Plight of the Widowed by COVID

Marcus was vibrant and full of life. He never had a dull moment. He was extremely friendly to everyone. His combined charisma and go-getter personality, found him company among aggressive businessmen, politicians and a host of hangers-on. He was everything to everyone, but pledged allegiance to where his bread was buttered.

At the of age 36 years, he was a father of six children. Not that there should be a relationship between a man’s age and the number of children he has. Marcus was married and lived with one wife, but that didn’t silence the hushed gossip that his six children were not cut from the same rock.

Nosy neighbors found something to see, say or smell about his family when none of it concerned them. Similar to the Kenyans On Twitter community, who are renown for their brigade on anything and everything. On the ground, their idler compatriots and representatives dissect every story that has flesh on it and feast on stories, drawn by a distinctive smell for the rot.

Ask Marcus’ children what their father does for a living, and each will tell you something different.

To his eldest son, Odongo he was a lawyer but to his second born daughter, Achieng’ he was an astute businessman. Was it because they didn’t know their father’s profession or he told each of them something different? No one knows. But the truth is, as a wheeler-dealer, his moves were discreet, to all and sundry, including his immediate family.

His hang-out company included a village mate MCA whom they grew up with on the shores of Lake Victoria and a university dropout, also his village fellow, who was a Director in the five different companies that the trio used to bid for county government jobs.

It was four months after Kenya announced it’s first case of COVID-19, when Marcus started off with a persistent cough. Business opportunities had dwindled due the pandemic, which meant he took advantage of every opportunity that was available to make cash before the economy went into complete recession.

Because of chasing the shilling, contracting COVID was the last thing on his mind as he crisscrossed multiple towns and counties to submit bids or deliver services to the active tenders their five companies held. His cough was simply treated with a handkerchief and over the counter medicine from the roadside chemists.

Most nights he would arrive home pretty late when the kids and their nursing mother were half asleep or with little attention for a drunken father. For two weeks, which appeared like eternity, he struggled with all-night coughs despite the wife, Wangui urging him to get checked.

In between denial and bargaining about his rising fever, he would take off his shirt and be left in a vest. This was such a distraction to the kids, who would be watching their favorite Maria program on Citizen TV.

Men like Marcus who have negative masculinity don’t listen to (their) women. It took the intervention of his MCA friend to convince him to be checked at a nearby clinic. It was Wangui’s last ditch effort to plug that hole. Rushing to the clinic in the middle of the night on a freezing July was too late. Marcus needed emergency help to stabilize his failing lungs and congested wind pipe.

The noxious virus patched on his nasopharynx. It was suffocating him, not physically but physiologically.

It was Wangui’s elder sister’s turn to take food and clothe changes when the nurse-in-charge advised her to call Marcus’ wife. Women are nurturers by nature. Just how does one keep visiting a non responsive patient for two weeks? How does one keep bringing food and clothe changes everyday, all in the hope that their patient might wake up and eat the food or wear the clothes?

Wangui’s sister tried to probe the nurse as what to may have happened to Marcus, but nothing could be said until Wangui was there. Clearly, the nurse was hoarding bad news.

For two weeks, Marcus was transferred across three hospitals, hunting for advanced medical equipment to support his breathing. He slid into a coma and remained comatose for a week. Although his battle-hardened spirit braved the vegetative state, he succumbed to COVID after a bruising battle with the devilish and mutant virus.

That day he joined the gender-, age- and county- disaggregated data broadcasted by the Ministry of Health.

Photo by Lessons learned in life (www.soul.lessonslearnedinlife.com)

That single death event, turned his beautiful wife into a widow, a term not too distant from its archaic synonym, relict! Before then, Wangui had taken a break from nursing her baby to daily visiting him in the hospital, checking up on her husband who was unresponsive to all medical intervention. Her energy levels and resilience had declined to despair. The barrage of questions from her restless children on when dad will return went unanswered.

On breaking the news of death, Wangui wailed uncontrollably and collapsed outside the ward where Marcus had been admitted. In that instant, daily trips to the hospital came to a halt, as his body was wheeled to the morgue.

On the Uber ride home, Wangui spoke no word. Her gaze was blank and transfixed. Her eyes were semi open as her mind wandered into oblivion. Prior to Marcus’ death, she hadn’t been active in her church or chama, which saldly meant few people would condole with her.

Reaching home and her kids were all over the place, catching the latest Maria love drama episode. They didn’t stop to greet her but were enthralled by Sofia and Brenda characters who were outwitting each other in winning the coveted love of Luwi. Without greeting anyone, Wangui walked straight into her bedroom and let out a piercing cry.

Her sister hadn’t yet mustered the wisdom and words to break the news of death to the children.

So full of innocence were these kids. Unaware that what had broken their mum’s heart would shatter the core of their being and steer their lives towards an uncertain future. Losing a father figure was more than being deprived of a breadwinner.

To them, he wasn’t defined by his job, the way we save people’s phone numbers, ‘Steve Welder‘ or ‘Wangechi Mama Chapo‘. They knew him for who he was; a daddy, a funny playmate, a weekend sponsor who took them out for chips and nyama choma, in a kids’ play park.

Same to President Magufuli’s recent death.

Social media pundits saw another dedicated and focused politician who took a controversial public stunt that would deal him a deadly blow. To the socialites, Magufuli will soon be forgotten as Tanzania goes through national mourning and political transition.

But to the people close to him, his wife, children, parents, siblings and other benefactors, his death will remain etched in their hearts beyond the next Twitter and Facebook status update.

As Brandon Heath sings, ‘we need to pray for the eyes to see, everything we keep missing. To give our love for humanity. To give arms for the broken-hearted. The ones that are far beyond our reach. To give ours heart for the ones forgotten. Jesus to give us his eyes, so we can see.’

Odongo, the eldest of the kids at 16 years of age, on hearing his mum’s cry abruptly switched off the TV. Turning to his aunt who was on phone with another relative, he asked, “Why is mum crying?”, “Is dad ok?” Her aunt was deep in conversation with the person on the other end of the phone, and all that Odongo heard was, “We have moved his body to the morgue.”

Teens don’t just hear words, they see through adult emotions and read in between the lines. He dashed to his room wrapped himself in a duvet, and let out his own screech. The house became chaotic and no one talked to the other.

Death is disruptive and shameful. It will be the last enemy to be destroyed.

A close knit family with little external interaction was now plunged into the ghastly stare and scrutiny of nosy characters. That sad night a few neighbors heard the cry and showed up. Swiftly, burial plans started plus a WhatsApp group created to fundraise the huge medical bill and foot funeral expenses.

Such is the absurdity of life. Men die leaving behind bills.

During the one week of planning the burial a lot happened. Wangui lost weight. Her children were forever frantic and calling out their dad in their sleeping and waking hours. Two women came out of the shadows claiming they had, not just a fling but a child with Marcus. For whatever reason such baby mamas show up at the eleventh hour, no one will ever know.

Whether to disparage the dead or claim a stake in the deceased’s estate. Such are the dark secrets that the living hold up in their closets.

Apparently, the first two children of Marcus and Wangui belonged to these two women. This was fodder to the nosy and ill meaning bystanders. One of the women demanded to take her child, as she couldn’t bear the thought of her child being raised by another woman. The other woman cared less and all she wanted was a piece of Marcus’ estate, some of which were ongoing construction sites that Wangui had no idea about.

Men and their secrets, clench their hands matching forward to the grave!

Wangui didn’t have the luxury of mourning her husband in privacy and dignity. She was confronted by the court-threatening demands of two baby mamas. Two churches declined to bury her dead husband because she wasn’t a regular tither or active home cell group member. This is despite the fact that she had lost a soulmate.

At the funeral, Wangui sat next to the two women, all claiming a stake on the departed. Only Wangui appeared sad. The others were emotionally detached and fidgety, all the time appearing derailed by the long winded speeches on how Marcus was generous and endearing to all. His MCA friend was the MC at the burial.

Burial protocols were observed under a tense cloud. Three portrait photos were placed on Marcus’ casket. Apparently, it was customary that after the burial each woman would take a portrait and hang it at their respective homes. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Due to COVID there was no ceremonial viewing of the body. Unsolicited rumor had it that his body had been wrapped in layers of body bags, in an effort to isolate the virus from the living.

No jokes, he was buried when COVID was COVID, a dreaded and stigmatized disease!

