He comforts us every time
We have trouble so that
When others have trouble,
We can comfort them with
The same comfort
God gave us.
-2 Corinthians 1:4
Show me your calloused fingers
Before you tell me
I’m not strumming the chords right
Jarret strolled into the house tugging off his tie, throwing his laptop bag into the couch and saying “Dupe, I’m home oh. And I’m hungry”
He didn’t get a response. He eased himself into the couch, unlaced his suede shoes and tossed them carelessly, knowing fully well that when Modupe sees them, she would berate him.
“Dupe oh! Ebi’n pa mi! (I’m hungry)”
Still, he did not get a response. He hissed, got up and headed to the kitchen, it was empty.
When he entered the room, he stopped dead in his tracks. He saw his wife sprawled on the tiled floor, still beside an empty bottle of pills.
Lovette walked down the hallway with Precious in a carrier strapped securely to her torso and Andrew behind her. She was grinning from ear to ear. They just had a discussion with Dr Amogbonjaye and the older woman informed them that there were organized institutions for children living with Down’s syndrome in Nigeria. Lovette had inched forward “In Nigeria?”
“Yes, I just found out recently. I know of two for now and both are here in Lagos.”
Lovette goggled her eyes and in a flash whipped out a notepad and pen from her brown bag.
“There is Down Syndrome Foundation, Nigeria whose sole vision is to bridge the gap between the society and individuals with DS because, our society tends to stigmatize and ostracize people living with the condition. I believe it will be helpful to meet other people who have children with this same condition, and it’ll also provide a conducive environment for your son to experience love, acceptance and friendship.” The doctor pushed in the bridge of her glasses with an index finger as she looked into a note on the finely polished desk. “The foundation is located in Surulere, number 43 Adegoke Street. And it’s been established for up to seventeen years.”
“Seventeen years!” Andrew was impressed.
“Yes, although it was called Down Syndrome Association when it was established. And then, there the other NGO founded by a mother of a girl with DS and named after the daughter, it’s Moyinoluwa Rainbow Foundation and under it there’s a Mo-Rainbow Down Syndrome Ability Centre.”
Lovette’s lips trembled from excitement. “Do they offer therapies there?”
“Oh, yes they do. The founder, Mrs. Adetola Makinde happens to be a play therapist herself.”
“Wow! All three?”
“All three. The founder is very passionate about early intervention, knowing fully well how helpful it was for own daughter. The address is, House 4, A close, 112 Road, off first avenue, Festac town. You should be able to get more information when you visit these places.” Dr Amogbonjaye concluded as Lovette scrawled the address.
“I want to get to Mo-Rainbow foundation” Lovette turned to Andrew with the excitement of a child who just got candies, jabbering away. “I can’t wait to meet the founder, she must be a well of experience and knowledge and love. Oh, honey, God is answering our prayers. We have a family right here in Nigeria”
Andrew was smiling and nodding at his wife when someone brushed past him. He followed the man speeding down the hallway with alert eyes, his back view looked familiar.
“It was crazy men. I just got back from work yesterday evening and you no go believe sha, I just meet my wife on the ground, she lie down and empty bottle of drugs dey near her.” He clicked his tongue dramatically. “Guy, I fear.” He snapped his fingers “Sharp sharp I carry her come hospital. Na why I dey here oh”
“Jesus Christ!” Lovette exclaimed from the backseat at the same time Andrew said “Oh my God!” from the front passenger’s seat.
“Omo, I just thank God men,” Jarret was looking straight through the windshield. “Doctor talk say, if to say I no carry her come quickly like that, dey for no fit induce vomiting for am.”
Lovette sighed holding her chest. “So Dupe is alive?”
“I have to go and see her.” Lovette opened the door.
“She dey chase everybody comot oh, even me, she no gree make I enter her ward. She just dey shout.”
Lovette insisted that she wanted to try and so Jarret gave her Dupe’s ward details. Lovette dashed into the hospital, leaving Andrew alone with his colleague.
Lovette entered Modupe’s ward. She paused at the door, expecting Dupe’s hysterical reaction but when she saw that Dupe was only starring at her with tired, puffy eyes, she moved closer. She sat beside Dupe and for the next ten minutes, held her hands, neither of them saying a thing to other person.
Jarret didn’t say anything, he just kept starring at the windshield blankly.
