Mama continued, “As you can see this is my emergency. She is my child just as much as you or Funmilayo are. Does it matter from whose womb a child is born? A family must take care of its members. Do the best you can and we will talk about the rest later.” Dr. Anfani smiled and began to inspect the girl by herself. Mama sat in a straight back wooden chair in the hallway so that she would not be in the way and because her legs ached. “We will take her away for further diagnosis and treatment once we get enough information on her. Kelechi was still frozen in wonderment as she responded to Dr. Anfani’s questions as if she were in a trance. “Once we get everything under control, we may have to bring her back if I can’t come up with a spare bed. I’ll send a nurse with along with her if that be the case.” “Thank you my dear. Come nearer let me look at you once again. May you find as much…much more joy than that you give me. May you bear children who will repay you for all the good that you do.” “Amin, ma”, replied Dr. Anfani, “I will be in touch. I have to get back to the clinic. Bye for now ma.”
Once the door shut behind Dr. Anfani and her medical crew with Kelechi safely on the stretcher, Funmilayo emerged from the room into which she had retreated earlier in embarrassment. Neither woman made any allusions to ‘Funmilayo’s earlier statement. Mama thanked her daughter warmly for yet another bag of fresh fish which she knew was quite expensive, accepting the fact that she could not change her daughter’s nature and that she had done her best as a parent to help her self-important daughter understand the things that were most valuable in life. Funmilayo instantly lunged into a solicitous show of affection toward her mother as if this would erase her earlier fuax pas. “Mama mi. What did you cook today? I’m sure you haven’t eaten yet since you have been so busy taking care of others?” She knew the girl’s name was Kelechi but she was not going to let the name of some riff raff pass through her lips unless it was to give them orders.
She couldn’t believe that her mother would associate with people of that caliber.”We can eat at the Yatch Club today, you know. I can return to the office a little later.” Mama was once more amazed that she had actually given birth to a daughter who lacked depth to this degree. Did her daughter fail to realize that someone was wounded and that she needed to remain close to home just incase there were any new developments? She smiled looking at her daughter wondering how the gods could have sent her a child who could not see beyond what money could buy and how “her” public viewed her. If she had raised her child as stage mothers do, she would have understood her daughter’s excessive sense of self; but she had not. She had raised her daughter as she had been raised; to respect and value all people. She knew that people doted on her only child as much as her late husband had because she was such, an only child, but she had not understood how despite all her best efforts her daughter had turned out to be such a self centered and shallow adult who responded only to the flattery and opinion of her so called high class friends.
Mama knew that if she said she needed to remain at home because of someone else, her daughter would throw a hissy fit and would create her own version of what had actually transpired. She looked at her beautiful extravagantly dressed daughter and proceeded to tell her that she was tired and needed to stay home but she stopped and said, “Olufunmilayo. You do try so hard. Let me stay here today. I would prefer to cook this fish now. You know NEPA may soon do its will and plunge us all into darkness until who knows when. I wouldn’t want the fish to spoil. Let me cook it while we have electricity” That was a much more palatable excuse to Funmilayo. Her mother was going to stay home to cook the fish she had bought. She was in control. “Mama. Shall I cook rice or would you prefer some amala,” she chirped happily content that things were as they should be. “You should still have some left over yam flour from last week.” She continued as she made her way to the kitchen. Under her breath, she murmured “…if you haven’t given it away.”
The ringing phone interrupted the two women as they enjoyed their meal of fresh fish soup and amala with okra soup left over from a previous meal during which Funmilayo was excitedly updating her mother on the latest gossip in town. “What do they want?” remarked Funmilayo as if the caller at the other end had purposely plotted to disturb her grand show and distract her captive audience. “These people call at such inopportune times. Would you like me to get it?” she inquired of her mother rather begrudgingly. “It’s alright. Just pull it a little closer to me. I’ll get it,” said her mother as she laid the fork of amala rolled in soup which was well on its way to her mouth back onto her plate. “Hello?” she briskly called into the phone. “Hello?” The phone made a crackling noise, much like gravel being rolled over in a tin can and then she heard a male voice mostly obscured by the noise. “Mommy. Is daddy there? Let me speak to daddy!” Anyone who knew her would be aware of the fact that her husband had died about ten years before. Relieved, she shouted, “Wrong number!” hoping the person at the other end of the phone could hear her through all the crackling. Funmilayo immediately returned to the delivery of her enraptured local update and Mama continued her meal.
Funmilayo felt generous once she had finished her meal and had reassured herself that her mother was completely hers lock stock and barrel. She dug her hands with its impeccably manicured and painted fingernails into her bag and counted out 95,000 naira which she handed over to her mother who received the money both in shock and gratitude. Mama decided not to look the gift horse in the mouth as she thanked her daughter for this unusual generosity. Her daughter laughed and said, “If you would only move in with me things would be so much easier.” Her mother knew better and preferred to wait until after her death before her daughter sold all that she currently owned to feed her lavish life style. “Well, since you don’t want to go out I have to return to work. “You know how those foolish employees cannot do a single thing on their own without supervision. To boot, if the boss stays away too long they would have stolen half the office by the time I return.”
Her mother continued to listen to her in silence grateful that she would at least have some money to pay Dr. Anfani toward Kelechi’s care. Dr. Anfani never asked her for anything and she appreciated that but she could not knowingly place a burden on the child when she now had something to give. “I will try to stop by with Wale and the children on the way back from church on Sunday. I hope we don’t have any surprise committee meetings scheduled. Those people just can’t understand that anyone has a life beyond their silly meetings.”At this they both rose and walked toward the front door. “Mommy, go out and enjoy yourself or at least get someone to fix the cabinet under the sink in your kitchen. It seems to have some kind of problem.” Both Mama and Funmilayo knew that as much of the money as was necessary was going to the care of Kelechi but they played this cock and mouse game as if they were strangers to each other. The one believed how materialistic her daughter was and the other believed how wasteful her mother was.
They were remarkably different women and yet so alike in some ways. Mama had been a fashionable woman in her day. Her daughter had inherited and magnified this trait. To her dismay it seemed as if her daughter lived for clothes and fine jewelry. She had worked hard and loved to look good. Her daughter was definitely not a lazy person. She had worked hard and earned her way to a high post in the government. That was where the similarity ended. Mama’s thoughts drifted to the man that she had married. She had had a kind husband who appreciated her and although he had contributed very little to the upkeep of the household, he had never taken her money. He had left her to spend the money she earned as she chose. He had been secure in the fact that she had a good head for numbers and always put the best interest of the family first. He would seek her input when they were invited to social events. His response to all invitations had been, “So. What did Mama Funmilayo say?” He was a good man and even when temptation had got the better of him she pretended not to notice and his roving eye. She new that he did not spend the night outside the house feared being trapped in a situation that was meant to be temporary away from the family that he was so proud of.
Their only child had been well taken care off and the house was always in order. When he died he had gladly left a block of four flats and the house that Mama now lived in to her. He had honored her by not having children outside the marriage even though she had been unable to bear him another child after that first one. Mama had been content with her husband’s discretion because it was much more than many women could say for their deceased husbands. She was just puzzled that she their daughter had turned out the way she had. If she did not know any better and their daughter had not looked so much like her grandmother, she would have sworn her husband had picked up the wrong child on their way home from the clinic when she gave birth. It was not that she did not love her daughter. She did. She adored her. They simply did not seem to understand each other. Perhaps they understood each other too well and just could not appreciate each other.