Non-fiction

WATCHING ALZHEMIERS PLAY OUT: MY GRANNY’S STRUGGLE

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As the night came to an end, we could not understand the change that came over her. While we snuggled deep into our bed clothes burrowing into the sofas as we told folk tales, she struggled to tie her headgear with feeble limbs. She was past caring what she looked like and I did not blame her much. We looked so healthy and young and in contrast, she was pale, feeble and dainty however strong willed. As she dressed in near darkness, my mind was flying through all sorts of possibilities. Next, she slipped her feet into her sandals and beckoned my brother to open the door and accompany her to the market. It was 10:12 pm! That was how I knew something was wrong. She could not remember his name and although her eyes were focused, she seemed to look right through us.
As she patiently explained that she had to purchase food items for the party my father was throwing the next day, our youngest started to cry. She didn’t really understand what was going on but she knew something was not right. It seems a cruel way for someone so kind and nice to be treated. It seemed as if God picked at random those to be tortured and then as a puppeteer, pull at their strings any time the fancy caught Him! My family was religious and I tried to understand the basic teachings that taught that God was kind not cruel and seeing my grandmother like this made it a bit harder to grasp. Thankfully, that night passed uneventfully. We took security seriously for fear that she could walk away, disoriented, without our knowledge someday. To forestall that we took to bolting doors and locking the gate at all times.
A few days after that incident, I was in charge and I fell asleep reading a novel while minding her. The house was quiet and she had been quite calm. Something told me to rouse from my slumber and I saw granny sitting on the waste basket she had upturned, urinating into it while she rummaged through the mess she had created right there in the dining room! I had to hold in my tears, it was of no use. Granny had lost her marbles and it was still too hard for all of us to take in.
Many weekends after when we thought she was having one ‘good’ day, my parents invited guests over and they wanted to see her. As they were welcoming the guests in, I walked into the living room to find my granny stark naked. This time I could not help the tears that flowed and I called for my mother to help dress her. Father had to engage the guests with needless questions in the passage.
For weeks, I have engaged myself by making research. I read up every available material accessible on the internet. Admittedly, one cannot always be patient but I feel sorry for her, for all the times that I lost it, for all the times I was grouchy and for all the times I wished her dead even if it was to save her that cruel fate. Some people still live in ignorance claiming that these folks are witches and wizards whose bad deeds have caught up with them. Of course we all had fears as a family but knowledge helped us through the dark spots. It was not always easy to be patient.
Granny is now late. And till she died in her sleep one morning, her ‘light’ still shined through…

