By Sunmola Olowookere
As old age beckons, money, affluence and power begin to lose their significance, and people would need their family members around them more than ever before. The worst fear of an elderly person is to be alone at this crucial time and end up dying lonely.
Such was the case of Pa Agbaje (not real name), a septuagenarian who lived in our neighbourhood. He was a retired driver. Like most drivers, he was cantankerous, boisterous, especially when drunk and arrogant. By the time he retired, he had three wives that had left him and he got the fourth one after his retirement.
Despite his age, he still took spirits, gin and alcohol like a youth. His wife, a young lady in her 40s, was often times concerned about his state of drunkenness. She got married to him after having about four kids for another man.
For reasons best known to her, she left the younger man who was the father of her kids and clung to this old man. Residents suspected that she came to be the old man’s wife because he had just collected his gratuity and he spoiled her silly.
He claimed that he bought half a plot of land for her. He also changed his rickety old motorcycle for a used car. Things looked good. Alas! Money soon finished and the geniality and kindness which the old man had been displaying before all fizzled out and she saw his true personality.
By then, she had a daughter for him so she could not leave. Also, she did not want her former husband to mock her so she tried to make the union work.
Three years into the relationship, she regretted moving in with him as she now saw his true colours. The suavity with which he wooed her had evaporated and sternness had taken its place.
There was no money again and she had to start working hard to feed her children. Her husband’s pension was meagre and he used half of the money on alcohol. He brought little home as feeding allowance and upkeep.
To compound her suffering, he would steal her money to buy alcohol. He would be so drunk that often times he would fall from his motorcycle and sleep off there.
By this time, he had sold his car when he could not manage it any longer and gone back to his faithful motorcycle.
When he fell asleep by the roadside in a drunken state, it would be well meaning residents who would bring him home. She reported him to his grown children and they urged him to change his ways, all to no avail.
When the young lady could no longer cope, she packed her belongings and left. Rather than appease her as she loaded her belongings into the Dyna, he heaped abuses on her and thanked God that he would have a breath of fresh air and some needed peace.
Weeping profusely, she left, not heeding neighbours’ urgings that she should persevere a little bit more. Her husband too did not help matters by his callous words.
Indeed, he had peace to do as he pleased as the woman left. He indulged in so much alcohol that his lungs became severely affected within three months. He was hospitalized and treated for tuberculosis.
After a few weeks, he was discharged from the hospital and placed on drugs. He was direly warned to stay off alcohol so that he could regain his health because his system was ravaged by the illness.
For a while, he stayed off alcohol. However, by the following month, he began to take booze again. This marked the beginning of the end for him. His children that had spent a lot of money at the first time could not gather enough money to pay for hospital bills or buy drugs. Some complained that the money they used during his stay at the hospital was borrowed and they had not finished paying back. The children were simple folks and they could barely make ends meet.
Hence, he was kept at home taking herbs. The herbs made no visible improvement on him, yet he was not taken to the hospital.
He deteriorated with each passing day. None of his children stayed with him due to the racking coughing fits and fear of infection. They only checked on him during the daytime. Unfortunately, he could not get another wife when the last one left.
As fate would have it, he had a seizure one night. No one was with him to tell what actually happened. Some of his children that came to check on him in the morning saw him on the floor with his body twisted at an unnatural angle.
Many residents believed that he must have struggled alone unsuccessfully before giving up the ghost.
To compound the residents’ shock, he was buried unceremoniously. His last wife wore a worn out T-shirt and a tattered skirt. Residents could not understand whether she was on a protest.
Despite her stance, her husband’s relatives demanded that she must bring a goat as custom demanded because her child was the last born. Although she kicked and protested, she was eventually forced to pay up.
His grown children too were at loggerheads with the relatives over some financial aspects of the burial rites. The event was a rowdy one and the officiating pastors brought from one of the children’s church were at their wit’s end as they found it extremely difficult to control the children.
The burial was just like the old man’s life style during his life time; cantankerous, dramatic and rough. It was one that residents of our neighbourhood would not forget in a hurry.
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