Returning home from the funeral, was one long trip. Wangui felt more lonely than when she rode on Uber from hospital. She needed to pick up the pieces of their life together and start all over. She was now be a widow. One who was bereft and alone.

Explaining death and burial to her children would be a task she will do repeatedly over the next couple of years, some of whom were too young to understand her emotional pain and burden.

Odongo looked forlorn and disinterested in anything. In the initial weeks after his dad’s burial, he overslept all he wanted, went to play PS5 with friends and watched countless movies at a neighbor’s house. Wangui was his adoptive mother, something he didn’t know until he met his biological mother at the funeral. They really looked alike.

Achieng’ had just entered teenage hood, a stage that a father figure is vital. She didn’t care much about her biological mother, who looked pretty millennial and disinterested in a mother-daughter relationship with her. Their semblance too betrayed them.

To a ‘normal widow’, perhaps much of the battle is with catching up with the dead husband’s estates and bills. But to Wangui, many curve balls had been tossed at her. She was barely in her thirties and the world seemed to have overturned her life’s prospects. She knew, she couldn’t afford rent and children’s school fees, without getting a job plus a side hustle.

Being a nursing mother wasn’t career enhancing and where would she start, having been out of meaningful employment for a couple of years.

She was angry with God for letting Marcus die, leaving her and the children in perplexity.

She was angry with Marcus for having had multiple affairs, which was throwing her to the battle front with strange women. She was angry with the two churches that refused to bury her husband. She was angry with herself for not having taken Marcus to hospital in time, although Marcus was stubborn.

She piled on herself blame that belonged to others and nursed irrational thoughts that ushered her into depression.

Odongo was beginning to stretch Wangui’s patience too. He was secretly conversing with his biological mother. No one knew what their conversations were all about, but Wangui could tell either from her sixth sense or pure suspicion that his mother was pulling him away.

He openly rebelled against Wangui and never sat in the living room when she was home. When she left the house, around 10am to chase the things of this world, Odongo was busy fomenting a revolution with his younger siblings.

Perhaps when a teenager learns his family is broken, he responds with rebellion.

January 2021 was fast approaching. Schools were about to re-open, as the national government relaxed COVID rules. Odongo wasn’t sure he wanted to go back to school, neither was Wangui ready to pay his school fees considering his recent rebellious streak.

Wangui’s second last born child aged 4 years would sleep all night and all day for two days in a row. On waking up, he would call out his dad and mumble a few words only his toddler agemates would understand. Rebuilding her life was a toll order.

Within November and December 2020, she moved houses and negotiated with the teachers in her children’s school to give her time to sort out her finances.

All the crowd that filled her home during the funeral plans had dissipated.

Wangui’s sisters and brothers dutifully returned to their homes to continue with their lives. Once in a while, a friend or two would call to check on her.

The COVID pandemic had mopped up lives and livelihoods, leaving behind trails of devastated families and individuals. The number of widows, orphaned and semi-orphaned children keeps skyrocketing. Wangui is but a single instance in the numerous bearers of pain and grief.

With statistics being updated and reported everyday, it’s mind-boggling to stay in touch with the infected and affected. Fear is cast abroad as theories, heresies and philosophies are churned out daily on COVID variants, vaccine and treatments.

Could this be the dreaded World War III, triggered by a possible biological warfare?

It’s a wonder what Wangui and those bereaved by COVID think or feel when they hear all the COVID statistics being broadcasted. Will the rumored government procured Structural Adjustment Programs from the World Bank put in place effective social safety nets? Not just Kazi Mtaani for the idling youth, but also for widows and orphans?

Odongo was in a prestigious high school. He will most likely scale down a more affordable extra county school, as the battle of wits rages on between his adoptive and biological mothers. Achieng’s indifferent biological mother seems non threatening at the moment, but who knows if she will chance on a hoax lawyer who will advice her to fight for her piece of the pie on Marcus’ estate!

Death of a husband and father meant a shift in dreams and possible life outcomes. For Wangui, it wasn’t just moving from a three bedroom house to a bed sitter, but the dwindling prospects of single-handedly raising six children.

A handful of family members, friends and community helped Wangui through the loss and grief stages of shock, denial, pain and guilt. But in solace, she now fights anger, bargaining and doesn’t know where to start reconstructing and working through her life and that of her children.

Before she can even reach the coveted phase of acceptance and hope, her father and mother are in a great dispute as to whether she should remarry or not.

If Wangui was a man, would she turn out differently? Maybe not

This is a true story. Names and details have been changed to protect family privacy. Views expressed on this article are my own

Joseph N. Mungai is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have an intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Pregnant Teenager

As medics, scientists and global health partners race against the 18-month timeline in finding an efficacious COVID-19 vaccine, the rest of the world is battling with deadbeat economies or undercurrents of the hidden pandemic, teenage pregnancy.

Is the church or WHO developing the teen pregnancy vaccine, as the government is deeply politicking?

Mutheu is an adorable 15 year old girl. Always on time and at hand to help with setting up the class for learning. On a normal Sunday, after a lesson she asked to speak privately with Mwangi, her Sunday school teacher. This was the first time she had made the request. Mwangi wasn’t sure what curve ball would be hurled at him, but agreed to meet her.

After the lesson, as the other excited learners high-fived the teacher and filed away, she tucked at Mwangi’s side with restlessness and anxiety. “Yes, Mutheu what did you want to tell me?”

Without mincing her words, she said, ‘I am HIV positive‘. Teens have a such a direct and non apologetic way of saying stuff, without giving background and context information. By no means, was Mwangi prepared for such information.

If it was in the 1990s when being HIV positive was ‘more’ ostracized, Mwangi would have scuttled for dear life. But times have changed. HIV isn’t the death sentence disease it used to be. Advanced medicine has made it manageable and countless people living with HIV have survived eons, to tell their tales and experiences.

Mwangi felt cornered. He couldn’t back away. Life had done little to prepare him for this conversation.

He caught his breath and asked, “Mutheu, what did you just say?” She had her script ready on how to narrate her gory story. Ignoring his question and moving on, she recounted how her live-in uncle had pried on her too many times, while her mother was away from home.

Sexual intimacy isn’t what she and her uncle talked about, rather it was they engaged in, initially as an experiment, and later as an obsession.

Mutheu had her first sexual encounter at a tender age of 9 years. She said it started off as play with uncle prying on her innocence and graduated into sex slavery, where sweets and sanitary pads were exchanged for pedophile pleasure. Her numb face showed little or no emotion, as if narrating the story of another girl, not herself.

Mwangi was clueless on how to respond. Considering he wasn’t a trained teacher and teaching Sunday school was more of a voluntary passion than a skilled profession. The church hadn’t equipped him with any psycho-social first aid skills as a front-line worker. Is it any wonder the church and other religious groups weren’t considered essential services by the government, during COVID-19 instigated lock-down and curfews?

Photo grab from Kibera slums

He couldn’t immediately think of a quick fix to the presenting problem. As if in a flash, he saw Pastor’s wife (fondly referred to as Mrs. Pastor) walking past them and there stood his escape from the awkward trap. He called her out and guided Mutheu to speak to her about her situation.

Mrs. Pastor and Mutheu huddled at a corner on the church compound and could be seen conversing deeply. Their facial expressions and hand gestures captured moments of awe, shock, anger and rage.

It is the story of a teenage girl in Form 2, who had suffered repeated sexual exploitation by an uncle resulting in HIV infection and a pregnancy that would rather be terminated than carried to term.

Such was the ethical and moral dilemma. To carry or not to carry. Back at home, her mum was oblivious of the pregnancy story. Mrs. Pastor agreed to break the developing news to her. After the church service, they walked hand in hand to Mutheu’s family’s humble aboard. This was inside some narrow and stinky allies in an informal neighborhood where drunkards and other drug addicts openly staggered or idled, as early as 9 am on a Sunday morning.

The walk was full of hop, skip and jump episodes in evading wet and waste patches on the path. These informal settlements breed the highest number of children who end up as street urchins or children workers in construction sites and middle class homes. In her mind, Mutheu knew she staring at the prospect of dropping out of school, to nurse her baby and a bleak future thanks to the unforgiving 8-4-4 curriculum, which haunts those who don’t complete a cycle or two.

