They were celebrating ten years of marriage. Jedida’s father’s curse didn’t work. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Abel was a good husband, a family man and a great father to their seven year old daughter Laura.
He had stood by her even when Jedida’s parents had chased his parents away a decade ago when they had come to meet their in-laws to be. Jedida’s father had been unambiguous in his declaration that he wanted nothing to do with Abel.
Abel had tried several times to reach out to Jedida’s parents but they banged the door at him, once,twice, thrice until he had had enough of it.
Jedida had tried too. They allowed her to visit, alone or with Laura but only to convince her to leave the ‘good-for-nothing’ Abel.
She did come at least once a month to check on them, but she regretted every time she spent a minute longer in that house.
“I hear he is now starting a boutique and cosmetics shop. Does he know anything about women preferences, really?” Jedida’s mother asked.
“That business will collapse , just like the shoe shop that he had before, the hotel and the bookshop!” Her father said, with a frown on his face.
“It’s bad enough leaving with a man whose tomorrow you are not sure of. He is a very unstable man Jed, you don’t have to stay with him to prove a point to us. We know you are not happy.”
“Grandma, don’t you like daddy?” Laura had interrupted.
“Hey you squirrel, where are your manners? Haven’t you been taught not to eavesdrop on adults’ conversations?” Jedida’s mum shouted with such venom that Laura had never witnessed from anyone else. She ran to her mother who clutched onto her protectively.
“We will leave now.” Jedida announced, angry but trying not to show. They waved at them dismissively.
“I always wonder why you go there, it always ends in tears!” This was Abel that evening after Jedida had narrated the day’s events.
“They are my parents Abel. I wanted to see how they are doing, you know age is catching up with them.” She insisted.
“Well, I cannot forbid you to go see them, but I do not want Laura to step foot there anymore. My daughter will not be subjected to emotional torture as long as I am alive!” He was furious because his daughter had come to him crying that grandma hated her.
Jedida decided to reduce her visits there too. She only went to her parents’ house when Jazmin and Fidel visited them. But even then she felt out of place because all her parents did was to shower praises on the twins and toss scathing remarks at her.
“Fidel, Jazmin tells me that you performed an operation on an unborn baby while it was still in the womb!” The father loudly bragged to get the attention of all.
Fidel laughed shyly but did not say a word. He knew his father’s intentions.
“And you Jazmin, another year abroad for further studies, won’t your head explode with all these knowledge?” He laughed hard at his joke as his wife looked on her twins with admiration.
Jazmin and Fidel did not laugh at all. They quickly threw glances at their big sister who sat at the farthest seat scrolling on her phone.
“Jed, how’s family? I haven’t seen Abel in a long time, and I thought Laura would come and say hi to aunty!” Jazmin addressed her elder sister but realized she had made a mistake when her parents made their utterances.
“Hmm…you better spit out your words Jazmin because if that man sees you and the big cars you have packed outside, he will come to you, with a shrewd tongue like a snake’s and present to you a business proposal that you can invest in.” Her father continued, “but these businesses fail before they begin!” The parents laughed out loud as the twins looked on in an awkward atmosphere until their mother broached another topic.
“And you twins better think of giving me grandchildren now. I don’t want to grow old lonely.”
The twins were silent. They glanced at Jedida expecting her to protest against their mother’s statement who already had Laura and she lived only a few kilometres from home.
“We must go back now. I have a major surgery tomorrow and I want to sleep early.” Fidel revealed as he stood up to the disappointment of their parents.
“And me too, it will be a very busy day, preparing for my departure to Maryland on Tuesday.” Jazmin added.
The look on their parents’ faces were a sorry state. Jedida followed them out, not bothering to say goodbye, she knew it wasn’t needed.
She bid her siblings goodbye. Time and distance had changed the relationship they once had as siblings. Now the three had so little to talk about because they had discussed about their parents’ toxicity towards her so many times that they had gotten used to it. They were in two different worlds now.
Jedida went home to the family that valued her.
That Tuesday, Jedida woke up feeling sweaty and tired. She felt her hair rise often and an unusual feeling overwhelmed her the whole day, an uncomfortable one.
Jazmin called her and told her she had something to confess to her.
“Dad and mum are coming to the airport to bid me goodbye. They begged me not to tell you because Laura will insist on coming to. They think Abel might want to accompany her.”
“No, no, it’s ok. Laura would understand anyway. Have a safe journey Jaz!” Jed said and hang up. Maybe that’s why I have been feeling like this? She wondered. But the feeling grew more intense.
She did not know that it was a premonition until an unknown number called her late at night. It was a nurse from a hospital fifty kilometres from their hometown.
