It has been long since I put up something on this blog. I have been on a literary dry spell and I hope you my readers will bear with me. Lets break the spell by re-examining the lost family touch.
Being African is not the same as it was many years ago. The togetherness that was the backbone of our ancient self is no longer something we can pride ourselves in. The family is slowly getting disintegrated in our new African self. We often pursue wealth and fame for a large chunk of our lifetime that we forget what really matters. In the end we die miserable people without the wealth and fame that took away the many years of our lives.
The story of Odero (not his real name) breaks my heart. Odero was admitted to our surgical unit in the late months of last year. He was a typical old man from the lakeside region, he had an imposing stature and a calm attitude that was rare to see in our teaching and referral hospital. His face was wrinkled but he still looked strong though his disease seemed to be taking the better of him.
Nothing seemed to scare Odero, even death itself. He had seen everything in the short seventy eight years that he had lived. He talked slowly and all I could smell from his words was, ‘All is vanity!’ After all, what scares you after seventy eight years in the storm that is life? My greatest fear in life is poverty and Alzheimer’s Dementia. Poverty rips you off your dignity and Alzheimer’s leaves you living in the shell of your former self.
Odero had lower urinary symptoms that was consistent with a large prostate. Urinary problems are some of the most frustrating medical problems, you will never have peace. The very moment you get somewhere, you must first identify a washroom because the moment the urine decides it is time, you will not have time to bargain, you must go to the washroom or else whatever you dread most will happen. Now after identifying the small house, your work will be to go there every other time to squeeze a few drops, if you are unlucky, the drops will fall on your shoes or soak your pants. Sexual intercourse becomes a real struggle, actually for some, it becomes a memory. If you have a young horny wife, too bad! Luckily for Odero, the prostate was only enlarged but not cancerous.
He was due for an elective adenomyomectomy (partial removal of the prostate) that Monday morning that I had the opportunity of meeting and talking to him for the second time. That Monday was not a lucky day for him because a lot more emergency cases had come up that weekend and spilled over to the Monday theatre list . He was given one more week.
Considering that he came all the way from Homabay for the procedure, this was going to be a long week in the city. I asked him to go put up with any of his relatives in Nairobi to save him the cost of being in the hospital and for moral support. I seemed to have touched a spot that he never wanted touched, his otherwise flat mood changed and he became gloomy after those words fell on his ears. He held my hands and sat me down on the chair that was besides his bed. He talked to me and these were the words
‘My son, I have sons and daughters here in Nairobi. I also have relatives whom I helped to educate back then when I was a teacher. My relatives here see me as a burden though I pretty much take care of myself. I have urinary problems but I never urinate on their bedding. I usually have a tin by the bedside where I pee to avoid disturbing people when they are having their sleep. For my relatives, I can excuse them because they don’t owe me anything. After all, I helped educate them expecting nothing in return.
My son , my sons and daughters have neglected me and this is what pains me most. I have a disabled daughter around who is quite successful but I cant go to her place. Children will ask me every other time, ”Guka unarudi lini?” I don’t blame the kids, I don’t want to blame them. However my only bitterness is that everybody sees me as a burden. My sons got married and left home, they live good lives in the city but they have forgotten their father. My brothers at home wish me death so that they can forcefully inherit my farm. I am living by the grace of God. Now that the procedure is rescheduled, ask the surgeon to put it three weeks away to give me time to organise funds again. I am going to Homabay!’
Those words pierced my heart like a sharp blade. I am glad he opened up to me. I wish I could do something to make the old man feel better but that was beyond me. All I had were my ears to listen to him. I never asked any questions, I just listened. I hope my parents don’t suffer the same fate. I hope we remember who we are and those who made us who we are. I left him and told the surgeon about his concerns. I never saw him again. He did not show up for the surgery.