SWALLOWED TEARS

I have tried every other thing and nothing seems to work so I wrote this in the middle of the night, an attempt at absolving my guilt. I have cried buckets but nothing can wake him up and I feel partly responsible for Sadiq’s death, but not in the way you think.
For the first five years, Sadiq and I were shadows of each other. He is my cousin although distant. We did everything together and enjoyed and we enjoyed playing pranks on other people. Sometime before we turned six (he was a few months older than me), his parents separated and he went into the custody of his mother. She took him to Australia, separating us and even though we could not send letters in the traditional way, we managed to keep in touch and usually spoke whenever our parents called each other. Sadiq was a brother to me even though we had different parents. He was an only child and I had two other siblings but I was closer to my kindred spirit.
The time difference made it difficult for us to keep in touch as we would have liked but then a miracle came I form of Facebook and we rekindled our relationship which surprisingly became stronger. He confided in me that he wanted to come back to Nigeria to restore his relationship with his father and it sounded good to me so I encouraged him. His mother had remarried and he did not get along with his step-father. Funny enough, we had graduated almost at the same time and he was also unemployed like me. His mother had no other children and she tried to make him warm up to his step-father by constantly throwing them together which he resented. That made things even more strained and it was one of the main reasons why he wanted to return, the tension was killing his zest for life.
The day he returned to Nigeria, I went to welcome him at the airport and drove him home in my father’s car. I had use of the boys’ quarters’ in the compound since my siblings were both married and I was free to do as I pleased (for the most part). He did not look depressed to me in fact; I’d say that he was happy to see me. We played catch up late into the night and we began mapping out strategies on how we would both look for jobs.
About two weeks after he came, he went to visit his father and when I asked him how it went, he did not say much. I gathered that his father had at least four wives and nothing more. He was unusually tight-lipped and I did not want to pry. I felt that if he wanted me to know or if he needed my advice he would share. Maybe I should have pressed him to tell me more because I suspect now that visiting his father led to this. We continued our job hunt and spent out free time challenging each other to video games. How I miss those days! But I did not see any signs of depression; maybe I should have looked harder.
The following month, I got a job as a call centre agent at a telecoms company and I hesitated to tell him. When I finally found the courage, he was happy for me and he even took me out saying that it would be my turn to take him out next when he got his own ‘better’ job. After another two months passed I suggested he start a business and he liked the idea but put together, we did not have the capital to start and he adamantly refused to ask his parents. Again I suggested he try something else (he wanted to run a sit-out/bar) and he eventually decided on a viewing/gaming centre. He saw his father every once in a while and despite my job we still spoke very well since I worked a shift so we had time together.
We bought games, gaming pads and some T.Vs but what we were saving up for was a big screen projector. I felt bad for him in a way because he did not have the kind of relationship I had with my own parents and despite his Masters’ degree abroad in Accountancy, he still ended up back here to start a viewing centre. I thought he was in good spirits most of the time since we had a goal we were working towards despite the setbacks. My job did not stop us from doing the things we used to although sometimes, I had to beg off but we went out with friends as usual, as a threesome (with my girlfriend).
Maybe if he had a girlfriend she would have seen the warning signs that I did not see. Exactly ten months after he returned I gathered that Sadiq had come back from visiting his father. I was on night duty that day. I came home exhausted feeling so sleepy and I wondered why all the lights in the house were off. Sadiq usually kept a light on for me especially because we both have a fear of the dark even though he does not like to admit it. The house was stuffy and I did not even think of the hunger gnawing my stomach, sleep was taking over. I walked into the parlour to turn on the fan and open the windows when I saw Sadiq. My kindred spirit, my brother and shadow was hanging from the fan.
The only thing I remember was that I tried mouth to mouth respiration after cutting him down from the ceiling. He was very cold by then and I knew he was dead but I still tried. I could not just do nothing! Perhaps God would visit with a miracle. I don’t know what happened afterwards except that I found my family gathered around me and Sadiq’s body. They said I was admitted at the hospital for two full weeks without saying a word. All I know is that if I don’t talk about this now, I might burst.
Sadiq did not even stand a chance and I am angry with him for not talking to me. I blame myself too for not noticing he was depressed, I blame his parents for being the root cause, I blame everything! I cannot concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes and all my fancy degrees seem meaningless now. I am not a writer so forgive my errors, I am not trying to seek attention, I only wonder if I am not slipping into ‘crazy’. Please respect my wish for anonymity.
                          ANONYMOUS