Reaching Mutheu’s home, they found her mum winnowing some cereal and sun drying some food relief-donated groundnuts. Her broad smile expressed delight in Mrs. Pastor’s visit. Mutheu’s younger brother was also in the house, but on seeing the visitor he scampered out as one being chased by ghosts. For some reason, he was extremely antisocial and the mother had accepted his behavior, and apologized to Mrs. Pastor, after he splashed some mud water on her shoes, as he elbowed his way out.

Settling down and after all the niceties, time had reached for the purpose of the visit to be tabled. Mutheu watched her mum’s face and possible emotional explosion with bated breath, knowing that expulsion from their single roomed house was the most likely response. Her mother toils among casual laborers in construction sites, selling groundnuts and KDF mandazi, to put them through school and afford a livelihood for the household of four, including their live-in uncle.

At first, there was awkward silence as Mrs. Pastor gathered her thoughts, to best frame the story.

As is the tactic with breaking sad news of death to a close relative, Mrs. Pastor started with a narrative of ‘another‘ family in crisis because of a truant child. She didn’t need to go deep into the scene-setting story before Mutheu’s mother cut the chase by asking, “Are you saying that my daughter is pregnant?”

It couldn’t have been more difficult to be a bearer of bad news. Mutheu’s mum choked as she looked straight at her. Her face tweaked in apparent internal agony and her eyes popped as one who had just watched a contortionist snap after an extreme backward bend, while performing.

Mutheu wished the ground would open up and swallow her alive, to save her from the wrath of her mocked mother. She cowered in fear and faced their earthen floor.

Her mum almost let out a scream, had it not been for Mrs. Pastor’s quick and tight embrace that capped her shock and pain. While in the embrace, her mind raced with thoughts of how many times she had warned Mutheu about boys and men, yet all this time the warning was never addressed to Mutheu’s uncle or brother, as potential perpetrators. In her mind, bad boys were always out there, and not in her house.

Her preventive approach explains how counter-pregnancy messages have perennially been disproportionately targeting girls and not boys or men. Was it her fault that Mutheu was sexually abused and impregnated under her roof? How do parents of such teenagers emerge from such life happenings?

Which is worse, HIV infection or pregnancy? Mutheu was assaulted by both swords.

A solid 20 minutes passed by as the two embraced, with feelings of shock, denial, anger, and bargaining forming word clouds in her mind. What was to be a two-hour visit, turned into a five-hour stay, as Mutheu’s mum needed intense talk therapy to normalize her feelings. She even forgot to serve tea to her visitor, showing how unprepared she was for such an eventuality.

Mutheu was her firstborn child, whom she raised with strict discipline and responsibility, yet all the honest efforts were apparently paying off with a possible school drop out, a teen mother and an irresponsible child predator who will widen the never-ending siblings’ strained relationships in their family.

Being a pillar of salt would have been better, than the laughing stock that Mutheu became among her peers. They called her names and cheekily whispered at her protruding tummy. Her mother drowned in shame as she began considering life adjustments to accommodate the unplanned grandchild.

No amount of encouraging words would soothe her, even her friend’s motivation that children are a blessing from God and each child comes with their own plate of food. Mutheu and her mother henceforth had a tense relationship. They became instant strangers to one another. While schools were re-opening post-COVID, such discussions never came up in their home.

Her mum wasn’t (consciously) angry with Mutheu’s pregnancy but (was sub consciously angry) with history repeating itself, given that she also got pregnant at her mother’s house and dropped out in Form 1. The script was the same, only the cast was different.

Humans are harshest to those who commit offenses that they themselves are guilty of. Same to the biblical David who had taken his foot-soldier’s wife, but was enraged that a figurative rich man had taken a poor man’s sheep, saying that the rich man should die and restore fourfold!

Before Mutheu’s family was a matter ripe for litigation in terms of child abuse, but Mutheu’s mum had little fighting energy left, considering the countless times she had been to the area chief solving conflict-related sibling wars in her family. Her friends and confidants were few and her mind drifted into apathy and depression.

A disillusioned Mutheu joins hundreds of thousands of teens who got pregnant in Kenya during the pandemic, while her mother is distraught by the shame and imploding socioeconomic burden of raising a grandchild.

Her uncle joins the fray of scot free boys and men who continue their treacherous acts, hiding behind the curtain of negative and irresponsible masculinity. Their family and community stare at hard-to-crack moral and ethical questions.

While Mrs. Pastor may have left after her initial visit and promised to keep in touch with Mutheu’s family for any support, the effects of sexual violence can be seen in a girl who is in her teens. Her relationship with the mother has been dented for the foreseeable future. Her sense of worth is nose-diving as she now finds solace at a local make-shift salon, in the company of other school dropouts and fellow teen mothers.

Ostensibly, she has been robbed of her childhood, education and future.

Beneath the statistics teenager pregnancies in Kenya, this is neither fiction nor another statistic, but a story with a human face. Resilience of the human spirit, families and communities in navigating through such crises, remains a mystery.

Views expressed in this article are my own. Every human interaction is an inspiring story worth telling.

Joseph N. Mungai is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Child with Multiple Disabilities

Sheldon was barely nine months old when he fell on his head from the hands of his nanny, resulting in a severe skull deformity that would forever shape his life.

He didn’t cry. Neither did the nanny panic or tell his mother of the accident. She must have been a nanny from hell, for she quickly resuscitated Sheldon and moved on with life as if nothing had ever happened.

In the evening, his mother, Jasmine came in from a busy day at work, and noticed some redness on Sheldon’s forehead. She asked about the injury, but the mischievous nanny dismissed it as a slight knock against furniture as Sheldon was attempting to stand on his own.

Just before his father, Misheck arrived that night, Sheldon slipped into unconsciousness. His mother was dazed and in alarm phoned her sister to ask if it’s normal for nine-month old infants to zone in and out of life.

While on that call, Misheck walked into a frenzy in the house. The nanny busied herself in the kitchen evading the possible question of whether Sheldon had been unconscious earlier in the day, because of the injury.

Quickly, the three adults and Sheldon jumped into a neighbor’s car and rushed to a nearby mission hospital, ran by Catholic Sisters. Fortunately, his pulse could be felt but CT scans showed severe brain damage. Doctor’s referred him to another medical facility for better imaging with MRI.

Detailed diagnostic images showed internal bleeding and bruised brain tissue, besides intracranial pressure emanating from accumulated fluids.

Misheck and Jasmine were first time parents. Sheldon was born a year after they started living together. Nothing in their youth or courtship had prepared for that night.

It was their dream that Sheldon who was named after Misheck’s grandfather would become an entrepreneur who will run the family business that spanned 25 years.

With such a serious head injury, his future looked bleak by all means. He suffered frequent muscle spasms, concussions, seizures and blood clots on his brain. He was in a semi-vegetative state. A lifetime confinement to total dependence on his caregivers.

The nanny from hell vanished from their lives, just like she came. That night as Jasmine and Misheck rushed Sheldon between hospitals, she disappeared and was never traced .

This marked the beginning of a long and torturous journey of nursing and raising a child with multiple disabilities.

Although he was successfully resuscitated back to life and further bleeding and brain damage curtailed, he had lost vital body functions including body coordination.

From that moment, Sheldon was paraplegic (meaning he was plagued with multiple disabilities that would impair his senses and functionality). For the next 14 years, Sheldon was mute and hard of hearing. His highly potent and vibrant self was trapped in a semi-vegetative body.

His survival was tied to his parents and all the caregivers that traversed their lives during his painful sojourn on this side of life.

Life oozed out of Sheldon on 14th February 2020.

In his lifetime he never spoke a word, neither did he walk or play with a toy like other children do. He made no friends, since he never went to school. His parents lived with hope that he would one day rise up and walk or call out daddy and mummy. That was never to be.

Such was their painful reality, let alone the prospects of his mother having to quit her job to give Sheldon all the attention he needed to thrive.

Surgical treatment was out of question, either because of the delicacy of the envisaged operation or the attendant costs that would be a luxury to young parents.

Sheldon was on medication since the day he fell to his final breathe. He was partially paralytic and suffered bouts of epilepsy. To contain these conditions, he was put on lifelong medication that was not only expensive but also highly addictive.

Misheck says that spending over Ksh.5,000 per week to provide medication and special diets for Sheldon drained their pockets. You can only count on well wishers during a hospital or home visit, not an entire 14 year stretch!

Life toughened Jasmine and Misheck. Scaling down from a one-bedroom house to a bed-sitter, then to a single room was all cost cutting measure that would never suffice.