“I no just understand, why Dupe go wan kill herself? She’s a happy person now”
Andrew was pissed by Jarret’s shallowness “Well, that’s what an outsider like me will think, but apparently there is more than what meets the eyes and you should not be on the same superficial level of knowledge of your wife as an outsider”
“Are you trying to blame her actions on my ineptitude as a husband?” Jarret turned a scowl on Andrew. He only spoke coherently with bogus words such as ‘ineptitude’ when he was cross.
“I no dey judge you.” Andrew smoothed Jarret’s ruffled feathers, “What I’m saying is… okay, have you noticed any strange thing about your wife recently? Withdrawal, lack of interest in things she used to like? Depression? Can you think of any possible reason why she did what she did?”
Jarret sighed. “I can only think of one thing; Goke”
“Who is Goke?” Andrew quizzed, narrowing his eyes.
“Our problem child. Four years old child wey no fit talk. He did not crawl until he was about nine months old, started walking a few months before he clocked two, at four he cannot eat by himself!” Jarret looked at Andrew “Just imagine! That pikin dey possessed with dumb spirit and e no get where we never take am, but pfft!” He shrugged, “the demon no wan hear”
Andrew reclined, confused. “I never knew you had a son”
“I wish I never had that torment of a child” Jarret snarled and then hissed.
Modupe sniffled. “See ehn, I really love to convince myself that, that boy doesn’t exist. I do everything I can to shut him out, but he’s always there, in my face. I’ve searched hard for a job, just to get buried in office work and totally forget about my possessed son, but, I didn’t find. I’ve been trying to have another child but it just won’t happen. It was just so overwhelming. Jarret’s mum thinks the spirit tormenting my child is from me and what’s worse is the fact that Jarret agrees.”
“He said so?”
“He never said otherwise. He never defended me before his mum, he never disagreed. His silence is acquiescence. His mum comes around crying and shouting ‘Dupe ti gb’ewo w’ebi wa o!. Aa r’iru eleyi ri n’idile wa oh’” At Lovette’s confused look, Dupe interpreted. “It means, ‘Dupe has brought a taboo into our lineage. We’ve never seen a thing like this in our family’ and the pant I have for a husband will just rock his mum in his arms and apologize to her. Apologize to her, Lovette! Tell me, what is he sorry for other than the fact that he married me, a demon carrying me.” She clenched her jaws. “I just hate that bastard!”
Lovette wished she knew what to say. She asked the Lord to help her in her heart.
“He’s punishing me isn’t he?”
“No, God. I’ve never been a true believer. I messed myself around before I got married unlike you. So, this is God’s payback to me”
Lovette tipped Modupe’s chin gently. “Dupe, God loves you and he will never give you a child to punish you. If it was all about punishment, why do I have a son with Down’s? The Lord wants to guide you through life, to be your saviour and also your Lord. He wants you to come to him with your burdens so he can give you rest. He loves you Modupe, with an everlasting love”
She turned to the wall recalling the day of Precious’ christening ceremony, she remembered Lovette’s irritability, her pain and somehow, she knew that she could believe what Lovette said. It seemed as though Lovette herself had now found rest.
“Why will God even love me?”
“There is no reasonable reason for his love, it’s who he is. And he’s calling you today, Dupe to a fountain of abundant life that can never run dry. He’s been-”
“He’s been standing at the threshold of your heart, knocking, hoping to get your attention. Today that you can hear his voice, he implores you to not harden your heart”
Jarret scoffed. “I’ve done this before. It doesn’t last.”
Andrew bit his lower lip, “If you come to Jesus and hope to walk with him by your strength, you will fail, it will not last,”
“So what’s the point coming to him, then?”
“He’s calling you to receive him and walk with him leaning on his grace and his spirit. Not by your might, nor by your power but by the spirit of God. By strength shall no man prevail, Jarret. But when you believe in him, let him work in you and let his grace teach you daily, you will see that his grace is sufficient”
“I need his grace. Pray for me” Jarret said after a thoughtful pause.
“Modupe, it might not feel like it, but a great change has happened, the Dupe you were is dead, now you are alive with Christ.”
Dupe blinked. “How is that even possible?”
“I will tell you all about it, but first, where is your son now?”
“He should be in his room, what about him?”
Lovette gaped “Are you not afraid that something might happen to him?”
Modupe looked away. Lovette knew she didn’t care if anything happened to Goke. Lovette was worried. “And you said the doctors were not able to tell what is wrong with the child?”
