Monday, March 5, 2012

What matters most

0ne night my wife and I had a terrible fight. It was very late and I he was just coming home. “Frank you need to seriously decide what is more important, your family or your work!”  She yelled. She was furious because our only son was very sick and I rarely had time to spend with him. “Mercy, we are two parents. When I’m not here you are here. Have you forgotten I have paid a nurse to come and take care of him here? Where do you think this money comes from?” I snapped back. “Jackson, are you listening to yourself? He is your son for heaven’s sakes! What the hell is wrong with you?!” She shouted even louder. I was really tired of hearing her nag every night. She would shout at the top of her voice too. I turned around and took off my glasses. 

This had to stop. “You know what? I will just quit my job and stay at home with the two of you. How about that? So who will pay for Junior’s medical bills, you?” I asked, trying to stay calm. She opened her mouth and closed it again. “I didn’t think so.” I said and walked off. Then she said something to me. “The medicine keeps him alive but love makes him feel alive.” I turned around to look at her. “Mercy, I love my son and he knows it.” I said and went into the bedroom. I passed by Junior’s room. He was asleep in bed. I noticed the toy car I bought for him two days ago on his wheelchair. I smiled and went into our bedroom. 

When I was in bed and ready to sleep I had a call. It was my boss. He wanted me to get ready for a meeting in Nigeria. I was to take the first flight out. I quickly agreed and jumped off the bed to pack my bag. I had to print certain documents too. Mercy came into the room and said nothing. Don’t get it wrong, I love my wife but I feel she can get very exaggerative about certain things. “Mercy, I’m going to Nigeria tomorrow. Quashie was supposed to go but he is sick. I will be back on Saturday.” I said after I finished putting my things together. She didn’t reply. I got into bed, next to her and slept. Things had gotten cold but I was doing my part. 

I was ready to leave at about 4am. I turned to look at my wife. She was still asleep. I wrote a note and put some money in an envelope for her. If I woke her up she would either argue or even cry. It was too early for that. I stopped over at Junior’s room and put a 20 cedi note under his pillow. I looked at the pile of drugs on his table and my heart cried. He was just 6 years old. Just then my phone rang. I quickly answered it and walked out. It was my boss. He was already at the airport and wasn’t very pleased that I was now leaving my house. “Jackson, if you make us miss the first flight I’m cutting down on your travel allowance!” He thundered. I rushed off as fast as I could to the airport.

I got there just in time. My boss still wasn’t thrilled. Immediately we took off I remembered I had to finish some typing I was doing the night before. I took out my tablet. Junior had been playing games on it the last time. I just had one bar of battery left. I had to be quick but something caught my attention. There was a recording on it. I pressed play. I heard a rambling sound. My poor son must have hit the record button by accident. Then I heard some voices. I plugged in my earphones to try and hear what was being said. The nurse was leaving the house and was talking to Junior. “I will see you tomorrow ok?” She said. There was a brief silence and Junior responded. He was trying to convince her not to leave and she explained that she had to go. Then he said it… “You are the only person who loves me. Ok, you and my mum. Everybody else thinks I am weak so they don’t love me.” 

When we got to Nigeria, all I could think about was my boy. The meeting went smoothly. We had the rights to sell our products across Nigeria but I wasn’t happy. I would be receiving a travel bonus of 1000 Cedis but I wasn’t happy. Unfortunately I had to stay for another three days to give some of their workers some training. My boss left for Accra the next day. All the time, I kept calling my wife but she wouldn’t respond. I knew she was angry with me. I left at the time she said she needed me. I decided to let her cool off. The first day when I was doing my training a man came late. “Sir, I’m sorry I’m late.” He said. “My mother wouldn’t let me stop eating her food, so sorry.” He added. “Be careful oh. If you eat her food so much your wife’s food won’t be nice to you.” I teased. The whole class laughed but he gave a quick comeback before he sat down. “Oh the same way I love them differently I’m sure I will love their food same.” Some people giggled some more and I had to ask. “How would you do that?” He smiled at me and said. “Sir, when you love someone your brain always thinks of ways to fix things. I’m sure if my wife’s food is too salty I will eat it and take a sweet drink to balance it.” Everyone burst out into laughter again. This guy was pretty funny, and then it hit me. He was right!

Instead of teaching for two hours and doing another two hours the next day, I did all the training in one day so I could go home the next day. I booked the first flight to Ghana and felt so proud on my way back. I bought a bouquet of flowers for my wife and toy car for my son. I had thought and found out ways to squeeze in time to spend with my family. When I got home I rushed into the house and called my son’s name. There was no response. The nurse met me in the hall and said my wife was in the kitchen and my son was in the bathroom. I smiled at her and gave her a tip. I rushed to the kitchen. My wife was cooking. I sneaked up on her and handed the flowers over to her. She gave a feeble smile and said thank you. My show wasn’t over. I lifted her off her feet. She shouted in excitement and asked me what was going on. “Did you get a promotion?” She asked. I shook my head and kissed her. She was overwhelmed. “Mercy I love you. I know I haven’t been the best of husbands and fathers but please give me another try.” I said. She smiled and hugged me. It’s like she could feel my sincerity. “Jackson you are a good husband and father. I just want you to show that to Junior.” She said. 

Then a loud shout cut in. I dropped everything I was holding and rushed into the bathroom. Junior was on the floor. There was blood on the floor. He was attempting to get into the bath himself and he fell, hitting his head on the bath. The trip to the hospital felt longer than ever. Waiting for the doctor’s report in the waiting room felt even longer. He was taken straight into surgery. I prayed to God and asked him to save my boy. I closed my eyes to pray some more. When I opened my eyes, I saw the doctor walk to us.

The funeral was quick and simple. My wife and I wanted it that way. “Jackson, I’m sorry for your loss.” My boss said shaking my hand. I nodded and he left. I had spent days blaming myself and my work for the death of my boy. What was the point of working so much and making so much money if there’s no on to buy that Play Station, toy gun or even perfumes for? What eats me up the most is the fact that my son died thinking his father didn’t love him. I turned to my wife. She was crying. I held her hand and she put her head on my shoulder. She mattered very much to me and I made sure I would let her see that till the day she died.