“Come Lord Jesus and establish your kingdom in my heart today.
So is the word that goes out of my mouth, it will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it – Isaiah 55:10″
PS: So we had been given a task about Domestic Violence on the TLC [The-Literary-Cafe] whatsapp platform and I had drawn up several ideas. I tried to reduce it in bits to make a poem but the more I tried, the longer it got. So I gave up and decided to do a story instead. Fortunately, my story coincides with the Lenten celebration and season of Easter. Maybe I can finally use my Talent in a way that praises God. Enjoy!
NB: You can read previous post here Bloody Savages: Our Father
Irikefe looked at the Banga and starch seated steaming hot before him, as he waited patiently for his bowl of water to arrive so that he could pounce on his favorite dish.
He watched as she swayed her hips left to right in an orderly fashion, kneeling before him to place the bowl of water by his side. He mirrored back her smile, waiting for her to leave before he dipped his hands into the bowl and washed his hands thoroughly.
He flapped his hands to shake off the water as he proceeded to finger-cut his starch with both his thumb and index finger. After two dips of starch into the Banga and into his mouth, he let out an overdue sigh and moaned in content. He shook his head as he continued eating.
Here he was, at a local canteen, eating a long lost satisfactory meal by 10.15pm when he had a wife at home. He shook his head again and wondered how things got this bad. His wife no longer had the time or luxury to prepare him a decent meal. The kids were badly fed. He continued eating as he looked at the three kids before him, his kids. They were not even eating well anymore.
Look at how they are picking on the fresh fish and starch...he thought. What a shame!
He remembered when he first met Tuoyo, his wife. He had fallen in love with her food, her tasty meals and her generous soups filled with edible animals. Boy, was she a great cook? Her meals were far the best of all he had tasted and all his friends admitted, even his sisters. Her perfect Ogwo soup, her spicy Ukodo, her soft mouldable starch, her pepper-stew, he could go on and on. She was great in the kitchen, very great and she was intelligent and smart as well. So it was not a surprise that two years after they got married, she secured a job at a multi-national company as a sales manager.
Their marriage was doing just fine and the kids were all right. Tuoyo did not nag nor complain. She was able to combine her wifely duties with her office work and still have spill over time for family hang outs. Nine years into their marriage, the home grew both in wealth and number. They had more mouths to feed with the emergence of a new child, he was promoted and transferred to Ghana, and she bagged a new position at the office as the Regional Manager.
He thought nothing could be better than what they had. Subsequently, he moved from Warri to Ghana and came back during vacations to see the family. As time went on, he noticed a deterioration in the home. The fridge hardly housed any cooked food nor fresh supplies to suggest a possible cooking. The store cabinet gradually got empty of rice, beans, yams or wheat except for the constant bag of garri and sugar.
At first, he overlooked it thinking Tuoyo had a reason. After-all, it was her kitchen, she had the duty to take care of it. More over, at his every vacation, he traveled with the family and during those trips, they ate out, laughed a lot, caught up on old gists and visited friends. Vacation by vacation – before he returns back to Ghana, he realized he had to keep buying food supplies and meat on his kids demand and he was worried. Everyone in the house seemed to be used to the idea of no food, no one complained. When he bought supplies, it just lays there.
It was during one of this vacations he had to ask his eldest kid what the problem was in the home.
“Boma, come and sit with daddy. Let’s talk man to man.” Irikefe invited his eleven  year old son.
“Yes Dad?” Boma responded “What would you like to talk about?”
Irikefe loved the sound of confidence his son’s voice carried “How have you and your siblings been in my absence?”
“Very fine Dad.” Boma smiled as he fiddled with his nails.
“Boma look at me and talk to me, okay. Is there any problem you would like daddy to know?”
Boma looked up and smiled sheepishly “No Dad. we are fine. It’s just that we get to miss you a lot but mummy says there is nothing we can do about it.” His countenance fell.
Irikefe looked at him sarcastically “Nobody told me how greatly I was missed! When I call, why don’t you tell me that you want me back here with you in Nigeria? I thought you said you and your siblings were happy?”
Boma looked at his toes as he replied “I always want to say it but Mum warns us all the time never to spoil your mood and sound cherry on the phone to make you happy, and I want to make you happy Dad.”
Irikefe brought Boma closer as he hugged him whispering “You can never make me unhappy Boma. I also want to see you happy so that I can be happy in turn. You just have to let me know what makes you unhappy so that I can amend and make us all happy, okay?”
“But Mum says that we have to do all our best to make you happy whenever you call and whenever you are around…”
“At your expense? Boma, listen. It is my duty as your daddy to first make sure that you are happy not the other way round. When I satisfy myself that I have done all I need to make sure you and your siblings are genuinely happy, then you can reciprocate as my baby boy to do the things that will make me smile and be happy with you.”
Boma smiled as he hugged Irikefe warmly. “Now, will you tell me why you miss me and what makes you sad?” Irikefe queried
“Mum is always so busy we don’t get to see her and you are always away at Ghana throughout the year except during your 2 months vacation. It really makes me sad especially when your vacation comes around when we are still in school session and we get to see you just half the day. My siblings and I wish you and mum spend more time with us.”
“Hmmm…now I see why you want me back. Is that all?”
“Not exactly. You see I also miss eating mum’s Banga soup and starch. For the past two years and half since you moved to Ghana, we haven’t eaten mum’s food.”
Irikefe looked startled “I do not understand Boma. What do you mean by you have not eaten mum’s food for the past two years and half?”
Boma sighed as he wiggled his butt on Irikefe’s lap looking directly at Irikefe “Since you left to Ghana, and mum got promoted, things have changed.”
“Mum is always very busy and comes home late. When she comes she is too tired to do any thing else. I see it in her eyes. She looks too tired and I do not know what to say because I don’t want to stress her. I remember that making Banga is stressful and I always want that but I don’t mind other food like plantain or egg or rice but when I ask mum, she always shush me away, saying she is tired and that I should go and fetch garri and make myself some. Tuoyo junior and Wiobowe like drinking garri but I don’t.”
“This is not clear Boma. Mum says directly to you that she is tired and that she cannot cook for you and your siblings and asks you to soak garri?”
“Yes Dad. You can ask Tuoyo Junior. She will tell you. Mum only buys us tasty biscuits on Fridays and Saturdays and then on Sundays, she buys us Jollof rice from outside.”
“Unbelievable! Your mother buys you food from outside when she is around?”
“Yes dad. You cannot notice it now. When you come for vacation we always travel and eat out or if we don’t, grandma comes and cooks for you because she says you have been away for a long time. Don’t you see that it is grandma’s food we eat when you are around?”
Irikefe looked distraught. Now he understood why the kids always suggested that he buys food stuffs and why they want him back. Why would Tuoyo behave in such a manner? Boma cannot possibly be lying to him about his mother. He was ashamed of himself for having not noticed. How can this have been going on for two years and a half without his noticing it. What kind of a father was he already becoming?
He looked at five year old Wiobowe as he tried to break the crab in his Banga without spilling oil on his shirt. He smiled at his son.
NOTE: Most times we neglect to see that constantly ignoring our kids needs is some sort of ‘indirect’ domestic violence without the actual physical violence. This entails a mental violence, psychological/emotional abuse and inner weakness. The kid is left with no choice but to make do with what is before him/her without actually been aware that he/she is being abused. When parents claim too busy in their built ‘kingdoms’ as a means to escape proper feeding of their wards, they let the child grow up with the mentality that he/she is more of a burden than a blessing, leaving these kids chronically depressed and in despair.
In this Lenten season, May we find an avenue to help someone out of despair or give hope to the ones that need it?
Have a great day!