“Doctors?” Modupe frowned, “This has nothing to do with doctors, it’s a spiritual case”
Lovette’s mouth fell open, she was nonplussed for a while. “Don’t tell me you’ve never taken Goke for a check-up to know the cause of his developmental milestone delay!”
Dupe laughed. “You’re not Yoruba, you don’t know the realities of life, doctor, doctor ke?” She looked at Lovette, laughing as though she had said the most ridiculous thing.
“This is unbelievable. How do you know this is not a medical condition? You know what, I’m going to your place to get that boy, give me the house keys.”
“Lovette this is a waste of time”
“I don’t mind. The keys” She splayed her palm before Modupe
“The house key is with Jarret. And also collect the key to Goke’s room from him.”
“You lock him up?”
“There is nothing a demonic person can’t do. Even when I have to feed him, I’m usually extra careful. Don’t joke with demons oh. I advice you, Lovette don’t go o” Lovette rose to her feet and marched out of the ward.
“So, you can start reading the Bible from John. It’s important for you to feed your spirit with God’s word daily-”
Lovette tapped the glass window of the car.
“Mr. Olaniyan, I need your house key and the key to Goke’s room. That boy needs to be brought here for a medical check-up” She said after Jarret powered down the window.
He said the same thing Dupe said; there was no need for any medical check-up, it was a spiritual case, the child will embarrass them, he could not be taken out. But when Lovette insisted, Jarret relinquished the keys to her. Andrew offered to go with her.
As Andrew drove down to the Olaniyan’s with Lovette, holding a nursing Precious beside him, only one thing bothered him.
“Lovette, I can’t let you be a stay-at-home mom”
“Can you see where it landed Dupe?” He couldn’t stand imagining his wife dead.
Lovette rolled her eyes. “Let’s focus on getting this boy checked for now”
She turned the key in the lock twice, before she pushed it open. The living room was littered with Jarret’s things. Andrew saw the couple’s wedding picture hanging on the wall, it was beautiful. Lovette strode to the hallway, with Andrew behind her, bearing Precious in his arms.
When she opened the child’s room, she spotted him by the window. He was scrawny, wearing nothing but a sagging pant. Did Dupe even feed this child? Were they hoping he would die in that room and then convince themselves it was just happenstance?
The child lurched to the bed, reached up and after moments of struggle, climbed up. Lovette and Andrew watched wordlessly, wondering what the child was up to. He pushed open the sliding window pane and tried to crawl up the wall.
The boy kept on trying. Clinging to the metal burglary proof and groaning as he did all he could to hoist himself. He could not sustain himself for long. He fell back on the bed and started crying. It was then he noticed the people standing at the entrance. He moved to the wall and watched the couple in fear.
Perhaps Dupe was right, the child was most probably possessed. She remembered all the stories that scared the hell out of her as a JSS 1 student at a Federal Girls College. Tales of ‘lady koinkoin’ and her ever clacking heels and tales of squealing bush babies. What if this child was actually a bush baby or something related, or why else would he be trying to jump out of the window? Why was he running to the wall and pulling the sheets to himself?
Andrew crossed the room and stood at the foot of the bed, his arms outstretched to the child. The boy pressed his back more tightly against the wall and cried louder, clutching the sheets. Andrew stood still, arms still open. The boy’s cries petered out as he kept staring at the man before him and then he crawled to him. Andrew picked up Goke and took him to Lovette.
Lovette looked at the boy and was at once drawn to the flat features on his face, the epicanthal folds in the inner corner of his eyes, his neck that was so short it was almost absent, the gap between his great toe and other toes, his bulging tongue. She studied him keenly.
“Love, what’s happening?”
“I think he has Down’s”
“We have to get to the hospital to find out”
Modupe sat with her back ramrod straight at the dining, Jarret was to her right, and on the other side of the table, Lovette and her husband sat next to each other.
“The rice will be ready in about five minutes” Dupe glanced at her watch.
“I feel like a complete illiterate” Jarret blurted.
“Oh, you are” Dupe spat out the words before she could think better of it.
Lovette cleared her throat. “Dupe, why don’t we go to the kitchen to check the rice and maybe fry some plantain?”
Dupe’s belligerent eyes were fixed on her husband. “He watched his mum harass me, call me names without batting a lid. He thought I gave Goke the evil spirit meanwhile I am pretty sure that cursed extra chromosome came from his Godforsaken loins!” Dupe was now jabbing an irate finger at Jarret and heaving.