“Your mother and father are in hospital, after being involved in a major accident , their car collided with a bus. Good samaritans brought them here!” The news hit her like lightning.
She woke her husband up to inform him of the news. They both agreed he should go and leave her at home with Laura. She was left praying fervently that the lives of her parents be spared. She wept and paced up and down in apprehension, careful not to wake Laura who was sleeping in her room.
Abel came back in the morning, all weary.
“It’s bad Jed, really bad.” He stated, sympathetically, then continued “Your mother…your mother has broken both her legs , the doc says they have to be amputated, while your dad is in ICU.
The nurse told me that those who brought them think that your dad was drunk because it was him who drove on the wrong lane direct into a bus’s front. They must have been driving back home from the capital city.” He embraced his wife as she wailed in agony.
“Dad has very poor eyesight especially at night. Why did they have to drive at night? Fidel! Let me call Fidel!”
But Fidel did not pick his call until evening . He was shocked and promised to come as soon as he could. When Jazmine knew about the accident, she was devastated and blamed herself for it . Jedida had a hard time convincing her that the accident was no one’s fault.
Jedida and Abel visited the parents everyday until they were finally discharged. Jazmin would call now and then but a research she was working on would leave her tired most of the time. Fidel’s hospital had found an asset in him. He had surgeries back to back such that he could not find time at all to pay his parents a visit. Sometimes it would take five or six days before he called.
But the two doctors had made an effort to send money to Jedida to hire a nurse to take care of their parents. This was good for Jedida who was worried that she would have to give her family less of her time in order to take care of her parents.
Six months after the accident, they were getting better even though her mother was now confined in a wheel chair. As for the father, he couldn’t wake up from his bed because his back had been severely injured . But he could speak albeit very slowly.
With a nurse at the beck and call of her parents, Jedida resolved to focus on her family. Abel needed her assistance in his new project. The boutique and cosmetics shop hadn’t picked as Jedida’s father had predicted. But Abel never gave up. Jedida loved his tenacity although it was something her parents often made fun of.
His latest project was yoghurt sales. Jedida would prepare the yoghurt while her husband would search platforms for its sale. He had insisted that selling yoghurt would be the stroke that would cause success pour in torrents. He had said it before and she had believed him but he said it differently this time, so assuredly as if he had gotten a chance to peep into the future. She felt a wave of contentment run through her.
Two weeks later, she felt a mulish urge to go see her parents. She had called the nurse a few days ago who had assured her that her parents were ok. But with this stubborn weird feeling, Jedida would not call but go and find out her parents’ state of health.
“Hello!” She called out and expected the nurse to answer back. “Hello, nurse!” Jedida called again as she tiptoed inside the house that was surprisingly very untidy. The house reeked of faeces and urine.
Jedida tiptoed faster to her parents bedroom and was met by the most horrific state. Lying on the ground was her father, his clothes soiled to the core. It was clear he had attempted to get out of bed. He was heavy but she toiled to get him back on the bed after placing a cloth under him to avoid messing the bed.
“Mum?” She was running now, from room to room until she met her, in the toilet, sobbing quietly, her wheel chair folded behind the door as she sat on the toilet seat unable to get out. Her husband must have tried to come and help her out.
“Mum, where is the nurse? How could she leave you like this? For how long have you been like this?” She was crying as she cleaned her mother and placed her on the wheel chair then pushed her to the bedroom.
Jedida went to the bathroom and put some water in a basin and a clean cloth.
“Mum, dad is all dirty, I want to push you close to him so that you can wipe him. You know I can’t.”
Her mother was still crying then she looked at her daugher and said, “I can’t, wipe him.”
“Mum! That’s sacrilegious! That’s like wishing curses upon me! ”
“You still fear curses until now, Jed? What curse thrown at you has ever succeeded? Curses harm only those with evil hearts.”
“Mum, I will have to find someone to do it, I just can’t.”
“No!” She started to sob again, “After what that nurse has put us through, I don’t want another stranger here.”
Their father groaned as he shifted his legs,the uric acid was burning him. Jedida met her mother’s pleading eyes. She knew she did not have a choice.
He slept like a baby after that.
“He had not slept for days, in fear of that cruel nurse who shouted and insulted us like we are small children! She screamt at me for taking too long in the toilet and left, I waited but she never came back. ”
“I am so sorry mum!”
The two talked for a few hours. It was the first conversation Jedida had with her mother after the accident, and the first conversation that displayed a loving mother-daughter relationship.
Jedida would get home late, prepare supper, prepare a hundred litres of yoghurt for her husband to sell for the next day . The next day she would rise early and go to her parents’ house and clean up then she would sit sometimes in the living room with her mother where they would laugh and chat. Other times they would go to the master bedroom to keep her father company who was getting better by the day.
