Even though it was only for a few weeks I was happy to be back home. My brother Nedum was getting married at long last and the preparations created a carnival atmosphere most evenings at home. I had the bedroom that I left when I got married. My immediate younger sister had moved in there, so she didn’t have to share a room with our baby sister any longer and she had been married for about four years by then. My room was empty again, so I moved back in. Nedum had moved into his own flat, in preparation for being a man, especially now that he was getting married. My children were settled into his bedroom while we lodged at my parent’s house.
Life continued in terms of taking the kids to school and my work. I had recently started a business also and it was good to have the benefit of advice and encouragement from those whose love for me I trusted. I watched as Nedum and his fiancé treated each other with great courtesy and consideration and flashed back to when Banji and I were an inseparable pair. Oh, how it hurt!
After two weeks the kids missed their dad. He had visited them at school on two occasions taking them all the tuck that I honestly could not afford as often as they would have wanted it. He hadn’t told his people that I had left home because he felt embarrassed and ashamed of himself. I on my part gave myself time to reflect. Did I want to go back to the loveless home ostensibly because of the children or would I prefer to start a new life, renting a place and finding peace in divorce and maybe a new mate?
These thoughts assaulted my mind when the music of family stopped each night. I wanted a home, but I wanted a loving home. This separation, even though a trial, felt like a prison already. I was not in my matrimonial home and yet I was not a single woman, free to make a new life, so where was I? What a shame! Every child wants his parents to live together as daddy and mummy, but we also owe it to them to ensure that they live in a place of safety and comfort.
The fracas we had in front of the children was disgraceful. Their innocence had been violated and I needed to settle in my mind what I wanted to do.
‘Ada, are you okay?’ Dad’s query broke into my thoughts. I had retired for the evening before he came into the house and it was early hours yet. Even my kids were still watching the TV with their grandma and Nedum had left with Sis Chichi about an hour before.
My Sis Chichi had set up school and I liked the way she was learning marketing, book-keeping and how to run a business. Her enrolment figures were climbing, and she was as happy as could be with Greg. They had been blessed with a set of twins since I had Kiki, so my mum’s hands were full as grandma.
”I am fine dad”, I got up to greet my father. He was ageing, the grey had covered most of his hair making him look quite distinguished. He was also slower than when I had been unmarried and at home. I felt a rush of love for him as he sat on the bed beside me.
”I am surprised that my in-laws have not come to settle the matter between you and your husband’, an Igbo man to the core, my dad believed that his in-laws, Banji’s parents, owed him an explanation as to why their son had turned his daughter to a punching bag.
”They are gathering themselves,” I smiled as I assured him that they would come. Meanwhile I was debating in my mind if to share my thoughts about separation with my dad. No!!! My dad was not wired that way. He would send me packing even right away and I was still at peace in his house, so why rock the boat?
”When you fill most forms that ask for your marital status, ‘separated’ is usually not listed. The law doesn’t recognise the status of being separated. You are either married or divorced. Living apart from one’s spouse is expected to be the corridor leading to divorce and it has a signpost which says ‘no loitering’. Remaining separated is akin to loitering in the corridor, where one end leads to marriage and the other divorce.
I wonder at people who are comfortable with being separated. It is an emotional prison. One is neither out nor in. It is not a panacea for divorce. It is the height of self-deceit to excuse being separated on account of the children. Our law is clear about the welfare of the children and this must be the paramount consideration in decisions we reach. Staying in a loveless marriage isn’t necessarily in the best interest of the children.
Fighting for custody of the children while separated can be likened to a dress rehearsal of a divorce contest. Why put your children through that confusion and uncertainty?”
I knew the time had come to return home the day Banji’s father came with his wife and relatives to my father’s house loaded with gifts that included a live goat, spirits and kolanuts to beg and apologise to my father on behalf of his entire family.
By our tradition, the gods speak through the kolanut and it is regarded as an offering of peace. That is the essence of tradition and culture. The marriage is of both families and not just the individuals. My father was appeased, and I returned home a week after we celebrated Nedum’s wedding, Banji coming as one of my guests.