Lovette saw so much of herself in Dupe. Why do we always run to anger in times of despair when Jesus is there waiting with open arms?
“I never said the spirit was from you”
“You never said otherwise”
“This will do us no good,” Andrew waved his hands, the literal white flag, between the couple with roused hackles “Playing the blame game will get us nowhere. If there’s any time you need unity in this home the most, it is now. We can’t afford to be ignorant of the Devil’s devices”
Modupe sprang up causing her chair to scrape backward, her eyes still burning on Jarret. She stomped to the kitchen. Lovette followed her.
Modupe slid drawers and banged open cupboards in flashes of fury all the while swearing under her breath. She picked the pot of rice off the burner with a napkin and replaced it with a pan of oil, peeled the plantain and diced them, the serrated edge of her knife flashing swiftly and Lovette feared that Dupe will chop off her finger.
“I was so mad at Andrew, at least I thought so” Lovette raised her voice above the hiss of the plantain Dupe poured into a pan of hot oil.
“Dupe keeps saying I think she’s the cause of Goke’s problem, because she thinks so herself! She actually thought that the demon was from her family. Ever before we got married, she was always pedantic about the witches from her village”
“Could it then be that you believed her and that made you agree with your mum?”
“You’re judging me again!”
“I only asked a question. See, your wife feels betrayed by the fact that you seemed to have taken sides and not with her, the least you can do is apologize. If for no other reason, for the sake of peace. That boy,” Andrew pointed at the couch where Goke was sleeping. “Has been starved of love, of life. He needs you both. When we came here the day we took him for the check-up do you know we saw him trying to jump out of the window?”
Jarret’s eyes flashed with surprise. “He was?”
“Yeah. And it didn’t seem that was the first time. Given time, one day you’d just have walked into his room and meet it empty and you will most likely have assumed that he had returned to his spirit world, or something improbable. Meanwhile, the truth will be that you and Dupe tipped him over. He probably would have fallen on the other side and injured himself badly or even die considering his frailty. What then will you say?”
“Stop!” Jarret rasped.
Andrew touched his shoulder. “The heart of a man is desperately wicked, who can know it?”
“It’s easy for you to sit there and judge me to be wicked.”
“No, I was actually speaking to myself too, every natural man has a wicked heart that is only changed in Christ and as one let God work in him. Do you know I even did worse than you? I actually made an attempt on Precious’ life.”
Jarret scoffed. “Expensive joke man. You can’t even hurt a fly”
“Wow! So that’s why he said the child was stillborn”
“Yes. I thought my anger was directed at Andrew but after I left home I realized that I was just using him as an outlet. I was actually angry at God for giving me Precious and at Precious for having Down’s. Stupid isn’t it? But that was the truth, it was, however, easier for me to act like it was all Andrew’s fault. Dupe, is Jarret the true cause of your anger?”
Dupe crashed in tears. Lovette hugged her.
“Jarret is not your foe. Only the Devil is” She whispered to her friend and as she held her, she realized how small in size she was.
“I’m angry at myself,” she sniffed. “how could I be so dumb?”
“So dumb to think Goke has a dumb spirit” Lovette joked and Dupe managed a laugh.
“That was one heck of a story,”
“I know right. Guy, for four years you have refused to be Goke’s father even though he’s your son. Now is the time to make things right. Now-” Andrew’s words were interrupted by sounds from the parlour. Goke stood up from the couch and went straight to Andrew, walking past Jarret like he wasn’t there. Jarret tried to hold his son, the buy scuttled to Andrew whining.
Andrew placed Goke on his lap and Jarret felt a stab of jealousy right in his gut.
“Trust me when I say this, these children have powerful intuits,” He remembered Precious clinging to his shirt that day at the clinic, remembered the character Phoebe from the novel he read, her ability to read moods. “They can literally smell love or hate. You need to start being the father of your son. You need to start giving Goke a different idea of who you are, because all the while you were hating him, he missed no detail”
Jarret came to hunker beside Andrew, he glanced up at his son and spoke to him like he could hear him.
“Goke, I’m sorry. I’ve not been there for you, I’m sorry. I’ve been wicked to you. I didn’t know better, I di-” He stopped himself, pressing down emotions.
Goke watched his father with an unfathomable expression. When Jarret tried to carry him, he did not resist.