Misheck’s productivity at his enterprise was impaired by stress that he suffered given the burden of raising a paralytic child. A week wouldn’t pass without Sheldon being rushed to hospital for a rescuscitative injection or defibrillation to revamp his collapsed lungs.

His burial was a very sad event.

On his death, a bystander might have thought, the huge physical and emotional burden had been taken off from the family. But, such is the hostile planet we live in.

Survival of the fittest was the Darwinian evolutionary theory. Sadly, the unfit had to give way. Sheldon won’t be remembered for a sterling performance in KCPE, but largely for the life he never lived or the many things that able bodied people enjoy without a blink in the eye.

Sheldon left a memory that Jasmine and Misheck will carry for a long time. He was their child, their first child. Did he go straight to heaven or will he wait in paradise for judgment over things he never experienced?

Such innocence. He may have been born a sinner, but we presume that Sheldon never did or thought evil. His father wasn’t as overwhelmed during the burial as one would have expected. He only said, “My child is dead, and I can’t bring him back again. I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

As his family and friends filled his graveyard with soil, the pastor summed up his funeral saying, “Sheldon has rested. It is God who gave and God has now taken him away, glory to his name.” He is now walking with Jesus and dancing with the angels.

The story is inspired by my friends, Anthony and Alice. You are the un-celebrated heroes who raised your son, Ritchie and painfully walked with him in life, till his death. Ritchie, safiri salama tutaonana baadaye. You make our complains in life meaningless and baseless.

Joseph Ngaara is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Divorced Pastor

Your goodness is running after me. Kibet played this song on the keyboard as Pastor Milton made an altar call after a ‘heavy‘ and ‘impactful‘ sermon. There was a turn up of more than 200 congregants coming forward to be laid hands on for various life issues that bedeviled them during the week. Pastor Milton was well revered in this church.

His long stripped suits, matching tie and pointed shoes created a transcendence aura around him.

He led a busy life, considering his pulpit ministry on Sundays, an Events management company, an Orphan children’s home that he ran on the side, besides his rental apartments splashed across Muchatha, Mwimuto and Gachie semi-rural towns, neighboring Ruaka.

Kibet and Pastor Milton had a ride or die relationship. It was Pastor Milton who embraced Kibet the first time he set foot in Nairobi. Owing to his poverty-ridden background, his parents couldn’t afford educating him past form 4. As had been custom with the elder siblings, Kibet was sent to try out his luck in Nairobi, living with his aunt in the city of many lights.

His aunt was more of a caretaker than a second parent. Kibet was left on his own and charted his own path, which led him to Pastor Milton’s God’s Healing Centre church, situated 200m from his aunt’s house in Ruaka.

With little to occupy his time, Kibet would be in church most days during the week to catch any activity that would need a hand or head. Having lots of time in his hands helped him learn how to play the keyboard and nurture his singing talent in the church. It didn’t take long, before Pastor Milton noticed Kibet’s growing interest and consistent availability.

Soon enough he was elected the youth chairman, a prestigious role. However, college going students in the church were his constant source of pain. Largely because of all the English they used to speak during midweek fellowship and gathering after the church service. Since he couldn’t keep up with their vibe, he was gently asked to step down, and pave way for their own to lead them.

Photo by George Webster on Pexels.com

That’s how he ended up in the Praise and Worship team where English fluency wasn’t a criteria, but one’s ability or effort to hit and sing the right notes. With a church hired choir teacher to boot, he stretched their vocals to the highest and built up an impressive band-cum-choir that raised the profile of the God’s Healing Centre church, to Pastor Milton’s delight. In no time, three years flew past and Kibet remained the incessant church mouse, always on the keyboard during the week and on Sundays.

Pastor Milton had not only raised him spiritually, but also empowered him economically by hooking him up with Elder Makori, a church leader, who was running a matatu business plying Githurai-Town route. Kibet started off as kamagera, then conductor, before graduating to a driver, and reaching the apex of Pastor’s righthand man and Fleet Manager for Elder Makori’s 10 public service vehicles. It was this trust with the Pastor and his inner circle that ushered Kibet into the world of business rivalry, church politics, compromise and interacting with the ‘human side’ of Men of God.

In those early years, as Kibet’s star rose, a section of the women’s group almost started an insurrection, asserting that Pastor Milton needed a wife, otherwise he lacked the authority to lead the church. A few men, attempted to tone down this pressure, quoting scriptures about Jesus and Paul being unmarried, but that narrative fell on deaf ears.

It wasn’t long before a potential brown-skin bride was introduced to Pastor Milton by the same women’s group and their wedding fast forwarded like a radio cassette tape! A little drama almost called off the wedding, had it not been for the brevity of one of the Pastor’s boys who forced entry into the bride’s parents’ home, snatching her through the backdoor, leaving a shattered window and drove her to the wedding venue like bull on steroids.

Bread and Butter Productions—Digital Vision/Getty Images

This bulldozing was all because, the bride’s parents had objected to the wedding and effectively stood in the way of Pastor Milton’s honor and dignity. The devout women’s group could have none of that nonsense! Such was the shaky and rocky launching on which their marriage took off. Fast forward and 16 years later, their marriage imploded from accusations of the wife’s violence towards the Pastor, her disruptive behavior in church, conspiring with some elders to tarnish his reputation, selling house items with no consultation, and a host of other intentions that were read in the divorce court.

The wife didn’t take the accusations lying low. She countered with her own narrative that the Pastor was cheating with a youth member and neglecting his responsibilities in the home. The gush of accusations wasn’t like a sudden forceful burst of the water pipe, rather a perpetual leakage that persisted through their 16 years of marriage. It was a slow death of love.

What had been a tangle between the Pastor and his lawfully wedded wife, spilled over into the church and wrangles took all forms and shapes. If it wasn’t the church procurement committee fighting over conflict of interest in an IT equipment tender, it was the women fighting to control their investment in a guest house listed on Airbnb or the youth arguing over whether to go hiking at Elephant hills or bowling at Village market.

They were busy sweating the small stuff over things that won’t matter when the roll is called up yonder. The seed of discord was generously sowed, splitting the congregation in the middle.

Unfortunately, Elder Makori and his wife led the brigade that disparaged the Pastor. In a huff, they took off with half of the congregation to plant Jesus’ Healing Centre church. Kibet pledged allegiance to the Pastor, since he had mentored him in many ways, and as a result lost his Fleet Manager’s job in Elder Makori’s matatu business.

What followed was an acrimonious divorce process between Pastor Milton and his wife. For Kibet, interfacing with the ‘human side’ of Men of God got him used to walking on eggshells. Pastor Milton had been Kibet’s god-father, having connected him with a source of livelihood, presided over his wedding wedding, counseled him on countless life matters and filled the father-gap that kept yawning in his adult life. For this and many other reasons, he chose to be the friend who loves at all times and a brother to the Pastor, in his time of adversity.

Two years later, the divorce was concluded. The law separated what God had put together. Pastor lost custody of his two teenage children and a huge chunk of his properties were attached as alimony. His divorce was a horrible personal loss. He described the experience to Kibet as feeding on saw dust everyday and drowning it with car battery water. A horrendous tear, too deep to be repaired.

Not only did it strip him of his family, children and property but also his honor and dignity as a human being. More so, considering that in divorce/family court the litigants aren’t listed by their names, rather by their initials. This effort protects their privacy, but at the cost of identity loss, as he was to referred as ‘M’ and not Pastor Milton, in the cause list!

During this time, he had received lots of backlash from his diehard congregants and his parting ways with Elder Makori left him bleeding emotionally. Enough stones were thrown at him without restraint, as he got castigated for his inability to hold his family together.

The remaining church elders were torn between relieving him of his pastoral duties and handing over the reigns to Kibet.

By this time, he had groomed Kibet to not only lead the worship team but also coordinate Sunday school activities where English fluency wasn’t a criteria either. By all means Kibet looked the part, in terms of stepping up to leadership, but the timing wasn’t ripe. What the church elders didn’t know at the time, is that Kibet’s marriage was also on the rocks.

He had barely survived a recent episode of marital unfaithfulness and a child was born outside his marriage. This remained a tightly held confession-cum-secret between Kibet and the Pastor. Kibet’s wife wasn’t aware until she consistently observed a two-year old girl walk up to him as he sat down after playing the keyboard. She curled herself comfortably on his lap.

