I’m the first of five children; four girls and one boy. According to the gossips in my family, when my mum got pregnant for the first time, she and my dad wanted it to be a boy.
According to my mother, my father was so obsessed with the idea of a first male child, and to make my father happy, she also fell for the idea.
It became a common desire between them. My mother delivered and it was a girl. That was me. The year was 1987. When my dad came to my mother’s labour ward, they say the first thing he said was: “We’ll try again. All is not lost.”
Instead of my dad investing his energy in taking care of me, he invested his energy in taking herbal drugs that would enhance the possibility of having a male child. Two years later, my mum had another child—a girl.
Again, my dad said: “The next one better be a boy.” A year and a half later, there was the next one—another girl. According to gossips, my dad didn’t go to see my mother where she delivered.
He sent a messenger to go and check if my mum gave birth to a human being or a girl. When the messenger came, he told my dad: “Ayɛ ka. Your wife delivered another baby girl.”
That day, my father went to the bar and got drunk till he couldn’t find his way home. It took strangers to help him walk home. As they were walking him home, he kept asking his helpers: “What can I do to have a boy child? Or the gods are against me?
For all the time that my mother was in the hospital with the third child, my dad never went there to visit until she came home. When mum came home, they fought about it.
My mum called my dad useless and my dad responded: “It’s your womb that’s useless. A womb that can’t bear male child, that’s a useless thing.”
From then on, their marriage suffered. They were mostly fighting. They could wake up at dawn and exchange insults. Then my mother got pregnant again.
The pregnancy brought them newfound happiness. They teamed up again, doing everything to ensure that the child would come out as a boy. My mum gave birth. Another girl.
Four straight sets of girls. I was then a little grown-up girl and witnessed some of the banter my parents exchanged. I have a dim memory of times when my mum would be carrying my sister in her arms while exchanging angry words with my father.
My mum decided enough was enough and was done giving birth but somehow she got pregnant again.
It was that pregnancy my dad never bother about because he knew for sure that it was going to be another girl. He didn’t want to be emotionally invested and be disappointed in the end so he stayed out of it and watched from behind.
When my mum delivered, he was at his fitting shop when the news got to him: “This one is a boy.” Gossips have it that my dad dropped everything in his hands and ran to the hospital where my mum was. He was in his dirty working gear so he was not allowed to enter.
He ran back home, changed into something clean and went back to the hospital. For the first time, my dad went to the cot, lifted the baby up, looked through his eyes and said, “This is what I’ve been waiting for. God, thank you for not shaming me in the midst of my enemies.”
Dad has a boy, mum had her girls. That’s how things were in the house. Everything that concerned the girls, dad didn’t care. He only cared for the needs of the boy. While we were in ‘syto’, dad sent the boy to an international school.
When we were being beaten and getting sacked for owing school fees, our brother was always in school feeling comfortable. When he started speaking English and we couldn’t, my father boasted: “You see the importance of having a male child? Which of the girls can speak English as he does?”
It was like that until we grew up. I have completed the university and working. My other sisters are also working after completing university. Mum took care of us with the little that she had.
When she didn’t have money, she sold what she had to ensure we never lacked while dad paid for the upbringing of our brother.
He treated us like we came from a different father while he gave his all to cater for the boy.
The boy is still in school as we speak. He’s at level three hundred. Things are not as they used to be for our dad. It’s us the girls who are combining resources to take care of our junior brother.
Mum is always angry, especially when it comes to issues concerning my dad. It looks like she never forgave her husband for how he treated her in the past. I tell her: “It’s in the past now. He’s still our dad. He’s all we have now, we can’t throw him away.” Mum lives with me and my husband now taking care of our kids while we go to work.
Recently, a man in our home town died. He was a retired policeman. I remember that man very well while growing up.
Whenever we did something bad, mum would use this man’s name to scare us: “If you don’t behave, I’ll call Andoh the policeman to come and catch you.” The man’s name was Andoh. That’s all I remember about him and his relationship with my mum.
The day my mum received the news of his death, she cried like a baby. The whole day she didn’t eat. I thought she was sick or getting sick. But she kept telling me: “I’m alright. I’m very fine.”
My husband said: “Maybe she misses her husband. We should let her go home for a while.” When I told her she said: “It’s better here. I’m not going anywhere.”
One dawn, I was walking to the washroom to urinate when I heard a noise coming from her room. I stood there for a while listening to what was going on. She was on the phone talking to someone and crying. She said: “So Andoh couldn’t wait for the truth to come out?
“Why did he do this to me? Now, who would I talk to about this.” I stood there, anxious to know what the truth was about. She said: “My son would never know his father. That’s what hurts me the most.” My heart skipped a beat. My knees started getting weak. “The policeman is the father of my brother?”
I wanted to go inside there and confront her about it but I thought: “That would be too hard for her. She’s already in a bad state.” I went to the washroom, peed and went back to my room. For the rest of the night, I couldn’t sleep.
I went back into the memories of my childhood days trying to remember just one instance that mum did something to suggest she was friends with that policeman. I never had a single memory about them. They were not friends or people who even talked to each other so how did it happen?
I was waiting for her to tell me she was going to the funeral so I would ask her questions but she never did.
The day he was buried, she stayed home and cried. Now I look at my brother and see a different man. His nose. His chin. His mannerisms. They all tell a different story now.
He’s a clear copy of the dead policeman. This secrete makes me sick sometimes. I wish I could ask my mum about it. I wish I could have a conversation with her and ask her why. I see her face each morning and I remember what she was talking about on the phone. I don’t judge her. She’s not my devil.
But what if she’s dying to share this secret with someone? Would I be the best person to share it with? And who was that person she was talking to that night?
I don’t know but whoever she/he is, I salute him/her for being a fortress where a secret can be kept for over 20 years without anyone getting a hint of it. If there’s a replica of him/her, I would love to have him/her as a friend.
To my dad, what he doesn’t know wouldn’t kill him. I won’t say he deserves it but whatever the case may be, my mum gave him his heart’s desire and I hope it fills his heart with joy for the rest of his remaining life. I don’t judge my mum so I won’t judge him too.