Dupe watched her husband and son from the kitchen entrance and she was certain that Jarret was not the same man. He walked over to her, his son’s almost negligible weight resting on his hip and hugged her with his free hand.
“Baby, I’m sorry. I left you to fend for our son like he was just your burden, because I actually thought he was.”
Dupe hugged him and her son. She cried out her heart.
“The table is set oh, me I’m starving” Lovette said smiling.
After they had all settled at the table, they held hands to pray. It started as a brief prayer of thanks for the meal, but at once each one of them started praying fervently for grace, mercy and help, thanking God for making all these work together for their good, asking that the wicked heart of stone they had be replaced with a heart that trusts in and leans on the father, a heart of flesh, a heart controlled and responsive to the Holy Spirit.
After thirty minutes, they ate their cold meal with joy. Goke ate for the first time on the table with his family. Modupe fed him and let him try to hold the spoon. He held it, hefted rice but it fell midway spilling all the rice. Dupe held his hand on the spoon and helped him feed himself. When he took the first successful spoon, she clapped for him, every other person joined in clapping, they were cheerful. Goke too was smiling.
“I haven’t felt so much joy in a long time” Dupe said after a long sigh.
“In my whole life” Jarret laughed. He looked at his son. “I never realized how much this boy looks like me sha. Omo to jo baba e”
“Why are you now speaking in tongues?” Lovette rolled her eyes and they all laughed, Goke the brightest.
“I like the sound of his laughter,” Dupe tickled him so he could giggle some more.
“To think that we thought he had a dumb spirit is just plain stupid. For heaven’s sake he could cry” Jarret shook his head.
“And I went to school oh. Chai! See my life.” Dupe put her hands on her head.
Andrew threw his head back laughing.
“To be very honest, I fell for that dumb spirit thing for a brief moment” Lovette confessed laughing.
NEXT ON DOWN
She turned on the bed, hot tears slipping down her face. Andrew was fast asleep. How dare he sleep after ripping off her peace? She felt it was her stubbornness that made her lose her peace but she argued inwardly that it was Andrew’s fault.
After the high moment at the Olaniyan’s they got home late that night and Andrew raised the issue of Lovette’s job and parenting.
“Like I said, I don’t think it’s advisable for you to just sit around alone in this house. Depression is real. And as much as we are trusting God and are being hopeful, you know there are times when barbed thoughts get to us. I don’t want you to be vulnerable to Satan’s darts. I appreciate the fact that you are willing to put your career on hold for the sake of the child, but I still think it’s not yet time”
“Parenting Precious is a full-time job, you know this”
“My concern is the isolation”
Lovette sighed. “I said I will start the Bible club, more so, there’s Dupe to visit with and follow up. I will shop for groceries and do other stuff. I can’t be so isolated now.”
Andrew scooped spoons of milk into his bowl of cereal until Lovette held is hand saying, that’s about enough, you must feed healthy. He smiled and said, “Babe, I still don’t have a good feeling about this,” Lovette protested but he cut her words with “Maybe later, but not now.”
“Is this about the paycheck?”
“What? You know it’s not”
“How will I know that” Her arms were akimbo. Andrew was fast becoming pissed.
“All I’m trying to do is look out for you”
“Sweet. But I’m not a child, I can look out for myself”
“We are one, remember? If you wanted to look out for yourself and do everything for yourself, you should have stayed single!” He regretted the harshness of his statement and at the same time didn’t. “You know what? Do whatever you like” He walked out of the kitchen and then stopped at the dining, turning to her.
“On a second thought, you won’t do whatever you like. You will resume teaching as soon as your maternity leave is over” With that, he walked to the living room and settled for a basketball match as he munched on his soggy cereal.
Lovette walked into the room, angry. She came out to the living room minutes later, still angry.
“Who do you even think you are to give me orders and boss me around?”
“You don’t want to go back to your job?” Andrew said after a long pause.
Oh, really? God, this man is trying to run my life!
As unto Christ, submit.
This is not fair!
“If you are bent on doing your will, then so be it”
Lovette could not say anything. She turned around, half ran half walked to the room, covered herself with the duvet and cried out her anger. Andrew entered the room unobtrusively and after a shower, slipped under the cover and slept soundly.
God, I will buckle under the pressure of combining my job with parenting Precious.
She didn’t hear anything in response to her heart cry. She only a felt a prompting to Google the NGO Dr. Amogbonjaye had told her about. She tried to remember the name and eventually remembered. Mo-Rainbow Foundation.