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This kid would walk between her mother (whom he had cheated with) and Kibet during the church service. Such innocence was so clueless of the danger she was exposing their love-cheat affair. To his woe, Kibet had never brought up the affair issue with his wife, but kept it under wraps waiting for Christ’s return.

It wasn’t until his wife became too curious with the comfort this kid was finding on his lap that the lid was lifted. Kibet kept deferring the disclosure moment, but there’s a time-limit to how long one can hold an inflated balloon under water.

Kibet never satisfied his wife’s curiosity on this mysterious child. She kept threatening to take matters in her own hands and confront the child’s mother.

What Kibet didn’t know was his no-holds-barred wife planned to confront the woman in church!

So, on this Sunday after the worship team peeled off from the pulpit and Kibet took his usual seat. The devil was serving himself a buffet meal, as the child of God walked up to him with excitement and positioned herself on his lap.

That was all the cue that Kibet’s wife needed to charge forward, shouting at the mother’s kid, ‘Take your bastard child off my husband!’ The child’s mother was equally a straight forward woman who shot from the hip. She didn’t take the insult lying low like an antelope. She ranted back, ‘Ask your husband who’s child he is holding!’

All hell broke loose as the stupefied congregation watched a shouting match between Kibet’s wife and his fling, which degenerated into a cat fight, and an unmanageable chaotic scene that the newly divorced Pastor couldn’t contain.

Kibet slumped on his chair like a sedated hippo, wishing the earth would open up and swallow him (and the kid) alive! Just how does one live through such a moment! His cat was out of the bag and there was nowhere to hide.

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There was no sermon that day. The church service ended. Broadcast (and Social) media people showed up and Pastor addressed them with a half torn shirt, blaming the events on the double minded adherents of the splinter church group who had stayed behind to scatter the remaining congregants.

Pastor Milton was viciously being fought at this time, and this event added fodder to his arch-rivals. It did not matter, that Kibet his potential replacement was also on the verge of losing his marriage. Both shepherds had been struck and the sheep was scattering fast!

Two years on and the absurdity faded off. Kibet’s wife’s anger and bitterness was partially healed. She clutched at the straws of what remained of their marriage, but gave up on church. They worked out an arrangement that Kibet would support the illegitimate child but not have contact or relationship with the kid’s mother.

Such is the foolishness when desire is conceived, sin is birthed and becomes fully grown, resulting in death. Emotional, relational and spiritual death.

As a result of all the drama, God’s Healing Centre church congregation dwindled from their regular attendance of 2,000 to 200 members. Such was the resilience of those who believed in Pastor Milton’s vision and calling. Another church congregation was hived off after Kibet’s wife’s dramatic incidence, named Holy Spirit’s Healing Centre.

A year after the divorce case, Kibet bumped into the church compound unannounced and found a Landcruiser V8 parked near Pastor Milton’s office, next to his Toyota Fielder.

He walked straight into Pastor’s office where he found a middle aged woman, manicured to the teeth and spotting Brazilian hair, chatting with the Pastor. She was dazzling, as one who had just stepped out of a magazine photo shoot! Pastor introduced her as his fiancée and the look on Kibet’s eyes betrayed him. Cupid’s arrow had struck again and there was on turning back.

The following week, Pastor Milton made his marriage intentions known to Ruaka for Jesus Pastors’ Forum, an interdenominational monthly gathering of pastors in the peri-urban town of Ruaka, where he was a founding member. His divorce case had never been an agenda item, but was mostly discussed in hushed tones among the attending pastors.

To avert a potential backlash and fallout in the pastors’ fellowship, Pastor Milton had briefed the forum’s chair and begged for his wisdom in moderating his presentation of the bride to the fellowship. The two mooted what they thought was a water-tight plan, on how to manage expectations and counter the noise-making and divisive pastors during that discussion. Eventually, they hoped to rally their support for Pastor Milton’s remarriage.

The announcement was made on a Tuesday afternoon meeting and members asked not to deliberate further, but pray for Pastor Milton and his new bride. She was imposingly present at that meeting. Members felt muzzled and weren’t convinced that the right doctrine was being upheld in that matter.

During tea break they counter argued quietly among themselves, each quoting and holding a verse from a physical bible s/he was holding, as mobile bible apps were frowned at among them.

Most were referencing Paul’s admonition to Timothy his protégé about an overseer, elder and pastor being a husband to one wife and should be above reproach. There was consensus among the whispers with societal expectations and ecclesiastical standards, that a divorced pastor should be excluded from the gospel ministry.

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Some pastors threatened to sign out forever from the forum, while others appealed to Pastor Milton to pray back, forgive and be reunited with his first love. Hilarious comparisons were made with Kenya’s 2007/8 post election violence and how Kenyans forgave one another and moved on.

The younger and more suave pastors opined that if an elder pastor couldn’t reconcile with his family then what kind of example was he setting for them and their congregations. Clearly the pastors were living in a glass church by drawing mental blood against their kind.

The forum’s chair and its leadership suffered collateral damage for presumably propagating unbiblical teachings and practices on divorce and re-marriage.

The pastors’ forum meeting ended in confusion. Three weeks later, Pastor Milton privately wedded the second love of his life. She was a fairly wealthy widow. It was an invites-only wedding that was heavily guarded. Once bitten twice shy.

Pastor Milton uploaded on Facebook their wedding and honeymoon photos for all to see. He was bold, courageous and controversial, all the survival facets needed to run God’s Healing Centre church, whose congregation had dwindled the third and probably last time.

His church billboard photo was quickly replaced to include the new bride. Divorce and remarriage are a form of personal rebranding, and Pastor fronted himself as the Goodwill Ambassador for these uncelebrated marriage survivors.

He actively championed their cause both on broadcast and social media. On his gospel radio program he called out the widows, widowers and divorcees to come out and claim their stake in the kingdom of God.

All this passion ignited ridicule and unsolicited cyberbullying from within and without the church. As if disregarding Kenny Rogers Coward of the county lyrics, ‘son you don’t have to fight to be a man‘, Pastor Milton viciously fought back those who trashed his beliefs and teachings on second chances in marriage.

One can only fight for so long. Pastor Milton had exhausted his days in battle. He was fast becoming a spent force. Two years into his second marriage, he experienced an emotional toll, mounting from his new family, struggling church and naysayers who were hell bent on seeing his downfall. He was bedridden in a community hospital for a month and suicidal inclinations could be spotted from his erratic Facebook postings.

Photo credit: Honeymoon goals

In a couple of recent updates, he deleted his honeymoon and wedding anniversary photos and scaled down to Trump-like shadow boxing tweets.

But even when heavily wounded and held by the throat to the ground, sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man! Pastor Milton like the rest of the judgmental folk, continues to reap the painful consequences of his choices, but there’s no doubt that God’s goodness is still running after him.

This is a true story. Names and details have been changed to protect family privacy. Views expressed on this article are my own

Joseph N. Mungai is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Bereaved on Christmas

Facebook link Published on January 12, 2020

Gone too soon…

Every detail for the Christmas party had been planned out and swiftly executed to the teeth. Christmas lights, goats for slaughter, food, tent and chairs were all in motion for the annual cousins gathering.

Sarah was entertaining a few guests from upcountry when the dreaded call came through. Being an early riser, she was just finishing up her laundry and mentally preparing to relax through the day, which never happened. This was two days to Christmas Day. After hanging her laundry on the clothe-line, she got back into the house, served breakfast and waited for her husband to join her at the dining table.

Lo and behold, her husband Mike had left the house twenty minutes earlier. He was awakened by their recently married son-in-law, Timothy who was crying on phone as he was rushing his wife (their daughter), Milly to hospital. She was unconscious. It was the unconscious statement that roused him from slumber. Without hesitation, he rushed to the gate and jumped onto a boda boda not too far from his house, with instructions ‘twende hospitali, kama umeme‘.

That neighborhood had only one hospital, a private hospital as the county government was yet to complete a white elephant hospital block project, left by the previous administration. With lightning speed, Mike arrived to a screeching halt at the hospital’s Emergency and Accidents car park section. His heart pounding faster than his mind and hand could coordinate to pull out the Ksh.100 he was being charged for the bike ride.

His first sight was a doctor in a white lab coat leaning inside the backseat of Timothy’s newly bought SUV car.

