Based on a true story.
Uncle Chu and his wife Aunty Kaka had a very toxic relationship and I always wondered how they managed to stay married for almost forty years. Theirs was an example of how a marriage ought not to be. They didn’t see eye to eye on so many things and they lived like strangers.
They had four children and somehow, Aunty Kaka succeeded in manipulating them to believe that their father wasn’t a good person…they bought into what she told them and it affected their relationship with their father for as long as I can remember. No matter how hard Uncle Chu tried, he could never get his children to treat him nicely. His wife was a different kettle of fish. She was a hard nut to crack. This woman didn’t have a job, she lived the life of a rich housewife and it was easy to tell that she couldn’t stand anything about her husband except his money.
Uncle Chu was rich. He was a provider. He made sure his family lived the American dream. His children attended private schools, they lived in a big mansion in an elite part of California, they traveled the world for vacations and could have anything they wanted as long as Uncle Chu could afford it.
He was making a lot of money as an architect. He also had a stint with IT and engineering… a jack of all trade if you want to call him that.
This man was raking in six figures from different places and it was obvious that he was only important to his family only when they needed his money.
He erroneously thought that if he continued to lavish money on them, they could grow to love him eventually, little did he know that his money could only get them the good things of life but not his love.
Years went by and the stress from work and the sadness of living in a loveless home began to tell on Uncle Chu’s mental health. He was very lonely and felt like a stranger in his own home.
He was always in therapy and was advised to quit his jobs while the ovation was loudest, rather that continue to work himself to stupor while putting his life and that of his colleagues at risk.
Uncle Chu’s health got the better of him when he began to have liver and kidney problems. His condition deteriorated badly and he was scheduled for a transplant pending when they found marching donors. It was a long wait but he was positive. He continued to encourage himself and also hope for the best.
The only support he got at this time was from his nurse and his brother who lived in another state but would always make an effort to see him as often as he could. His other siblings were in far away Nigeria and all he could do with them was facetime. Aunty Kaka showed him zero care and this broke his heart even more. He knew that she didn’t like him, but his health condition should at least make her show empathy but she didn’t.
His children were too busy to visit even after he had the surgery and was in recovery. “Maybe they will visit me during the holidays”, he thought. Christmas was around the corner and he looked forward to a surprise from them but it didn’t happen. The hospital was bursting with visits from families who came to see their loved ones but he was alone. This was the worst time of Uncle Chu’s life as he spent most of the time either lost in thoughts or crying. Loneliness had never been spelt in a better way.
Uncle Chu was at the hospital for three months pre and post surgery and he was allowed to go home when he began to make steady and significant progress. He was welcomed to a cold reception from Aunty Kaka who didn’t hide the fact that she wasn’t happy to see him.
Uncle Chu later told me that he could almost swear that he heard her mutter under her breath that she wished he died. He didn’t want to believe what he heard her well so he decided let it go.
A few days later, Uncle Chu noticed that his wife had not been out of her room all day… not even to have her morning coffee which had become a ritual over the years. He wanted to mind his business as usual but for some strange reason, he instructed his nurse to go check on her.
The nurse came dashing down the stairs as if she had seen a ghost. She had found Aunty Kaka sprawled on the bed, she was unconscious but she still had a weak pulse. The 911 call was made and she was taken into emergency.
It was difficult to understand how a healthy person like her could be lying in ICU with tubes sticking out from her mouth and nose. Aunty Kaka had never been sick a day in her life. She’d usually joke that she was only sick when she was broke.
The diagnosis finally came out and it didn’t look good at all. She had stage four leukemia which spread to a large part of her organs and eaten her up badly. We were trying to digest the information when we were told that she had very a short time to live.
Hitherto, here was a supposedly healthy woman counting the minutes she had to live while her husband who has most recently been at the jaws of death was at home watching the Nigerian Super Eagles play at the ongoing African Cup of Nations. When asked if he had been to the hospital to see his wife, he reiterated that he had just been through the valley of the shadow of death and was still in the recovery process. His excuse was very tenable but I know that he wouldn’t have gone to see her even if he could
News got to us late last night that Aunty Kaka had passed on. Her whole body was ravaged the disease that she died exactly three weeks after it was diagnosed.
If anyone had told her that her time would come before her husband’s, I’m sure she would never believe.
When the Nigerian community sent me to ask Uncle Chu about the burial plans for his late wife, he smiled and told me to discuss with the children because he didn’t have plans for anything.
He looked me in the eyes and said, “my wife died 30 years ago, so I don’t know what you’re talking about”.
I guess we will never know why those two never got a separation or a divorce considering that they couldn’t stand each other for many years. We will never know.