By Mankhokwe Namusanya:
If you are a parent in these conditions, then your frustration when you get back home is understandable.
Because, it might be that you went to work and while there you heard of a person you got to meet some time at a Conference. As you were just nodding to everything the gossip messenger said, you heard death.
“What happened?” you were jolted.
“It is the virus. His family of course said it is something else.”
Then, again, you got reminded the reality of the virus. The impunity and suddenness with which it is claiming lives. Unlike that time of campaigning and jostling for power, the virus is here now, and it is harvesting flesh with a callous disregard.
Then, just as you were to settle into that grim reality, your officemate muttered: “they have fired about 50 people at such and such. Covid. Business has gone under. I don’t know how we will survive ourselves.”
That, again, depressed you and scared you. So, to go home in a foul mood must be understandable, if not just forgivable.
However, it is not that at the end of the day all your troubles outweigh those everybody at home – especially your teenage child, the son most likely.
I know, daughters need more attention so that, if possible, one can keep them away from ‘blessers’. Also, they are very vulnerable. But, this story is from a man. A former son. Or, maybe, just a grown son.
In the beginning of the story, however, he is a son. A young son. With a father he fears, a mother he can never open to. In brief, it is like the story of your son. In his teens.
“There was no way I could just walk up to those people,” he says of his parents. “And tell them that I had done the unthinkable. Man, I still shudder to think of the anger that would have erupted from there.”
The unthinkable here is that he had impregnated a girl – his girlfriend.
“Did they know her?”
“They did. But not in that way, they knew her as a friend from School. What’s worse? They assumed I was still a virgin. I gave them the impression that I was one…”
“How, how does one give that impression?”
An uneasy laugh because it is something most of us knew how to do it, yet we cannot explain even in our most unguarded moments. Perhaps, it was us facing away when a kissing scene appeared on Television. Or, maybe, it was us wondering together with our fathers why a street ball was bouncing with such fervour even when we knew it had been ‘condomised’ on the inside.
That question avoided, we move to how the story was eventually relayed to the family. Or, did he just carry on with life while the girlfriend went around wearing that tag of ‘carrying a fatherless pregnancy’?
The last part is out, he could not do that. He loved her, he trusted her, there was no way he could leave her in that moment. He was young, certainly, but not stupid. Just as wisdom does not always accompany age, stupidity does not always laugh at childish jokes with the other side of age.
“We agreed that they should come and report the pregnancy to my family on a Sunday, a family day, while I was away.”
That agreement was just between them as a couple. Her parents, aware and livid this far, did not know him properly. They just knew his as that friend from School. He had not contacted them. He would deal with them together with his parents.
That Sunday, he came home to familiar faces tinkered with anger, shame, disappointment and mockery. His father, a Church elder, did not even have the courtesy to let him take a seat before going after him. Did he know why the people were there? Yes, he did. So, he knew of this all along? It depended on what he meant by all along.
We can only say that it ended without any scene because nobody died; however, the anger that flew from the mouths of both sets of parents was enough to signal to them that they were getting married right on the spot. In those days, it was usual that once you found yourself old enough to act married then parents iced that marriage cake with disowning you.
They were disowned, or rather, he was disowned. And sent to the village where the wife followed. A family, in struggles, started.
“The thing about destiny,” he believes in those things, “is that nobody can take it away from you. It can be delayed, not denied. Mine was just delayed.”
He worked hard there, tilling the farms, that he got enough to get himself back to school as she raised the child. Then, he got the papers – after years of course – and shot themselves out of the village. Things with both sets of parents got back to normal and they jostled over holidays for the grandchild – especially because the second one was failing to come.
“But, we had been trying for it.”
And, the more they tried, the more the failure kept dogging them.
“It did not make sense. I went for a medical opinion on my own.”
It was at the hospital where his heart was broken. He was not able to father a child, well, at least not biologically or perhaps naturally. That statement came with all the confusion. Was this a condition that he could have just gotten along the way, maybe from tilling in the farms? Highly unlikely.
He does not remember how he left the hospital or how he got home in that haze. The first conversation he had with her is also foggy, but it was chaotic.
“There was a confession in the end: the child was not mine.”