She had a daughter when I met her. My friends advised me against getting into a relationship with her. They said a woman with a child was not worth it. They told me: “She had even come with evidence that she was not a virgin. If she was that good, the first man would have married her. Don’t try it.”
I was looking at something different. She was beautiful. She had a calm demeanour that said she was a good woman. I approached her one day and we became friends. I listened to her story and I learned that the man was no longer in the picture. He didn’t leave her. He died. He died when she was only two months pregnant. They were planning marriage before he died mysteriously.
We were friends for barely one month when I proposed to her. She wanted to take her time with me but I was a man in a hurry. I went to her place every day telling her how much I wanted her in my life. When her daughter, Benita, realized I was getting too close to her mother, she started resenting me. She would see me in their house and she would shout: “Mommy is not here. Go to your own house.” I would respond: “This is also my house. You can’t sack me.” We would play about it. She would cry along the line and I’ll try to make her laugh. She was a sweet little kid. We dated for two years with Benita on our side. Those who didn’t know us thought she was our child. Whenever we went out, she would hold my hand and hold her mother’s hand too. She loved to be in the middle. She was like a sandwich. Our sandwich.
We dated for a year and a half and got married. Benita became my stepdaughter and I her stepfather. She called me by name at first but once we started living together, she called me daddy and that never changed.
If you asked me to count my blessings, I named my wife twice before anything else. She came into my life and started moving things around. All of a sudden, I was a better man. I could feel it in my heart and those around me also saw the change. Many men change when they marry. But when a man marries the right woman, he glows in the dark. He handles everything with care because he understands what it means to be handled with care. My wife made me that man.
Two years later, she got pregnant. It wasn’t our intention to usurp Benita from her throne as the only child but you know, this thing happens when you have sex and it happens when you least expect it. That notwithstanding, we celebrated it. I was the one who broke the news to Benita. “Dear child, very soon, you won’t be playing alone. You won’t be going to school all alone because you’re going to have a brother.”
My wife screamed from the other side of the room, “How did you know he’s a boy?” I answered: “I put it there so I know it. I know what I put there.” Benita was lost. She was too young to understand how I put her brother in her mother’s tummy.
At four months my wife started experiencing difficulties. She started complaining about her back. She said her backbone was breaking. At five months, she complained about her eyesight. Some days it was very poor. She didn’t see through the light. It left her eyes to her ears. I needed to scream before she could hear me even when I was standing next to her. The hospital became our home. I don’t remember a time we didn’t visit the hospital in a week.
One evening, the baby started coming. The pain got her paralyzed so I had to carry her into a car. I took her to the hospital and rushed home to collect her labour stuff. I didn’t even spend an hour. I went back to the hospital and I was told my wife had died. I laughed. “Do you even know my wife? Please, let me go and see her. She might have delivered by now. Here are her things. A nurse asked for them.”
I lost my wife and lost the baby too.
I saw my life come to an end at the hospital. I had to see the lifeless body of my wife to believe that indeed she was gone. I wailed. I cried. I hit myself just to be sure it wasn’t a bad dream. I didn’t feel the pain so I told myself: “I knew it. It’s all a bad dream. I will wake up very soon.” My body was numb to all pain. I couldn’t even feel a touch on my skin. No one should ever lose a wife. It’s the worse pain a man will ever experience. It’s like a dagger through your heart.
It was hard breaking the news to Benita. She was eight. She had a certain level of understanding of how the world works but I didn’t know how she was going to take it. It was my mother-in-law who finally broke the news to her. When she was told Mommy wasn’t coming back again, she also broke down. The days leading to the funeral were the hardest. My sister came to live with me. She was the one helping to take care of Benita. She asked me: “So what happens to her now that her mother is gone?” I answered: “They’ll come for her after the funeral.” I didn’t know who will come for her but I knew she’ll be taken from me especially when she wasn’t my biological child. After the funeral, I watched as they argued about who should come for her. My wife’s people told me: “We’ve spoken to her aunts from her father’s side. They are making preparation to come for her.” A month later she was still with me. My sister had to leave. She was worried I wouldn’t be able to take care of her. Finally, she left. I was alone with Benita. We both had lost the most important thing in our lives. We were both learning to live on our own. We were fragile.
I told her: “You need another mother. You have to be in a home you can be cared for properly. Your aunt will come for you very soon. When you go, I’ll visit you often. I’ll bring you gifts. I’ll always be your daddy.” She answered, “But Daddy, I don’t want to go anywhere. I want to be here with you.” She said it in a way a child who is hungry would ask for food. She was almost in tears when she said that. I didn’t want to cry in front of her so I rushed to the kitchen and cried while imagining my wife moving around the kitchen, lighting the stove, chopping tomatoes and cooking her favourite meal. I say no man should ever lose a wife.
My wife’s mother called one day and told me she would come for Benita because it looked like the aunts from her father’s side were not willing to make the sacrifice. When school went on vacation, she came for her. Benita was crying. She didn’t want to leave and I could understand her. All her life she knew only two people: her mother and me. She was a child. Change is always difficult for them but I couldn’t help it. I was still young. I needed to move on with my life and see where the tides would take me.
She was gone but the feeling wasn’t the same. It felt like there was nothing left to remind me of my wife. It was a good thing but I felt empty. I called every evening to ask how she was doing. My in-law wouldn’t allow me to speak with her because she didn’t want her to be distracted. “If you don’t talk to her for a while, she’ll forget and move on. Kids are like that. They only remember what they often see,” she told me.
A month later, I insisted that I wanted to talk to her. When she took the phone she said: “Come for me. I don’t want to be here again.” I responded in my head: “I don’t want to live alone again too but look at me, I’m all alone. We don’t get what we wish for.” I assured her she would be fine. I told her I’ll visit her. She was crying when the phone was taken from her. Days later, my in-law called. “I’m trying my best but it’s hard. She doesn’t eat. She doesn’t talk to anyone. Her teacher tells me she’s the same way in school. Please come and talk to her for me.”
I went there and asked her to pack her things and follow me. I didn’t have a plan and didn’t even know what I was going to do with her. My in-law said: “No, you don’t have to do this. You’re a man. It won’t be easy.” I told her I would love to try. I promised if I fail I would bring her back to her. Fourteen years later, Benita still lives with me and calls me daddy. She knows the story because I didn’t hide it from her. She’s in her first year at the University. She told me: “No one else should know that you are not my biological father. To me, you’re more than that and you are all I have.”
I married again. I did because I wanted someone to take care of her but that didn’t mean I married a woman I didn’t love. I married a good woman, someone who can play a mother to her and play it seamlessly. When I first met my second wife, I didn’t tell her the whole story. I told her Benita was my daughter but her mother died when delivering the second child. She believed me. Before we got married, I told her the whole story and she said: “You’re a good man. I don’t mind at all. She would be my daughter too.”
Benita didn’t like her at first. She kept her distance. When my wife tried to get closer, Benita told her: “You’re not my mother. Leave me alone.” But she didn’t give up. She saw the child in her and did her best to tame her. Today, they are the best of friends. They share secrets. They gossip about me and even hide things from me. I have two other children. It’s a big family now. It wasn’t easy but now life flows ceaselessly so all we can do is flow with it and leave the past where it belongs.
Courtesy Beads Media