Joy’s Tale

It seemed like eons ago when I awoke in the quiet and comfort of my room, eager for the day’s activities given my intense lined up schedule for the day. I cleaned my room, dusted all the appliances in it and moving to the living room, did same. The kitchen was my next point of call – I made breakfast, washed the dishes and cleaned until everywhere was immaculately clean.
At the office, my day began at 9 o clock with getting ready several memos for my boss. Then came three different time-consuming meetings, interspersed with the daily running of the office. Before I knew it, the day was already far spent. And Alas! It was time to go home, back to my comfy home. Here I can rest and unwind for another activity filled day. All that was yesterday.
Today I am hit with a whole new reality. My beautiful two bedroom flat is to be shared by extra occupants. At the thought of having people in the other room, I was elated, at least the quietness will abate and I will have companions to chat and relate with at home.
Little did I know my happiness will be short-lived. The new occupants are anything but companions! What I see are lousy, ill-mannered, loose and dirty persons in the guise of women. This shocks me the more because I still remember mummy’s constant reminders of the behaviour for a woman:
“A woman must always keep her home clean. She must never be seen as dirty or unkept.”
“A woman must make her home a haven.”
“A woman must always keep her dignity and hold her head high.”
Always remember: whatever you do at home, you will one day take outside.”
My whole life, I remember mummy’s countless do’s and don’ts. At the back of the mind is the incessant and conscious need to be prim and proper, to keep a home, to take care of what is entrusted to me. For like mummy puts it: “he who is faithful in least will be faithful in much.”
So, I can’t understand how a “woman” will take pleasure in making her house unkept. This is the new face of my once beautiful, tidy and homely living room. It has now become the dump site for shoes, clothes, bags, plates, empty cans, litter, nail polish, pads – my God! Even pads?! Yes, pads and their wraps.
The kitchen is an eyesore! The sight that greets you as you step into it is a huge pile of dirty dishes in the sink, scattered kitchen utensils everywhere on the floor. Also easily sighted is pepper, stocked cubes, macaroni, onions, tomatoes, rags, plates, spoons, etc. {all on the floor}.
God in Heaven! What manner of “women” are these? I’m speechless. Even men would behave better, not to talk of girls.
On the outside you see very tall, fair, elegant, beautifully clad and pretty ladies. With well-arranged dressing, impeccable makeup, head turning heels, beautiful gait and un tainted speech. Indeed eye-catching! One look at them and you are astonished at their beauty. But please, just come home and you will receive the shock of your life.
To make matters worse, these “women” thrive only on people’s belongings. What would you say about/to people who take your possessions without permission? Persons who take things left for safekeeping without permission. Even when you draw their attention to it, you seem to be talking to trees.
Now I take comfort only in my room, when I walk through the living room, I pretend blind to the sights I see. When I enter the kitchen, I do the best I can to make it habitable for my brief stay and then fly back to the comfort of my room.
I do not even know what other stunt they will pull tomorrow, and God knows there may be worse. I have seen plenty for the present. All I say is: God, please help me!

Contributed: Dodeye Omini

I LOST MY ARM THROUGH AN ACCIDENT

In 1998, I travelled for the burial of my mother-in-law. My husband was not in the country so I left my children in the care of my younger sister. I boarded Young Shall Grow Motors from Lagos to Plateau. Unlike other occasions where the bus had about four escorts, this bus had only one. Little did we suspect that something would go wrong because the line had a track record for safety.
At about 1.00 a.m., the driver stopped at New Ife Road to pick up ‘attachments’ to fill the bus (for his own selfish gain). After 20 minutes, these fellows commanded everybody to close the windows and pull the curtains. I thought it was some kind of movie till I heard a heavy slap resound throughout the vehicle. The driver pushed the lever opening the door and some people jumped out. One of the hoodlums immediately crashed his way into the driver’s cabin, pulling him out and taking over the wheel. He made a turn back to the way we just came from. He drove as rough as possible and I placed my hand on chest for fear my heart would jump out of my chest. All of a sudden loud music blasted from the hidden speakers to ensure that no one outside heard the racket going on inside.
The other hoodlums started searching from seat to seat collecting phones and money into a sack. I was left with only N2000 after paying my transport fare. Since I was on my period, I put N500 under my panties using the sticker of my pad to hold the money in place. When they got to me, I dropped in N1500. My seat partner received a slap because they thought she had been singing when it was me all along. As she was a Corper, they made fun of her saying that the president would refund whatever money they collected from her.
I thought they were done till they came back for a second search. I submitted my dead phone to them and they started to crack jokes with me. He collected my handkerchief from me to dry my tears and said ‘God will provide’. I sniffed and then came the part where we all had to stand for the body search. As it came to my turn, the guy searching stepped back for another hoodlum that had been starring at me for a while. He pressed my bust so hard that I wimped. He went so low and actually started caressing me and I found my voice. ‘Haba!’
A shot rang out and a bullet hit my left arm. It did not dawn on me at first that I had been hit until I saw blood gushing out of my arm and then that was when the thieves started to argue. I do not remember anything else aside from the fact that the bus had stopped moving. The conductor had been beaten into a pulp, the driver had parked in a fuel station and he was going to remain there till daybreak, and my arm had been tied with someone’s torn clothing. My arm throbbed with unbearable pain but we would not have been able to get a taxi had I wanted to go to the hospital. Besides we needed a police report or else I would not be treated. I started to talk in my sleep out of delirium and I am sure I said lots of rubbish in my sleep. As early as 5.00 a.m., a Good Samaritan took me to the nearest police station and it took them more than an hour to get a police report for me and then I started to cry since I could no longer bear the pain. After an hour and thirty minutes, we finally left for the hospital. It was a bumpy ride and all I remember about the ride was the jarring pain I constantly felt.
The treatment commenced after all the protocol was done and by then, my family had been contacted. I told them all to stay and that one of my in-laws would come care for me. After the first day of treatment, I had lost so much blood and my arm had turned gangrenous. The result? They had to amputate. So after two weeks of intensive treatment, I was transferred to our family clinic in Lagos. I spent a month in the hospital to fully recuperate.
By this time, my husband had returned. However, I returned to my children and family as a one-handed mom.

