*Thanks to everyone for your thoughts, prayers, healing vibes & well-wishes. My grandmother has finally been released from the hospital & her condition has been stabilized. I called her & she wept on the phone which was really hard for me because I have never seen my gran cry. She said, ‘I was so scared that I would die without seeing you again, I was in so much pain that I thought I was dying’ and I told her ‘No, Nana please don’t say that, you are not going to die. And I am going to see you soon. I am writing a story about you’. I couldn’t see her but I knew that she was smiling. So please keep her in your thoughts & prayers. I’m dedicating this post to all loyal fans of ‘Gran’ series. So sorry I delayed in writing this but I’m sure you’ll all bear with me that the circumstances have been difficult. I love you all.
Some people say that time passes by quickly when you’re happy. That must be true because the first 9 years of my marriage to Yaw are now one happy blur. It was the first time in my life that I felt totally happy and content. You see, I was born a half orphan.
I say that I was born a half-orphan because I never met my mother. She died while giving birth to me, her first child. My father was heartbroken. He loved her so much that he could not bear to live in our village without her. He packed his bags and resettled in Kumasi. I did not see him until several years later.
Before my father went to Kumasi, he left me with Aya, his mother. I did not even realize that Aya was not my birth mother until I grew up. This is why I called her ‘aya’, the Fante word for ‘mother’. Aya tried to be both mother and father to me. She nourished me with all the love in her heart and indulged me like a mother indulges a child born to her in old age.
When I married Yaw, he became my mother, my father and my everything. Yaw was so understanding. If I pouted and said that I needed more ‘chop money’ to buy smoked fish from the market, he would give me the money without complaining. He was generous to a fault not just to me but to everyone he met. Every child in our village knew that the surest way to get a piece of candy was to show up at Yaw Obeng’s store, bathed and dressed, your forehead shining with Shea butter and your teeth gleaming with smiles.
Yaw was so kind to me. He thanked me everyday for giving him wonderful children, Efua and Kwansa. Yaw appreciated the least thing I did in the house. In the evenings, after he had closed from the store and I had come home from the farm, he would sit down to eat my dinner like it was the best meal he had ever tasted. That’s how you know a man loves you my granddaughter, when he will lick his bowl and fingers clean just because you made the meal. One day, I made etsew, corn dough balls and stew for him and accidentally put too much salt in it. He ate every morsel in his asanka clay bowl, then looked at me and said ‘Am I not lucky that the best cook in the world is my wife’?
On the days that I left the children with Aya, Yaw would close the shop early so that he could be home before sunset. He would hold my hand as we walked to the riverside where I often went to watch the sun set when I was a single woman. He would sit on a rock at the riverside and ask me to sit on his laps. Then he would hold me and whisper tenderly to me how much he loved me and how I was the most beautiful woman in the world. He would start from my head and adore every part of my body. He praised my big eyes, my yellow skin, bushy eyebrows, thick hair, curvaceous figure. Then he would tenderly tell me how all those years that I had been walking in front of his store to go to the riverside, he had watched me and promised himself that he would make me his wife someday. And I would melt a little.
The 9th year of our marriage was when Yaw began to travel a lot. He traveled to the neighboring towns to sell some of his goods. He planned to set up stores in these towns as well and employ people to run them. He traveled to the Cape Coast port where he bargained with ‘middlemen’ to buy goods that had just been imported so that he could resell them in his store for a profit. Yaw’s store had tripled in size and he had become a rich man but I was unhappy. I wished that he could be home more often with me and the children. I knew that his job was important since it made enough money to keep us all comfortable.
I got pregnant in the 9th year of our marriage and that pregnancy was very difficult unlike my two previous pregnancies. This baby seemed to be so furious. It would wake me up in the middle of the night by kicking me so hard that I could not go back to sleep. I could hardly keep any food down. Yaw tried to tempt me with corned beef, sardines, and cookies from his store but I was not interested. Instead, it appeared that the only food this baby wanted was hot pepper. I craved pepper so much that I would pop dried peppers into my mouth, chewing till my eyes brimmed with tears and the roof of my mouth burned with hot fire. How I wished Yaw was home to rub shea butter on my tummy and massage my back with herbs like he did when I was pregnant with Efua and Kwansa.
In my 8th month of pregnancy, I was home when Aba Nsia knocked on my door. My face dropped when I saw her. Aba was the town gossip and I could neither stand her nor her hooded eyes that resembled a lizard. I would have turned her away but in Fante custom, it is rude to turn away a visitor. ‘Hi, Aba’ I said coldly, ‘shall I offer you a calabash full of water?’. ‘Yes please’ she said smiling. No sooner had she sat down than Aba said ‘Eii, Araba, you’re sleeping but your legs are outside! They are using your knife to cut a snake and you don’t even know’. ‘W-what are you tallking about Araba? Stop speaking in parables’, I said, my head had started to throb. ‘Araba, why are you sleeping while your rivals are dancing apatampa in your backyard? hmmm, open your eyes o!’ I had had enough. ‘Look here Aba, I don’t have any rival. As you know, I’m my husband’s only wife so if you have come here to tell me that you also want him then good you can have him! By the way, if you’ll excuse me, I can’t sit and chat because I have to cook my husband’s dinner’. “Oh, sorry o my dear, I didn’t mean to take up your time. Let me be on my way and tell your husband that I said hello when he comes home”. I hated the way she sneered when she said ‘husband’ but I decided to ignore it as she left my home.
That evening, I served Yaw yam and palaver sauce. The children were with Aya. Yaw hardly touched his food. It was when he said ‘Thanks for the delicious meal, Araba’ that I knew. I knew because Yaw never called me Araba. He called me odo yewu (the one I love to death) when we were alone. He called me Maame (mom) when our children were around. He called me obaapa (good woman) when our friends and family were around but he never ever called me Araba.
I knew. I knew. And my heart was breaking. I began to yell, my voice hoarse from the tears streaming down my face’O my god Yaw, why did you do this to me? What did I do to make you hate me like this? Yaw was I not good enough? I thought you were different from other men, I didn’t know …” I couldn’t even speak anymore so I just bent over and continued sobbing. Yaw tried to hold me, his voice tinged with guilt and terror “Araba, Araba please don’t do this. Araba please take it easy, please remember your condition. Please Araba”. I was crying so hard that I didn’t realize that the pain I was feeling in my abdomen wasn’t due to the baby kicking but it was due to the fact that I had gone into labor…
TO BE CONTINUED