We all thought, Ladun was a spoilt brat, because she was the last child of her parents, who were older. She liked to have her way all the time, and actually pulled all sorts of stunts to get it. She also always had more spare change at her disposal or so it seemed back then.
In fact, Ladun was one of those children that your mom warned you not to be like, because she was just too strong willed for most people. What we did not know was that, she had nearly missed being raised by her grandparents, as her mom had unceremoniously dumped her with a couple and fled. And that she was the one who put the spring back in her grandparent’s life.
Ladun is a childhood friend with whom, I went to primary school and met recently, when her grandmother died and her family literally shut down my old neighbourhood with one heck of a burial ceremony. It was then, I realised the extent of the goodness that were in her grandparents, who had given all they could, to get back their grandchild, from the hands of total strangers, even though, they had since finished having babies.
Sometimes in the eighties, an older couple, whom I will call Salaus discovered that their 21 year old daughter had had a baby. They hadn’t known, she was pregnant in the first place.
“Yeee, omo yi ti pa mi, iwe la ni ko lo kaa, kii soyun o. O ti dojutimi” (literally meaning, this child has killed me, we sent her to school, not to go and get pregnant. This child has shamed me.) Mrs Salau lamented her daughter’s predicament. She was an only girl, born after three boys
They had been through a lot bringing up the boys, but this one was totally unexpected. Right after dealing with the fact that she was pregnant. They had to start thinking about a baby, whom they heard from her friends, she had handed over to a childless couple, around where she lived near school.
First things first, Mrs Salau went in search of her daughter and for four days, she went from one hostel room to another, from one friend of hers to another, from on tip off to another, until she found her hibernating with a group of outcasts.
That was a heart breaking moment, because she was burning up with fever and was scantily dressed and groggy. If her mother hadn’t come when she did, only God knew what would have happened to her. She took her to the hospital and that was when it was discovered that there were still pieces of the placenta left in her, causing her to bleed and she was battling an infection.
Her father took time off work and travelled to see her in the hospital and stayed until she was healthy enough to talk about the baby, she had just had. Shockingly, she refused to admit that she had a baby, even with all the physical symptoms present on her. That exasperated her parents, but she finally admitted, “Yes, I got pregnant and had a baby, but I have given the baby away.”
Her mother became inconsolable and angry at this confession of hers, “You this child, you just want to kill me, you got pregnant and had a baby, without telling me not once. Now, you are saying rubbish, you gave who away again, your baby, my grandchild? Is it a chicken or goat? You are not well.”
“Where is the baby?”
That became the question both mom and dad asked for the rest of the day and the next, but they did not get any response, until the day, she was discharged. On their way to their hotel, they begged her to tell them the truth and she finally did.
Driving straight to the house of the couple, who had taken their daughter’s child, who was not 10 days old; from the door, they could hear the cries of a new baby. On opening the door, they saw a young woman, holding said baby, but she was not happy when she saw the Salau’s daughter.
“What are you looking for here again? What do you want? Who are these people with you?”
Questions, questions, none of which she answered. It was her parents, who introduced themselves and told her they had come for their grandchild and were grateful that she had been taking care of her for the past 10 days.
That was the beginnings of a battle that involved the police, the university authority and made the parents ask where, they had gone wrong in the training of their only daughter. It was as if, she was on a journey to break their hearts and all their values. The details were sordid. She had practically sold her daughter to the couple.
Finally, they got their grandchild, after a month of travelling back and forth, found out the man responsible for the pregnancy, who claimed not to know, she had gotten pregnant for him or even had a baby from the pregnancy. They brought home both their daughter and grandchild.
After a few months, their daughter flew the coop again, leaving behind her daughter. This time, they did not even bother any more. They older couple bore the routine of sleepless nights, feedings, changing diapers and attending to the needs of a baby. They poured all their love on her. She was their baby after all.
Her grandmother brought Ladun to school every morning, regardless of the fact that her school was a few houses away from their house. Her grandmother was very active on the Parents Teacher Association body. We younger kids called her Mama Ladun, even though, we wondered, how come her mom was older than our own moms.
Ladun did not know, she was their grandchild and called them mom and dad. Even when she knew, that was what she still called them. As for her mom, she later got her act together and decided to get married and take on the care of Ladun with her new man.
However, that did not work out. After a month of living with her mom, Ladun cried that she wanted to go home. And home she went, only going to visit her mom, when she felt like it.
Although, there were different versions of this story, which came out over the years; her mom’s, her biological dad’s, who would sometimes show face and seem as though, she was his life, before disappearing for months, sometimes years unheard from and that of her grandparents. All the versions agree though that her grandparents were her guardian angels, without them, Ladun’s life would have been incredibly different.
When her grandparents started to grow older and didn’t have as much strength as before, she stayed close by to take care of them. Unlike her mom, she did not go to a university out of state, in fact she was a day student, which worked out so well for all concerned.
She was there, when her grandpa passed on and had been the one, who went to check on her grandma in the morning, only to find that she had passed on. While she was very sad that they were no longer with her, she was happy that she had had them in her life in the first place.
I was dazed and kept trying to catch a glimpse of her mom, during the burial, just to juxtapose the woman, she is now with the wild young lady that she had been. I wondered, if Ladun had forgiven her for ‘giving’ her away and was pleasantly surprised when she said, “Tey, tey, we are fine now.”
That made my day and we danced away at Mama Ladun’s burial.
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