Confessions of a Fat Girl 100: Jewel

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18th April, 2010

Akwaugo arrived Fair Lawn a little after noon, and she too had been surprised by Ogonna’s warm welcome…so surprised that she had burst into tears. It hadn’t taken long before even Ogonna was in tears…and I wasn’t far behind. We’d all stood there, in Ogonna’s front porch, crying. We have always been a close knit family, and our Mother’s death drew us even closer. The recent misunderstanding we’d had was very alien to us, and had hurt all of us deeply…Ogonna and Akwaugo more so.

After a while, I knew I had to give my two older sisters space to talk, so I retreated to the kitchen, while they sat outside in Ogonna’s garden, talking. Looking at them from the kitchen window, I could tell that they were talking d-e-e-p! There were times Akwaugo talked while Ogonna listened intently, and other times that Ogonna talked and Akwaugo listened intently. But there was no arguing, no raised voices, no heated animated body movement. They were having grown-women conversation. And when Ogonna pulled Akwaugo into a tight embrace, with both of them giggling, I knew all was fine in our world.

By 3pm, we headed to the venue of the bridal shower, the home of one of Ogonna’s Partners at the Medical Practice, and we were shocked to find the place already packed with people, including Ogonna’s NYC friends (who had stood up Akwaugo’s shower). From the happiness and excitement in the air, it was obvious how loved my sister is!

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I have always known my sister to be one of the kindest, pure hearted people ever, but even I had underestimated just how wonderful she truly is. It took hearing the stories the women told, to remind me how blessed I am to call her my sister. Almost every woman had something to say, some wonderful story about how my sister has impacted their lives.

Starting with Susan, Ogonna’s partner, and our hostess, who reminisced about meeting her as a young doctor, practicing in a small hospital in Harlem. She talked about how she had always maintained a cheerful and friendly disposition, even in the face of verbal abuse from often poorly behaved patients, and how she had soon become a patient favourite, with almost everyone asking to see ‘that doctor from Africa’. When the time had come for Susan and her longtime associate, Penelope, to fulfill their dream of opening a women’s medical centre, focused on gynaecology, obstetrics, and general wellness, they knew their dream wouldn’t be complete without bringing Ogonna, whose specialty was Oncology, on board. They had initially wanted to bring her on board as an employee, but Ogonna hadn’t been keen on leaving New York, even though she agreed that Susan and Penelope had chosen the perfect location for the clinic, being out of the city, but accessible still.

“When we realized that we were on the verge of losing her, we knew we just had to make her a partner,” Susan smiled at Ogonna. “We were lucky to have her agree to it. And here we are…9 years later!” her voice started to shake. “Ogonna has been the best friend I could have ever asked for. She’s seen me through a bad divorce, the death of my youngest son, a crippling depression that almost killed me…and encouraged me when I met my new husband, and made me understand that it was okay to live my life again. And as I found love again, I always prayed for her to find it as well. I couldn’t understand how no man had seen her for the jewel that she is, and I made it a point of duty to set her up with every decent man I could find…”

“And a few not-too-decent ones!” Ogonna interjected, which prompted laughter from the room.

“True, there were a few disasters…” Susan laughed. “When Ogonna called me from Nigeria, to tell me she’d gotten engaged…I was over-the-moon with joy! I didn’t think anything could spoil my happiness over the fact that my best friend was finally getting married!!! But when she said she’d be moving back to Nigeria…it broke my heart!” she smiled and shook her head. “You don’t know this, Ogonna, but I sulked and moped around for days after. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you…not only as a friend…but my goodness! What would happen to our Cancer Management clinic? To all your patients? It was Penelope who made me realize how selfish I was being. And so, I had to do what you’ve been doing for me all these years. I had to put you first. And when I did that, it got easier,” her smile broadened. “And when you told me you wouldn’t give up the Practice, and would work towards being here every 8 weeks, I knew I had just eaten my cake and had it! I love you like a sister, Ogonna! And I can’t wait to see you in your wedding gown, in Nigeria, marrying the fantastic Ifeanyi…who, I must say, is the perfect gentleman!”

Susan’s speech was followed by a litany of others; from patients who talked about how gentle and tender Ogonna had been to either their loved ones dying from cancer, or when they themselves had battled the illness.

