Mama Ikotun shivered as she lay on her bed. She had been suffering from a strange ailment for six months. The local doctor had initially diagnosed the illness as malaria. However, as time progressed, and the drugs he prescribed did nothing to ease the pain, he had changed his story. He was not sure what ailed her, but recommended that she should seek a second opinion.
Mama Ikotun rejected his advice, and had taken to using local herbs instead. After all, she knew why she was ill.
It had started the day she received that letter from her son, Jide. It was a very short letter, with just two paragraphs, but it shot a bullet straight to her heart. He told her that as far as he was concerned, he no longer had a mother, and threatened that if she ever tried to contact him again, he would have her arrested. That was six months ago.
That letter was the climax to the troublesome relationship that had transpired between mother and son for close to two years. Shortly after reading that letter, Mama Ikotun began to complain of a fever and headache, which she had still not recovered from months later.
Completely ignoring her youngest daughter, Yemi, who doubled as her nurse, she began to sob loudly. Her sobs were broken only by the words she kept repeating to herself over and over again:
“I have offended you. Please forgive me.”
The young girl was used to this daily ritual, and without even trying to comfort her mother, promptly left the room. Mama Ikotun was left alone with her thoughts.
Jide, her son, who was now in his early thirties, used to be very close to her. He was his mother’s pride and joy, being the only son and the middle child. Jide was also the first university graduate in his family, and now worked as a Bank Manager in Sagamu, Ogun State.
Although he was not the eldest child, people who were closer to the family called his mother ‘Mama Jide.’ It was only those who were not ‘as close’ to her who called her Mama Ikotun, after the town she grew up in.
Almost two years earlier, after his father died, Mama Ikotun had called Jide aside. What she told him had made him bitter and driven a wedge in their relationship: that the man he had called ‘Daddy’ all his life was not his biological father. Even more shocking was the revelation that followed: his biological father was a butcher who lived in Ejigbo.
As one might well imagine, this news did not go down well with Jide. He flew into a rage, and demanded to meet his birth father. His mother refused at first, and instead tried to pacify him by explaining what really happened. She told him that the affair she had with Baba Eleran was just a casual fling, and that it had happened just one time.
Moreover, she said, her husband, Mr. Adebiyi, knew about it. It had happened during a very turbulent time in their marriage, and Mr. Adebiyi himself had been having affairs of his own.
“But none of them resulted in pregnancy, Mama,” Jide had retorted, bitterly. “How can you stand there and tell me these things and expect me to accept everything, just like that? Why didn’t you tell me this when I was 8 years old, when all those kids at school taunted me and kept calling me “Omo Baba Eleran?” Now I know that they were right, that I am the son of a butcher. I’m the idiot who was the last to know.”
Mama Ikotun’s efforts to pacify her son were futile. At his insistence, she took him to meet his biological father. Jide was the man’s carbon copy. After this visit, Jide cut off his mother. She tried to visit him several times, but she was denied access to him by the gateman.
Then she tried writing to him, but he never replied. She tried calling him and called several family meetings to get other relatives to intervene, but Jide refused to see reason. It was around this time that she was told by her eldest daughter, Sade, that Jide had gotten married without her knowledge or consent and was now living with his wife. After his marriage, he cut off his sisters as well, and moved to a new house. So although they all lived in the same state, none of his immediate family members knew where he lived.
Out of the blues, Jide had written her, with no return address, telling her that he no longer recognized her as his mother. Those words had accelerated her journey to the grave.
Mama Ikotun finally gave up on her son. That day, she fought an inexplicable feeling that her time was up. As she opened her mouth to call for Yemi, she heard the sound of voices in the sitting room. Within minutes, two people entered into her room, led by Yemi. It was her estranged son, Jide, and his wife, Ngozi.
Mama Ikotun could not believe her eyes. With all the strength she could muster, she sat up on her bed, tears flowing from her eyes, and said:
“My children, don’t stand so far away. Come closer, please. Come.”
As Jide and his wife were about to move closer to Mama Ikotun, a little visitor let go of Ngozi’s hand and climbed into Mama Ikotun’s laps. Then, with his chubby little hands, he wiped off the tears from her face, and planted a kiss on her right cheek.
“Mama, meet your grandson, Demilade,” Ngozi said, as she fought back tears herself.
While Ngozi was still speaking, they witnessed a miracle. Mama Ikotun who had been unable to walk unaided for months, got up and walked, led by little Demilade. She embraced first her daughter-in-law, and then finally her son, Jide, telling him over and over again how sorry she was. Jide comforted his mother and accepted her apology. Yemi witnessed the whole thing and joined in a group hug afterwards.
Mother and son thus reconciled, Mama Ikotun announced the next line of action.
“I will make gbegiri and ewedu for you,” she said to the adults. Turning to her grandson, she said: “Let me see how many teeth you have. Oh! Just two? That’s more than enough to eat gbegiri.”
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