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…

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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