“At a point, I had exhausted all my finances!” a woman, originally from Kenya, said. “We had no medical insurance, and we could no longer afford the chemotherapy my mother needed. So, we stopped going to the clinic, and resigned ourselves to fate, waiting for death to come for her. Imagine my surprise when Doctor Ogonna called me, after we missed that first session. Even though I lied that everything was fine, she showed up in our house that evening! And mind you, we don’t live in Fair Lawn…but all the way in Asbury Park! Not only is it almost 2 hours away, it’s not the friendliest place to be at night. But Doctor Ogonna came, I opened up to her, and she…” at that, the woman broke down. “She offered to pay for my Mom’s treatment…from her own pocket. And she did! She helped extend my Mom’s life…and even though she died a few years ago, she never ceased praying for you, Doctor Ogonna…not for a moment! You blessed my family in a way you’ll never imagine…and we will never…never forget it!”

Even her Nigerian friends were not left out, talking of how Ogonna was one of the few people ready to open their hearts to everyone.

“I can’t count how many pregnant women from Nigeria Ogonna helped accommodate! In fact, her house became like the hotel for these women!” one of her friends, Awele, said, to my surprise. “All of us her friends, myself included, took this privilege for granted. Ogonna, how many calls did you get from people like me, asking you if you could accommodate our sisters, or friends, or even distant relatives from Nigeria, giving flimsy excuses like how we didn’t have enough space, or how our work commitments, or issues with our kids, wouldn’t allow us accommodate these women? And she was always gracious enough to not only accommodate these women, but even helped with hospital trips, and even financial support in some cases! Ogonna, onwero onye di ka gi! Chukwu kere gi ubochi uka! You are indeed one in a million!”

I found myself constantly wiping away tears. So in awe was I of this woman God has blessed me as a sister. Sometimes, it takes strangers to make you see that jewel in your home, which you might have started to consider a stone.

Thankfully, it wasn’t all emotions and tears, as the Naija crew came prepared with a CD, with jams from P Square, Wande Coal, Wizkid, Kas, Naeto C, and Dbanj. I was shocked to see some of Ogonna’s friends, whom I know have been here even longer than she has, singing these songs word-for-word, and dancing as if they were in a street party in the heart of Lagos. You can take the babe out of Naija, but you no fit take Naija out of the babe. Before we knew it, even the oyibo ladies were soon grooving to the jams.

At 10pm, we reluctantly left, after the last of the guests had departed. And as we jammed to the Naija CD on the ride home, singing at the top of our lungs to P Square’s E No Easy, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed…for my sisters…for the upcoming wedding…for everything!

 

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Catch up on Ihunna’s story here:

