|Old African Woman
Image: iStock Photos
Ma Pwamoreno knelt to pray. The cracking sound in her spine told her it would be an uphill task getting up from this position. ‘She might as well take her time’, she thought. She couldn’t possible cause any more harm to her 70 year-old body.
She went into a flurry of thanksgiving prayers. As she bowed in obeisance to GOD, her mind began to drift. Aspects of her life flashed through her mind until she was completely lost in thought.
Pwapradi Zadok remembered the family she had been born into. She was born to a progressive family that believed in the white man’s education.
Her father had worked for a white family who introduced Christianity and formal education to him. In his view, white people could do no wrong.
Her father was a good Christian man. He treated her mother right. He ensured that they always had food and good clothes; which was a far cry from what her neighbors had to contend with. He encouraged them to read books and study the Bible.
Her mother was the perfect match for her father. She was such a good woman! She couldn’t remember if her parents ever fought. She only remembered that they were a much disciplined family and though her parents never told them they loved them, they could tell that they did.
By ‘they’, she meant her eight brothers and sisters; her parents had seven boys and two girls. Though it was a large family, there were always extended family members in the house at any given time. It was a testament to her father that he raised good children who were all stellar citizens in their community.
As the last child, Pwapradi was called “Mummy’s carbon copy”. She had the same mannerisms and even looked almost exactly like her mother. Their similarity was so much that when she cooked, her father couldn’t tell if it was his wife or his daughter.
When it was time to get married, her father worked extra hard to get a very good man for her. He picked the choir master of the church who was a young and promising teacher in the village primary school.
Pwapradi remembered how her mother prepared her for marriage, her expectations as a wife, her duties and her reward. Pwapradi flushed under her skin when her mother told her to just lie down and accept her husband’s overtures because ‘men have been cursed with huge desire for sex’.
Pwapradi’s marriage to Cletus Pwamoreno had been a simple affair, after which she settled into her role as wife. Cletus didn’t want her to work. He wanted her to be a house wife. Like her mother taught her, she obeyed him completely. He also didn’t want any other person cooking his meals. So she had been cooking for him for 58 years.
She woke up early, cooked his breakfast and lunch and then took his bath water to the bathroom. She would wake him up and then set about sweeping the house. As he bathed, she would do other house chores to reduce her workload. When he was done, she would serve his meal and send him off with a ‘Have a good day‘ pat on the back. When he got back home, he would arrive to the aroma of steaming Bamta or Kwaa Bawei soup. Though he would always rush to the kitchen, she would get him to bathe first before eating his meal. After his meal, she would massage his feet and back as he read a newspaper or studied the Bible. Even as they got older and her bones got weaker, she continued her routine every single day of the week.
When the children came, there was more work for Pwapradi but she took it in her stride; after all, Bachama women were known for their strength. She gave birth to five children before GOD decided it was enough.
She remembered how she never raised her voice when talking to her husband. They had been married for 58 years and she never shouted at her husband. When they quarreled, he did all the talking while she stared at the floor. When he was done, she would say, ‘I am sorry Sir. It would not repeat itself.’ He thought she was acting in the first few years of their marriage but he later realized that she was made that way. Soon, quarrels became nonexistent in their marriage. Her mother taught her that her husband’s word was law and she obeyed him to a fault.
As he became more prominent, their marriage became the poster child for perfection. People wanted to emulate them. Couples came to them for advice. They were both co-opted into the church counseling unit. She heard that her husband always said, ‘My wife never raises her voice at me. She never disobeys me. She does everything I say and that is why we are so happy.’ He would always end by saying, ‘Get your wife to be like mine and you have the perfect home.’She on the other hand would say to wives, ‘Your husband is the head of your house. If you want him to treat you right, respect him, obey him and be a good wife to him.’
She remembered her children. They were all married now. She had a flurry of grandkids she only saw during the holidays. None of her kids lived close to her. They were spread in Kaduna, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Abuja. No one wanted to live in Numan; a glorified village. So she got to see them once every year when they came for Christmas.
She thanked GOD for her life. She had lived a good life.
That thought had not finished forming when another came into her mind. Had she really lived? Was her life worth thanking GOD for? Though foreign, she pondered on the thought some more.
She had always wanted to teach. She wanted to impart knowledge just as her father had done. She was lucky to have been formally educated. Most of the women in her community were illiterates and needed basic education. But her husband said no and she just let it go.
She also wanted to travel the world but having kids put a damper on that. She couldn’t tote five children as she toured the prairies of France, or the rolling hills of England, or the Great Wall of China. She definitely couldn’t travel to the Grand Canyon or see the beautiful people of Kenya when her husband needed her for his daily existence.
She had never had a mind of her own. Hers was just a reflection of her husband’s; like the moon is to the sun.
She realized that when she died, people will remember her for being a good wife, mother, grandmother, counselor and very little else. That was the summary of her life.
She did not achieve any great feat. She did not leave her mark in the sands of time. She did not live out of the ordinary. She had not dared move out of her comfort zone. She was as mediocre as they came.
She was seventy and just came to the reality that she had not lived. She had existed but had not lived. And she will easily be forgotten when she dies. Oh! Her children will grieve for maybe a few weeks but they will thank GOD that their mother lived to a good old age.
They say that a woman’s fulfillment is in marriage. How come she felt so empty? How come she felt so drained? How come she did not feel an iota of fulfillment?
The answer was as clear as the sun shining down on the new maize crops growing in Numan. She had been taught that her husband was her head and his word final. She had been taught to be quiet when her husband spoke. She had done ALL the house chores for 58 years and had endured her husband’s insipid sex for 30 of those years. They say a woman is a helper. Well, she just discovered what a woman really was; a slave. And she wasted 70 years of her life before coming to that realization!
It might be late but she was going to live! She was going to teach women to get a formal education and have a voice! She was going to let women know that they had a mind of their own and should not let their multi-billion brain cells go to waste. She was going to travel and see the countries she had read about and she was going to use her life to teach people that marriage didn’t define a person’s life. In fact, she was going to write a book!
Ma Pwamoreno dropped the flowers she was holding and struggled to get up. She had a determined looked on her face as she slowly shuffled away.
Daniel Michael, the cemetery groundskeeper shook his head as he watched Ma Pwamoreno walk away. She had been at her husband’s grave site for forty minutes, kneeling and staring at his tomb stone. He was not close enough to be definitive but he was sure she was mumbling something. He felt sorry that her husband had died one month ago. They were a well-respected family in Numan, Adamawa State. He hoped he and his wife would stay married that long and still care for each other after all that time.
As he turned to give her one last look, he saw her clutch her chest, bend over and fall on her face. He dropped his shears and ran to her.
The news anchor became teary as she launched the package for the death of Ma Pwamoreno. What a woman! She and her husband had been so in love that they died exactly one month apart. They could not bear to be alone. Oh! Such love didn’t exist anymore.
Only Ma Pwamoreno knew that she had lived a lie. She was the only one who knew that she had never been truly happy or ever in love. But hey! Let the people live with their illusions. It wasn’t as if there was anything Ma Pwamoreno could do about it.