Having become a shadow of his former self, he is at the mercy of others, who determine what he eats, when and how he eats it, when he bathes, what he wears, indeed how he lives on a daily basis, even the most trivial of activities must be done under supervision. Sometimes when he asks for a hand to go to the toilet, the least sympathetic of any of his caregivers around (which includes his wife and children), may be tempted to think he could help himself, or that he isn’t doing enough to help himself, but the truth is that he would love to freely move his limbs and be like he used to be, but as they say, “the spirit is wiling but the body is weak”.


It isn’t because he’s old, because this has nothing to do with old age being just a few years away from his seventh decade, and his father who lived a few years beyond the ninth decade, walked without assistance till his last day. He had suffered a stroke five years ago, and before that hadn’t done a good job managing his very high blood pressure which reared its ugly head eight years before the stroke for which he was hospitalized at the onset following the chance discovery, but discharged himself from the Teaching Hospital (where his son was undergoing training at the time) against doctors’ (and his sons’) advice, mainly because the consultant hardly ever showed up leaving him at the mercy of medical students and interns, whose treatment plans were overruled once the residents appear, and replaced with treatment plans that appeared to worsen his condition making him wonder if it wasn’t better to have gone with the students’ plans.

He had thereafter submitted himself to prophets and prophetesses for a period of time, being a spiritually minded man too, in search of solutions while neglecting orthodox medicine for a while, only for his situation to deteriorate after a fall in his office (to which he never returned) prompting a return to the hospital (this time to a General Hospital), not only for routine checks under medication, but also for exercises with the physiotherapist, due to the weakening of a side of his body and the corresponding weakening of the opposite side of his facial features.

His lack of consistency meant he would lose some of his agility with time, and in another desperate move and desire to get better he couldn’t refuse and reject help, though unorthodox, of and from close family and friends who came up with several suggestions of places that can be visited (and were approached) for succour, as well as consumption of potions and concoctions, many of which appeared to be effective in easing the problem on the one hand, while instituting a new one on the other, until he lost vision in one eye, and the other became threatened by glaucoma as well.

Nowadays, he sits alone barely able to see anything beyond those things right before him, while his children and grandchildren, and wife keep urging him to open his eyes as if that would in any way help him see beyond the blurred images he could make out with the eye that still works. He had never been close to his children, he had been the typical old fashioned African Man in his heyday, whose idea of being a father did not extend beyond providing for all of his family’s material needs. He ruled his home with an iron fist and was almost a demigod to his children. Unfortunately, when he needed them to empathize with him in his condition, they couldn’t, not because they didn’t want to, but because it was an uncharted region for them, and they couldn’t easily break through the formal relationship they’d shared with him into the informal. Of his seven children, his two sons were the most alienated from him, the eldest personified an Oedipal Complex with the way he relates with his mother (a reason for which at some point he felt some envy for the relationship they shared), while the younger who looked so much like him couldn’t care any less for either parents, and though the former ensures that every of his needs are met, the detached manner he goes about doling out the “favours” means that it is usually lacking in the personal touch that would’ve made a huge difference for him. He feels many a time, that the way his children ask after his health is shallow, and they are quick to move onto the next issue, usually unrelated to his condition as if asking about his health is just “fulfilling all righteousness”.

He finds himself sometimes being reprimanded (though softly) for asking the same questions for what his carers say an answer had already been provided, but he cannot just help forgetting, though events of long ago (like his antics during the Nigeria-Biafra War, when he fought on the Biafran side as a conscript) still remain as fresh in his memory like they’d just happened, and no matter how much he pays attention when dressing himself, he ends up wearing his clothes the wrong way. He feels how frustrated it makes his wife (and his children when they come around), especially when there is a visitor or visitors in the house. The most painful part is how they then go on talking over him like he doesn’t exist or as if he wasn’t present, even when he’s within a earshot, though sometimes with his eyes closed, sitting in his favourite chair in the living room, beside the TV.

He had paid his dues, and with his wife raised independent children for which he is leaving nothing (as a large part of his wealth went into seeking a cure for his ailment) but a good name, and they have replicated in kind as well. He’d known many others in his situation who’d died more from the heartbreak of the dysfunctional family they had to deal with, than the illness that had befallen them, hence sometimes he feels thankful for the much that became of his despite the way he’d run his family, an evidence of the impressive work his wife put into running his family alongside pursuing her career, while he was away chasing “dough”.

Sadness fills his heart when he thinks about what becomes of Fathers in the end. How thankless their job is. How all that they contribute to building a home comes to nothing in the end. No recognition, compared to all that the woman enjoys, like official and unofficial “MOTHER’S DAYS” to a few for the father, many songs and eulogies for the mother becoming bestsellers and Chartbusters to none to a few for fathers, and when the man dies before his wife as he’s wont to, the children spoil her silly with their wealth (even when they aren’t that wealthy), most of the time in all the ways they could fathom. He’d seen that scenario play out over and over again enough to know now, that only a fool still considers this a “Man’s World”.




2 thoughts on “GRAYBEARD

    1. Thank you Madeline for looking in, your contributions are always insightful and apt.

      Not many people attempt to peep into the mind of the senior citizens around us, and at a time when they are simply shipped off to Old People’s/Nursing Homes, this man is even fortunate to still be with family.


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