Why did she have to go that way

He needed no explanation as to what was happening. His high IQ quickly pieced together the puzzle. His his mind flashed back, seeing Milly’s beautiful smile at her wedding day, a few months earlier. Timothy was pacing back and forth behind the bulky doctor who was examining and resuscitating his wife. His hands held high on his head, as he fought back raging emotions of distress, guilt and extreme vulnerability.

Mike hugged Timothy tightly as he mumbled, ‘it is well‘; to which Timothy replied with teary eyes, ‘it is not well! In that moment, the doctor turned to them and said, ‘we tried our best but can’t find any signs of life in the patient.

It was an awkward moment for the doctor.

He was the one to break the sad news of death, a training that was never given in medical school. Was he to say, ‘she is dead‘ or ‘passed away‘. It was an equally stressful experience for him.

The car park area was not the perfect place for informing family about death of a loved one. A comfortably furnished space would be most ideal for such discussion. A Senior Clinician was needed to break such news and facilitate the onset of grief reaction.

All odds were against this trio (Mike, Timothy and the doctor). But such is life, it never prepares anyone 100% for fate. Both Mike and Timothy were anxious as to what the doctor meant by not finding signs of life in Milly, but neither was bold enough to ask if she was gone.

Either way, truth needed to be told gently to this family. The doctor’s mind and heart weren’t coordinating on a strategy. He braved the moment and asked who Mike was. On confirming he was the father of Milly, he held both their hands tightly, looked in Mike’s eyes with deep intent and said, ‘I’m sorry sir, your daughter is no more!‘ Timothy was first to react. He was in utter shock and his youthful age did not let him hold back a loud shriek, followed by an emotional outburst.

Timothy’s world was completely shattered.

On the contrary, Mike wailed in silence and looked away with a blank stare. His phone rang at that point, his wife Sarah was calling. By this time, a small crowd had gathered around the trio, trying to figure out had caused the outburst. Mike picked Sarah’s call, requested to call her back. Before he hang up, Sarah asked where he was as breakfast was getting cold? She heard his quiet sobs on the other end of her phone, to which she asked if he had a cold and whether he had a handkerchief in his pockets. Men don’t cry, they sob.

Pain and sorrow that won’t go away

Noise and commotion on the background caught Sarah’s attention and she asked all manner of questions to try and figure out what was happening.

Mike and Sarah had been married for more than two decades and he was sure his wife could take bits of the sad news over the phone. Telling her he was at the hospital attending to their ailing daughter didn’t let him off the hook, not yet. Her barrage of questions, Is Milly responding well? can I talk to her? were such a bombardment against Mike’s initial shock reaction. Inside, he was fighting against vulnerability and breaking down.

As the phone conversation was becoming a monologue of unanswered questions, she dared ask if her daughter was alive. Mike went mute, as he was still in denial. The doctor was still holding his hand throughout this phone conversation. He asked Mike if he could speak to whoever was on the phone, to which Mike gladly handed the phone to him. The doctor introduced himself and asked Sarah who she was to the patient. He asked Sarah if she could come to the hospital as her daughter’s condition was very critical.

Simply put, it was a chaotic morning two days to Christmas. Phone calls started flying across relatives, friends, neighborhood, church members and work colleagues. This wasn’t Christmas cheer and banter, but the sad news of Milly’s death. Questions multiplied with each phone call, as to how untimely and unfair her death was.

Milly was at her prime in life.

She had just been married to a doting husband at a colorful church wedding. She left behind a distraught man and a suckling infant. Poor little one, she’s much worse than baby Jesus, who’s only misfortune was being born in a manger, with no crib for a bed and sleeping on hay.

If Milly had been sick or sickly for sometime, the shock would have been less intense. But sudden death whether by road accident, suicide, acts of terrorism or natural disasters don’t sufficiently prepare bereaved families for such loss. Life is fleeting and Milly got her share of slightly over two and a half decades with mere mortals. She now rests with the angels, as they say but a gaping hole is left in her immediate family.

At her funeral, tears freely flowed among the mourners, from the mortuary as her lifeless body was viewed to the burial site where the wreath is still fresh, beaming with morning dew. Her vibrant memories filled the tributes given. Everyone was full of praise for the sweet soul she was. Milly was full of life and there was never a dull moment in her world. Her bereaved husband now rendered a widower and their infant, left without a mother.

Milly’s father and father-in-law, were in utter somberness. Parents shouldn’t bury their children, it should be the other way round. Her mother had been overtaken by emotions since the phone conversation with the doctor. Her mind remains stuck on her beautiful daughter who she nurtured into a glowing wife and mother. Her brothers and sisters were overcome with intense sorrow. They cried out their lungs the week of mourning and at the funeral.

Comfort ye, comfort ye, the broken hearted

During this Christmas, her bereaved family faced the daunting task of filling a God-shaped hole left by Milly. Just how could they celebrate in a house of mourning? They were unrestrained. They expressed grief and continue to cry.

On Christmas we celebrate life and family, but not when death strikes.

Perchance, the author of the Christmas song Away in a manger’, wasn’t celebrating but grieving when he penned the lyrics; Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay; Close by me forever; And love me, I pray; Bless all the dear children; In Thy tender care; And take us to Heaven; To live with Thee there

The story is my own reconstruction of the sudden death of a cousin. RIP Mercy. God took you from us, because you are His best. You are in a better place. Where you have gone, death has no sting and the grave has lost its victory? Till we meet again, at Jesus’s feet. Safiri salama

Joseph Ngaara is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of Blended Families

Not your Traditional Family

To remarry or not? Is it a blessing or curse? Separation, divorce or being widowed are deeply traumatic life experiences. However, does remarriage and the resultant step-family provide solace and companionship?

Step-family, blended family, combined family, or whatever one chooses to call it, is WORK! At face value, remarriage may be a fantasy, but the realities of being in a step-family life are a world apart.

Maina lost his wife of 33 years, Nyambura to what the doctors said was senile dementia. That was 12 years ago. With her death, the numerous hospital visits ended abruptly. Supporting a terminally ill patient subjected his family to immense emotional and financial strain.

Maina’s firstborn daughter, Wangari was attending her fifth counseling session to help improve her sense of well‐being, alleviate distress and resolve internal crises, resulting from her dad’s remarriage.

She describes a painful memory of when her mum’s health deteriorated making her hostile to caregivers, unresponsive and uncooperative to all forms of therapy. Prolonged sickness has a way of defying logic. Wangari chokes with emotion as her mind is fixated on an image only she can see and describe.

Tears freely flowed at Nyambura’s funeral, especially considering her feat of raising eight children (two daughters and six sons) and being married to a clergyman, for 33 years. Such a huge contrast to the y-generation who splash social media with celebrations of bearing two children and reaching five years in marriage.

Three years after her demise, life circumstances pushed the bereaved and lonely Maina to break his promise of not remarrying. With the baggage of his first marriage and eight children, getting married again was a tricky balance and decision. Which woman would take over his eight children? Rather, would his eight children easily accept a replacement of their mother, even if she came with angelic appearance, voice or mannerisms?

Whispers of Step-mum

Strange and awkward, but a Prophetess named Temi, from Zimbambwe or God knows where, popped into life as a matchmaker between Wangari’s step-mum and dad. Temi was a close friend and prayer partner to their soon-to-be step-mum, Nkirote. She claimed spiritual authority and told of lofty things than none could fathom. As soon as the marriage talks began, Prophetess Temi swiftly vanished like fleeting wind, having dutifully executed her cupid role.

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Nkirote is light-skinned, has a broad face and nose, a replica of their mum in some sense. What stands out is her long and dark natural hair.

She hadn’t been married before but has a son born in the experimenting teenage years. More to it, she was aloof most times and spoke few words. While Wangari and her siblings were from the Kikuyu tribe, Nkirote came from the farming communities of Meru, on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.

With this sneaky entry into the family, the eight of children could only talk in whispers when at home, when on the road, when going to bed and when waking up. One family meeting Wangari freshly narrates about, is when their dad invited their grandpa and a mix aunties, uncles and cousins to socialize the idea of his remarriage.

Every speaker at the meeting lauded the decision to remarry, except Maina’s children who spoke in agreement, not to appear different. It was clear in that hushed meeting, that the remarriage was a gain for two adults but a loss for the children.

Wangari vividly recalls her departed grandpa (God rest his soul) was first to speak on that awkward afternoon of August 2010. He informed them that their dad had broached the idea or remarriage with him. What they will never know is the kind of counsel and guidance he gave him, especially with their grandpa himself staying away from remarriage two decades after his wife passed away!

