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Monday, October 26, 2015

She abandoned me as a baby. Now it's payback time! (3)

Listening to old Pa Simon speak about my mother's family gave me an odd feeling. For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of connection to persons other than those I had known all my life at the orphanage. It was a heady feeling, like I was in a dream or something.
'So, I have a family afterall. I'm not all alone in the world then,' I thought with some excitement. I had grandparents somewhere, a mother and other relatives I had never met or knew existed. For the first time since the search for my mother began, I became really anxious to meet these people, who though total strangers to me, were my own flesh and blood. Before the meeting I still had a hurdle to cross.
Pa Simon stated that before he could help me, he needed some verification from the orphanage.
"Clarkson was a good friend of mine, God rest his soul. He died some years after his retirement from the bench. He was a valuable customer and friend, so anything relating to him or his family, I take seriously. Besides, he never once told me his daughter had a child out of wedlock that was kept in an orphanage. Perhaps, it's a family secret, who knows. Young people these days do all kinds of things that were unheard of during our days," he noted. 
His son, he stated would take me to the orphanage, meet Big Mama and confirm things from her. "Its only then you will get the contact," Pa Simon promised.

Meeting Grandma
Three days later on a rainy morning, I left for the address which Pa Simon's son gave me. It was in another town, about an hour's drive from the city where I lived. Pa Simon had told me that my grandfather had relocated to the town to get away from the stressful city life' upon his retirement from the judiciary.
The journey was smooth and before long, I arrived at my destination. I took a cab to the house where my grandmother lived and stood for a moment at the high gate of the compound trying to compose myself.
'This is it,' I thought a bit nervously as I knocked on the gate. A gateman in a navy uniform poked his face through a small opening at the side.
On seeing me, he looked at me strangely, a puzzled look on his face.
 I told him I wanted to see Madam, that I had a message for her from her daughter, Carol. A short while later, I was inside.
It was a large compound full of trees, plants and flowers. There was a main house, a storey building with a wide verandah at the front overlooking the big courtyard. Sitting on a chair was an old woman, who looked as if she was taking a nap. 'That must be my grandmother,' I thought, my heart beating fast with both nerves and excitement.
"Madam, you get visitor o!" the gateman said loudly. The woman opened her eyes and looked at me keenly. Then she said something that shocked me.
"Is that you, Carol? Has your hair grown or what? You were wearing a lowcut style two weeks ago on your last visit and now your hair looks so long," she stated, getting up from the chair.
"No, Ma. My name is Nora," I told her.
"For a moment, I thought you were my daughter. My eyes are getting worse by the day. Eh, who's there? Tina, bring my glasses," she said, motioning the gateman to go back to his duty post before leaving the verandah.
A maid whom I presumed was Tina ushered me into a large living room downstairs. I was alone for a short while before the old woman descended the stairs to join me.
She had a quizzical expression on her face as she studied me briefly.
"You say your name is...? she asked as she sat down on a couch opposite me. I told her and she stated:
"Strange. She looks so much like Carol as a young girl," I heard her mumble to herself. "So, what do you want to see me for?" she said.
I brought out the bracelet from the case where I had kept it and showed it to her. She took it, examined it closely then exclaimed:
 "Where did you get this bracelet? I've been looking for it for over twenty years! Who gave it to you?" 
I told her it was her daughter Carol who gave me the bracelet as a baby. 
“My own Carol gave you that? Why? How do you know my daughter and what is she to you?" she queried.
I took a deep breath and announced:
"She's my mother. She left me at the orphanage with this bracelet on my wrist."
The woman blinked rapidly before stating:
"Is this some kind of joke or what! We are not in April so it can't be a prank. Look here, young woman, I do not appreciate total strangers coming into my home and making spurious claims about any of my family. If you don't have anything better to say, I think you should leave." 
"Ma, it's the truth. If in doubt, you can check at the orphanage where I lived all my life until recently. The Chief Matron who was there when my mother, your daughter came will confirm it," I said with conviction. I had come so far in my quest and I was not ready to give up now.
She still looked doubtful so I gave her Big Mama's phone number at the orphanage which she called immediately. They spoke for a while and after she hung up, she stood up and gazed at me intently and curiously as if she was seeing me for the first time. She looked closely at my face, my hands, legs, body.
Then slumping on a chair, she said:
"Oh dear! Oh my goodness! What have we done? How could this have happened? She told us the baby died!" 
I jumped up and went to her side as she looked as if she was going to faint or something.
"Ma, are you alright? Should I get you some water?" I asked worriedly.
She shook her head and removing her glasses, wiped her face with a hanky.
"I'm fine. Just tell the maid to bring my BP drugs. She's in the kitchen," she said.
I went towards the direction she indicated and delivered her message to the housemaid. Later, after she had taken her drugs and calmed down somewhat, she told me to move closer and sit by her on the couch. She held my face in her hands and caressed my cheeks and hair.
"No wonder I mistook you for her! The resemblance is so strong!" she said in a wondering tone.
 Then she began to speak and with each word she uttered, the circumstances under which I came to this world unfolded gradually.

A teenage pregnancy, an angry father 
Carol, my mother, she said was her only daughter and the last child out of five children. "I had her when I had given up on having a daughter. I thought my womb could only bear male children. I had always wanted a little girl so you can imagine my joy when Carol arrived. Her father too was ecstatic. She was his pride and joy. He loved her so much. Seeing him with Carol, one would think she was his only child. There was nothing he would not do for her and he spoilt her rotten. She was his favourite and he never hid it from our other children, her older brothers," she said.
"Growing up so pampered, one would expect Carol to be spoilt and proud but she was a sensible girl who was obedient and well-mannered though could be stubborn at times. She also did well at school and her proud Dad was planning to send her abroad to study like her brothers when the incident happened that changed all the great plans we had for her. It happened after she left secondary school while her father was processing her admission into a university in the U.K."
Carol, she said had gone visiting a friend in the neighbourhood one day when a call came that she had fallen ill suddenly and had been rushed to the hospital.
Her father was not at home so I went to the hospital where she was on admission. I later met the doctor who dropped the bombshell:
"She's pregnant," the doctor had announced brusquely, looking at a file on his desk. I thought it must have been a mistake, a wrong diagnosis perhaps. Because how could our precious daughter, our little girl whom we had brought up so well get pregnant at such a young age when she wasn't married? At just 17? It sounded unbelievable! But it was real as events turned out.
When she was discharged and we got home, her father nearly went ballistic when he heard what had happened. Before he even heard the full story of how she got pregnant, he threatened to deal with the 'bastard' that had raped his daughter because to him it could only have occurred through rape and nothing else.
But there was more to the story than he initially thought...

To be continued

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.

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