Living with Multiple Personality Disorder

This is my story: I am 29 years old and I have lived with multiple personality disorder for over twenty years. Getting treatment was difficult as any available money the family had was spent on upkeep.

I grew up in a family of four, in Ibadan, capital of Oyo state. I was born in Abeokuta, in 1981 the second child. I spent most of my time with Mother who was disturbed when at age three; I had not spoken a single coherent word. Finally, at five I called ‘mama’. My legs curved into a bow and finally straightened after some time.

CHALLENGES

It was a challenge to act normal because I never knew what started me off. I had to attend school and sometimes, my ‘other me’ came out. I had no friends and had the rest of the children screaming out of fright. The class would empty and they would all peek at me from the doorway until the nurses came with a sedative and this made me constantly out of my wits with all the grogginess from sedation. I began to face rejections from schools since no school wanted to admit me. My education ground to a halt in July 1993. Although my mates were well ahead of me, I never learnt how to read till I was 15. By then, I still had not gotten treatment. Since my mother was a single parent, she had to work. While she did, she would lock me in a room of the house until she returned. Even my siblings I hardly saw and as a result I sank into depression. My skin became translucent until I felt that my veins would pop out one day.

TREATMENT

I was turning 23 when I finally got treatment. My older brother’s fiancé is a doctor and she finally got me the help I required. My brother tried to dissuade her but she was like a dog with a bone that would not leave it until she got what she wanted. Her persistence got me a medical grant that helped pay for my treatment from some kind of memorial foundation. I had to be taken all the way to India for therapy for a month. Hypnosis showed that I had five personalities, two of which were violent! I had multiple cuts and bruises on my hands and feet to prove that. Some had to be stitched during my treatment. I had one who acted like a child, another like a grown man, and the last like an infant. When I came back after 1 month, I was normal and stable although my siblings were still wary around me for a while. Mother had changed things around my room but it felt claustrophobic to me and besides, I did not need memories of painful times. I had to continue a part of my therapy in Lagos and so, my family moved. It was not so difficult aside from the fact that I had to see a psychologist to work on boosting my self confidence since I was still so shy around people.

PRESENTLY

I had to look for a job to support myself after I learnt how to read. I started supplementary classes to take some necessary exams. Mother has been so supportive and I hope to be able to support her fully some day. My two younger siblings are almost through with their education and I had the pleasure of being my sister-in-law’s maid-of-honour. I work a 9-5 job now and take classes on weekends.

FINALLY

I honestly look forward to the time when I would regain everything I lost. I never knew that my story would impress anyone, least of all, a magazine. Remembering all that has happened is really painful for me, but at least, I am here to tell the story. My family has accepted me again and they are now more supportive than ever before!