  1. Confessions of a Fat Girl 1: Grubbido
  2. Confessions of a Fat Girl 2: Fragile
  3. Confessions of a Fat Girl 3: Defiant
  4. Confessions of a Fat Girl 4: Progress
  5. Confessions of a Fat Girl 5: The Gym
  6. Confessions of a Fat Girl 6: Killjoy
  7. Confessions of a Fat Girl 7: Pain
  8. Confessions of a Fat Girl 8: Frenemies
  9. Confessions of a Fat Girl 9: Exhilarated
  10. Confessions of a Fat Girl 10: Popcorn
  11. Confessions of a Fat Girl 11: Free-fall
  12. Confessions of a Fat Girl 12: Sunday Morning
  13. Confessions of a Fat Girl 13: Mission Reactivated
  14. Confessions of a Fat Girl 14: New Things
  15. Confessions of a Fat Girl 15: Bad Business
  16. Confessions of a Fat Girl 16: Luxury Items
  17. Confessions of a Fat Girl 17: The Solution
  18. Confessions of a Fat Girl 18: Magic Formula
  19. Confessions of a Fat Girl 19: Date Night
  20. Confessions of a Fat Girl 20: Quinoa
  21. Confessions of a Fat Girl 21: Perfect Fit
  22. Confessions of a Fat Girl 22: Keeping In Touch
  23. Confessions of a Fat Girl 23: Delete
  24. Confessions of a Fat Girl 24: Philosophical
  25. Confessions of a Fat Girl 25: Keep it Moving
  26. Confessions of a Fat Girl 26: My Co-Wife
  27. Confessions of a Fat Girl 27: Old Jeans & Old Friends
  28. Confessions of a Fat Girl 28: Prawn Stir Fry
  29. Confessions of a Fat Girl 29: Facebook Tagging
  30. Confessions of a Fat Girl 30: Detox Part 2
  31. Confessions of a Fat Girl 31: Abs & Crunches
  32. Confessions of a Fat Girl 32: Making Notes
  33. Confessions of a Fat Girl 33: Christmas Party
  34. Confessions of a Fat Girl 34: Ashiedu
  35. Confessions of a Fat Girl 35: Willpower
  36. Confessions of a Fat Girl 36: Packing…and TV
  37. Confessions of a Fat Girl 37: Last Minute
  38. Confessions of a Fat Girl 38: Body Image
  39. Confessions of a Fat Girl 39: Christmas Trip
  40. Confessions of a Fat Girl 40: Christmas in the Village
  41. Confessions of a Fat Girl 41: Daddy’s Girl
  42. Confessions of a Fat Girl 42: 2010
  43. Confessions of a Fat Girl 43: Uzoamaka
  44. Confessions of a Fat Girl 44: Sugar Binge
  45. Confessions of a Fat Girl 45: The E-mail
  46. Confessions of a Fat Girl 46: She whose name must not be repeated
  47. Confessions of a Fat Girl 47: Smokescreen
  48. Confessions of a Fat Girl 48: Running away
  49. Confessions of a Fat Girl 49: Fry-Up
  50. Confessions of a Fat Girl 50: The Only Solution
  51. Confessions of a Fat Girl 51: The Intervention
  52. Confessions of a Fat Girl 52: Tri-State Sisters
  53. Confessions of a Fat Girl 53: Manhattan
  54. Confessions of a Fat Girl 54: Daddy’s Girls
  55. Confessions of a Fat Girl 55: Stunned Silence
  56. Confessions of a Fat Girl 56: Bereavement
  57. Confessions of a Fat Girl 57: The Reconciliation
  58. Confessions of a Fat Girl 58: Staying Back
  59. Confessions of a Fat Girl 59: Friends & Marriage Proposals
  60. Confessions of a Fat Girl 60: Colourful and Happy
  61. Confessions of a Fat Girl 61: Sweet Potato & Chicken Salad
  62. Confessions of a Fat Girl 62: Miss Amerikana
  63. Confessions of a Fat Girl 63: Tragi-Romantic
  64. Confessions of a Fat Girl 64: Dead to me
  65. Confessions of a Fat Girl 65: Love Triangle
  66. Confessions of a Fat Girl 66: Forever my lady
  67. Confessions of a Fat Girl 67: Fight to the death
  68. Confessions of a Fat Girl 68: Hard choice to make
  69. Confessions of a Fat Girl 69: Back to reality
  70. Confessions of a Fat Girl 70: Life Reflections
  71. Confessions of a Fat Girl 71: Oatmeal, Blueberry & Banana Pancakes
  72. Confessions of a Fat Girl 72: The Engagement
  73. Confessions of a Fat Girl 73: Pillow Talk
  74. Confessions of a Fat Girl 74: Secretive Sister
  75. Confessions of a Fat Girl 75: Homemade Soup
  76. Confessions of a Fat Girl 76: Nna Men!
  77. Confessions of a Fat Girl 77: Comfort Food…Healthy Food
  78. Confessions of a Fat Girl 78: Miracle Working God
  79. Confessions of a Fat Girl 79: Lumps, Bumps and Jiggles
  80. Confessions of a Fat Girl 80: Oyibo Boyfriend
  81. Confessions of a Fat Girl 81: Wedding Gowns 
  82. Confessions of a Fat Girl 82: My New Friend
  83. Confessions of a Fat Girl 83: Emotional vs Physical Hunger
  84. Confessions of a Fat Girl 84: Look like an Mgbeke
  85. Confessions of a Fat Girl 85: Food Cravings
  86. Confessions of a Fat Girl 86: Who am I?
  87. Confessions of a Fat Girl 87: Separation, Counselling…Divorce
  88. Confessions of a Fat Girl 88: A Man’s World
  89. Confessions of a Fat Girl 89: Envy, Weight and Love!
  90. Confessions of a Fat Girl 90: Regret
  91. Confessions of a Fat Girl 91: Time to move on
  92. Confessions of a Fat Girl 92: Have some fruit!
  93. Confessions of a Fat Girl 93: Family Easter
  94. Confessions of a Fat Girl 94: Sister Reunion
  95. Confessions of a Fat Girl 95: Perfect Fit; Perfect Surprise
  96. Confessions of a Fat Girl 96: The Love Story
  97. Confessions of a Fat Girl 97: Caught in the middle
  98. Confessions of a Fat Girl 98: Kisses…and Blood
  99. Confessions of a Fat Girl 99: Past…or Present Tense

 

 

Photo Credits

  1. http://www.anitavalleart.com/

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