Catholic priests too, officiate weddings yet they’ve never experienced one. Did the remarriage necessitate counselling for Maina’s children? May be yes, may be no. Looking back, Wangari’s palpable emotions reveal her real struggles in coping with her dad’s remarriage.

With Maina and Nkirote being over 55 years old, their marriage was bound for a bumpy ride. Nkirote brought with her a 40 year old son, who was older than Wangari. At the time of their wedding, Maina’s last born child was 20 years old while seven of his other children were married or had children. Nkirote joined a family with adult children.

Nine Odd Years

It’s been nine years since Maina and Nkirote said ‘I do’. Three amazing things are a cause of distress to Wangari. First, their dad found a companion in his old age, a blessing with a double edge. Before Nkirote checked in, Maina had been battling mild bouts of diabetes and hypertension. Both conditions were incognito when Nyambura was alive.

In Wangari’s maladaptive thinking, she sees Nyambura’s death or Nkirote’s entry as the pressure that pealed off the last covering on his soft underbelly, and exposed her dad to the vagaries of disease.

In strange ways, this new companionship become a wedge between Maina and his biological children. At various times, their dad would be caught up between his children and Nkirote. Unfortunately, their step-mum mostly bore the brunt of their dad’s rant. Blood is thicker than water, they say!

At the time of their union, three of Wangari’s married siblings and their families were living at their dad’s rented premises, next to his house. In a span of three years, each sibling had left the premises in a huff, with their own rendition of who kicked them out and why. A hen kicks out her babies out of the nest in the same fashion. With this pacesetter, Nkirote marked her territory as a suitable companion to their dad, but an unwelcome intruder to the his biological children.

Secondly, Wangari’s mind is stuck on some odd similarities between their mum and step-mum. Either, both mums were cut from the same rock or being married to the same man results in similar outcomes. Their dad and both mums disagreed on anything and everything. Although with no shouting matches, there would be sustained periods of awkwardness where their mum (standing) would say one thing and their dad (seated) would vehemently counter it.

Both mums didn’t have many friends. While their mum belonged to the witty and genius clout, her friends were drawn from the mentally disturbed community. On the other hand, their step-mum’s friends were a faceless category of prayer partners and intercessors. Wangari says they are faceless because their step-mum has never brought even one home!

Nkirote and her friends are fanatic followers of the American Evangelist, Dr. Morris Cerullo. She is a deeply spiritual woman who applauds anything spiritual and castigates anything she deems carnal.

Thirdly, blended families don’t just cook a step-family. Wangari says that most people think the way to “cook” a step-family is with a blender (“blended family”), microwave or pressure cooker. True or not?

All of these “cooking styles” attempt to combine the family ingredients in a rapid fashion. Unfortunately, resentment, distress and frustration have been the only results. She says that her dad counts nearly all his fingers and toes, on the number of times their step-mum has walked out on him, in the last nine years.

A pressure cooker mentality was perhaps how this step-family was forced into being. Or was it the blender mentality that assumed that all the nine children and their consenting parents will love each other to the same degree. This set up the step-family to some subtle chaos and conflict, that resulted in some children being creamed and watching things like bystanders, from a safe distance.

It is said average step-family takes 5-7 years to combine; some like Wangari’s seem to take longer. Wangari can tell story from the windward side of receiving a step-mum, since their interactions with their step-brother is minimal and extremely mundane.

Love and Remarriage

In their remarriage, Maina and Nkirote brought with them personal, cultural and relational baggages from the past. These continue to shape and haunt their marriage. Having adult children who people think are “low maintenance”, deepens this complication.

Susan Kelley, in her Married with Children theme song wrote, ‘Love and marriage may go together like a horse and carriage, but love and remarriage aren’t as neatly complementary. The carriage may be so crowded that the horse has trouble pulling it.’

Maina and Nkirote are but a unit in the universe of step-families. Listening to Wangari reminds that Jesus too was raised by a step-father. But the question that cultures and generations will need to un-mute is whether, remarriage is a blessing or a curse?

Views expressed in this article are my own

Joseph Ngaara is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Jailed Abroad

gettyimages-handcuffs

On Friday, July 26, 2019 the Daily Nation carried a story dubbed ‘China hands Kenyan life sentence for drug trafficking’.

This was the sad tale of Simon Wambua Mbuvi’s arrest and conviction for drug smuggling. Simon joined 30 other Kenyans languishing in Chinese jail for various crimes, after a Chinese Court of Guangzhou found him guilty of trafficking 947.03 grammes of cocaine, concealed inside his stomach. Such is the sophisticated drug smuggling underworld, as modes of shipment, routes and markets continue to diversify.

Mbuvi, as fondly known in his neighborhood, was everything else but a drug trafficker. He was a seasoned entrepreneur in providing catering services. His friends knew him as an early bird on Sundays, in his local church, as he regularly occupied one of the front row seats. To all his clients who caught up with the story, it must have been a great shocker! Quite an absurdity to receive news that Mbuvi had been locked up for life in China, after he went missing for more than six months!

Was it blackmail by a scammer or a leap in the dark that motivated the 44-year-old man to swallow 79 capsules, for the prize of $2,050? The Daily Nation article says, it is either greed or naivety. But, such gullibility of a middle aged man points to a deeper challenge with economic or geopolitical undertones. Assuming it is Economic, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Especially providing for your family in harsh economic times. Mbuvi was a razor-sharp businessman. But, with dwindling business opportunities, desperation may have driven him to wade into unfamiliar waters, though drug trafficking was a stretch gone too far.

Geopolitical reasons are a no-brainer, considering the two countries mentioned in the newspaper title, ‘China jails Kenyan’. Kenya is probably a late entrant into the Chinese bandwagon (The Belt and Road Initiative) that spearheaded infrastructural development and investments across the globe. Immediately, Kenya faced East during President Kibaki’s era, the floodgates opened up not only to the Chinese market, but to their language, culture and all the trappings that come with neo-colonization. Beautiful and previously unimaginable infrastructural projects (i.e. major highways, residential and commercial units) have been undertaken in Kenya. All these under bilateral trade agreements that started Kenya’s borrowing spree, pushing its debt beyond 60% of the GDP, and consequently ballooning its public debt.

Kenyans have had to bear with the influx of Chinese machinery and products, laced with their culture and language. With English and Kiswahili as the official languages, and sign language closely following, who knows how close Chinese language is inching towards the blue badge! China’s business branding and brutality crossed the red tape in 2019, when some Chinese businessmen were deported in the emerging fierce trade wars with small traders at Gikomba market, the largest second hand clothes market in East Africa. Only the birds will tell if the creeping social problem of gambling in Kenya is an import from the renowned gambling city of Macau. Kenya’s recent banning and burning of the gambling outfits, point at Kenya clawing back on China’s grasp on its citizens. But, far too many people have been thrown under the bus, in accelerating development and transforming Kenya into a middle-income country by 2030.

Hellish nightmares of Kenyans stranded, either in China or with Chinese bosses in Kenya, leave an egg on the face of the crafters of Vision 2030. It brings to mind the biblical story of Israelites asking for a King, which angered the Prophet. In his outburst, Samuel warned that the King would reign over them and claim certain rights. The King would take over their sons and daughters (as his servants, soldiers, perfumers or cooks), their fields and vineyards and impose taxes on their grains and flocks. Once these take effect, Samuel prophesied that they will cry out for relief from the king they had chosen, but God wouldn’t answer. Such predicament reverberates a throwback statement that choices have consequences, made after Kenya’s 2013 elections, when US cautioned Kenya over its choice of the dynamic duo, H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy, H.E. William Ruto.

As hushed conversations continue, who knows or cares how Mbuvi’s immediate family received the news of his incarceration? With their predicament, is life imprisonment the ideal punishment (if there’s such a word), for being caught with substance that is extremely harmful to society. Is such internment, productive or counter-productive? Prisons are set up for correction and rehabilitation of inmates. However, anecdotes from TV series like Prison Diaries™ and Banged Up Abroad™, and books like A Prison Diary (Jeffrey Archer, 2002) show no value-add to those serving jail term.

afghanistan-female_prison_kabul-paula_bronstein-getty

Forcibly confining and denying inmates a variety of freedoms is placing them on the throes of hell and purgatory. Ex-convicts from Communist States narrate terrifying stories of being subjected to iron chains, solitary confinement, all manner of deprivation, and bizarre measures that Narcissists use to test the resilience of man. In 2010, Robert Rother an overly ambitious German was imprisoned for eight years in a Chinese prison, for financial fraud. He deeply regrets his love-cum-business affair with Zheng Li, a lawyer from an affluent Shanghai family. Danny Cancian from New Zealand, in what was supposed to be a business trip in 2009 instead became a four-year stint in a Chinese jail after a restaurant fistfight that took a lethal turn. After Danny’s release, his wife Amanda tells how she disposed off their estate to buy back his freedom!