“Come with Abel tomorrow!” Her mother suggested. Jedida shook her head vigorously. She reminded her mother that years ago they had ordered Abel never to step foot in the house. Then she heard her father make a sound. She moved closer and watched him. With a lot of effort, he raised his hand and beckoned her to come closer. She did.
“Please…te…tell Abel and Laura to come and see me tomorrow!” He said feebly. She nodded.
Abel was at first reluctant. He protested that he was not in the mood to be insulted but Jedida convinced hin that she doubted he had called her for that.
“Abel…I am so…sorry for …the way I treated you. I…did not see that you were the best man for my daughter. Please forgive me…You are welcome to my… house any…time…” He told Abel who was trying to fight back his tears.
Laura started to come often, especially on weekends when she was not in school. She and her grandfather realized they had a special liking for each other and every time she came into the room, his eyes shone with excitement. Abel gave his father in-law a thorough cleaning when he was around.
Within a few weeks , he could speak well, sit up but with help and hold a spoon firmly. Fortnights later he was attempting to make his first steps.
They clapped delightedly when he did.
“Grandpa, hold my hand and I will help you!” Laura offered and he held the tiny hand. That was all he needed to walk again.
“Come here my granddaughter!” Laura went to the open arms of her grandmother and they both shed tears of joy.
When Jedida and her family came, the house was filled with life, love and laughter. Abel disclosed his recent project to his father who, instead of ridiculing him, decided to guide him, step by step . He had been a business analyst for thirty years, after all.
“No, change the packaging. Give it a more appealing look. Let the labels have images of strawberry for the strawberry favour, mango fruits for the mango flavoured yoghurt…and so on..” He advised. The sales shot up.
Soon, the demand was so high that he had to employ more workers. His yoghurt, the customers said had an original taste, savoury and addictive. Jedida hadn’t gone to catering school for nothing.
Then one Sunday, Jedida’s father called them all to the living room.
“Thank you all for coming. I have called you because my heart is heavy.” No one except his wife knew that he meant it literally, he had suffered two mild heart attacks in the last few days. “I feel like my time here is up,” he was interrupted
“Dad, why are you saying so, you are still young…”
“My dear daughter, I have cheated death quite a number of times but I have no more strength. I have called you to apologize, I know you will never forget but please try.
Yesterday as I retired to bed, I realized that the children I am so proud of have no time for me, I educated them to serve others. Jedida, you have been with us at our lowest moment.” He paused, bent his head and his whole body shook as he sobbed uncontrollably. Laura went by his side and put an arm around him. Minutes later, he calmed down and continued.
“Jedida, you even cleaned me like a baby when I was dirty like a sewer. How can I thank you? I thought that after educating Jazmin and Fidel, I would be happy enjoying the fruits of my labour. See their lives now, they don’t even have time for forming families. They have so much money but have no time to spend it. They are generous to send some this way but it doesn’t make me happier.
It’s with you that I feel at my best.” He looked at Laura and kissed her forehead and paused, a longer unsettling pause.
“Abel, my son..I am asking for a favour.” Abel shifted uneasily at his chair when his father in law met his eyes. He nodded respectfully.
“Continue being the great father you are to this girl. How I wish I could see her blossom to a beautiful responsible woman like her mother. But my time to leave has come.”
“Grandpa, where are you going?” Laura asked.
“Laura, grandpa isn’t going anywhere,” Jedida said her voice trembling with emotions.
Three days later, with his wife sleeping soundly next to him, he suffered another attack. He did not wake her up this time. He groaned silently and then gave in to the grim reaper.
Jedida thought she would die too. The pain of losing her father was intense. But her mother urged her to be strong.
“We have to be strong, that’s what your father would have wanted.”
Burial arrangements were made. Dr. Jazmin couldn’t make it, she had a very important presentation on that day. She would come later. Dr. Fidel was preparing to come for the burial but an emergency operation stopped him that only he, could perform. By the time he arrived, the burial was over. He stayed for a few minutes but his hospital called, he was urgently needed.
Jazmin came two weeks later with prosthetic legs for her mother. She stayed a few days but spent the most time replying to her emails. She said goodbye to come back six months later.
Jedida visits her mother frequently. She is heavily expectant, with twins! Laura is excited about having siblings.
Abel’s business has flourished and still is. He does his best to balance his family and business life. He ensures he gets home in time to assist his daughter with her homework. The two are so close that he knows her secrets before Jedida does. He is happy that she is happy. Now a set of babies are on the way and he secretly vows to love them all equally.