his ears, who knows.
It’s been over four years of constantly caring for him. We’ve run out of money on several occasions. We’ve run out of food on several occasions. I’ve run out of excuses to give to those I owe but one thing we’ve never run out of is Love. In the night when we offer our last prayers before we sleep, we are well assured that “His banner over us is love” so we would see the new day in one piece.
One of his uncles abroad heard about his story. He didn’t do much about it. In December last year, the uncle called. He spoke to him for a while and spoke to me too for a long while. In the end, he said, “I would send you something every month for his upkeep while I look around and see if there’s something we could do to help.” December he sent us Money. It’s a lot when I compare it to my salary. January too, he sent the same amount again. He’s been good to us. We pray it continues.
When you live in such a situation for over four years, carrying a burden you didn’t see coming, and spending a lot of sleepless nights thinking of the whys and the hows and the whens, you’ll one day look in the mirror and realize time has taken something away from you. Something valuable. You’ll appear older than you should be because you’ve gone through so much. So much than your body can endure in a very short time. Your age is no longer a number but the sum of all the sadness, anguish, sleepless night, hunger, toiling at dawn, putting unwilling children to sleep, etc. You grow more than your age could tell because…because you’ve been through a lot.
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