Not all prisons experiences have been lethal. For example Richard Wurmbrand, a Jewish missionary in Romania was jailed for 14 years. His book ‘Sermons in Solitary Confinement (1969)’, tells horrible tales in the hands of Communist Romania, where he spent three years alone in a cell thirty feet below ground, never seeing any natural light or another man, except for the guards who beat and tortured him. Similarly, Viktor E. Frankl suffered the wrath of holocaust, under the Nazis in Germany and wrote Man’s Search for Meaning (1946). However, both Richard and Victor chose to find meaning in their sufferings and moved forward with renewed hope. But not all people are cut from the same rock!

Mbuvi’s family wasn’t a target in the illicit drug trade, but his incarceration will forever haunt them. Possibly, their standard of living and social status will plummet, as they adjust to the sudden fate of having a husband, father and brother serving jail term in a foreign land. As Mbuvi cools his heels in a Guandong prison (or Dongguan where most foreigners are imprisoned), he is gazing at the prospects of being a modern day slave-machine to a prison factory, being brain-fried by the controversial electric shocks applied by guards to inmates in the spirit of torture and forced labour. All the while, the assembling model cars, luggage locks, earphones for airlines, inductors or whatever labour is outsourced to Chinese prison industries. Could it be that prisons are a multibillion-dollar industry, all about work and nothing rehabilitation?

As he was stripped his passport and it is handed back to Kenyan authorities, his birth name will be replaced by an inmate number and a Chinese name. So you wonder, ‘what is in a name’? Unless he succeeds in convincing the prison guards that he has a verifiable chronic medical condition, he will be sharing an overcrowded cellblock, stung with the stench of sweating men and the odors from toilet holes. Such brutality does not account for the fact that Mbuvi was a fist-time traveller to the Communist China. Feeding on rice with boiled vegetables, plus chicken feet or head if lucky, will be strange diet considering his staple meal in Kenya may have been Ugali with Sukumawiki.

Kenyan and Chinese flags. Vector illustration.

With no treaty between Kenya and China to exchange prisoners, Mbuvi’s fate hangs in the balance of Kenya’s bilateral relationship with China. In his experience, Robert Rother tells that Embassy relations between two countries are what matters to a prisoner’s life in China. In a media interview upon his release in 2018, he said that Africans and Vietnamese are low down in the hierarchy as the Chinese, in getting humane treatment in prison, if at all there is some form of ranking prison treatment.

Dreams are valid, but not when our adventures turn into hellish nightmares in foreign soil. This is considering the fate of tens of Kenyans who pursued the Chinese Dream, but are now wasting away in jail. Mbuvi is but a miniscule of individuals whose economic turns and gambles took a twist that will forever change their outlook and those closely related to him. Robert was lucky to complete jail term and upon release was young enough, at 36 years to start a new lease of life, though he paid dearly for his life lesson. For Mbuvi at 44 years, his curve ball has just been tossed in the air and only time will tell how things turn out. If lessons from ex-convicts like Robert and Danny reach him, he might apply good behavior and hard work as a way of reducing his prison sentence and perchance earn himself an early release. Otherwise, he might be staring at suicide, STIs or respiratory tract infections, the main killers in jail.

All said and done, individuals must take responsibility for their own lives, but governments can cushion their citizens against such tragic maladies. We all don’t have to eat shit to know what it tastes like, using Robert’s words. Or like Danny, who upon release and deportation was slapped with a five-year ban from visiting China, but responded, this time not with a fistfight, but with harshness, “You might as well make it 500 years, because I am never setting foot back in China again.”

Views expressed in this article are my own

Joseph N. Mungai is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Terminally Ill

terminally ill
 
Facebook link and LinkedIn link, published on February 1, 2017
 
Being sick in Kenya at this time, may be the worst thing that can happen to anyone, considering the doctors’ strike will clock 2 full months in a few days. It must be more torturous than being run over by the soon-to-be-launched SGR train or mugged by some mean-looking street urchins at a lonely alley in the night. Being aged and sick is double jeopardy. Mzee Ngamau (fondly referred to as guka) was glued to the TV set and oblivious of my entry into the living room.
 
It was his favorite program (7pm News bulletin), a daily ritual that he closely observed. His eyes were tightly riveted to the flat screen as he absorbed the News of the day from the News anchor-cum-fashion model, who was groomed to the teeth! For 15 minutes, we sat in pin drop silence as guka followed through the political fiefdom of the day in the first segment of prime time News. I had stopped by on my way home from work to check on him considering his latest fluctuating health condition.
 
Only when the News went into a commercial break did he turn around to see who had joined him in the living room. His trembling handshake was not like his former self when it was warm, stable and reassuring. Owing to his advancing years, he was braving diabetes, early prognosis of prostate cancer, besides the recent bouts of what Medical Interns and Clinical Officers thought was arthritis. His multiple health condition meant that he would be in joyful self-briefly, then slide into periods of intense and stinging pain.
 
We caught up quickly before the TV commercials wrapped up with him asking how my day was at work. Before I could finish the narrative of how busy I had been and how moody my boss was, he quickly interrupted with snippets of his 33 years of productive working life where he spent all his youthful energy operating and maintaining Sheet metal cutting and molding machines for his Asian employer. Talking of which, in the years gone yonder he rarely had time for family or any social activities. His ethos being, hard work pays.
 
When his slave-driver employer realized that his productivity (and usefulness) was declining, he proposed a severance package similar to the golden handshake in the 90’s in Kenya that was advanced to civil servants in an attempt to curb a bloating wage bill. With Ksh.159,273 deposited into his bank account and a farewell party to boot, Mzee Ngamau felt generously rewarded and well braced to face the future outside formal employment. At the time of his early retirement, he had no businesses running or forthcoming ideas on how he could invest such a lump sum amount. His wife had been living upcountry all these years as he rented a bed sitter in the city of many lights.
 
Research show that less than 5% of recipients of severance packages are able to wisely invest the funds or establish sustainable means of livelihood post-employment. Mzee Ngamau fell into the majority category who miserably failed in their startup entrepreneurial endeavors, constantly battling with nostalgia while resiliently wading off recurrent age and lifestyle illnesses. His equally hardworking wife had walked out on him at least thrice, during his retirement phase but returned due to his failing health and intervention by her in-laws.
 
He was a sucker, even to his own children.
 
Although I had visited him to catch up on his state of health, it turned out to be a storytelling session mostly about his rendezvous and the years gone by that will never reverse. The 7pm News resumed and I knew it would be another 15 minutes of watching him getting emotionally agitated over things that he had no business with, including corruption scandals in government procurement processes, early campaigns for the upcoming general elections and the live interviews for the big question section of the News.
 
We had been served tea which I sipped hurriedly and left for my house, wondering whether it would have more judicious to have called him while at the comfort of my house for that conversation. Before leaving, I spoke with cucu and we agreed to take him back to hospital the following day for further check-ups and guidance on his condition of urinary retention. Early the following morning, we faced the regular challenge of talking him to go to hospital. It was a rather long persuasive conversation that lasted 2 hours.
 
We only succeeded after the intervention of Nyumba kumi area chairman.
Halfway to the hospital, he mentioned that he forgot to carry his medical card and knowing there was no way he could be attended to at the hospital without it, we raced back to the house. On reaching home, he said he was feeling fatigued and needed to rest before embarking on the trip back to the hospital. Our doctor had forewarned us that aged people express anxiety in unique ways. Handling his childlike tendencies required the heavenly gift of patience mixed with iced tea.
 
By the time we reached the hospital, the only consultant doctor on call (having been hired by the County government owing to the prevailing doctors’ strike) had left for the next hospital. Guka was happy to propose that we head back home and return the following day. At the mention of that thought I was burning in fury at the wastage of time and money in dragging the old man to hospital and his not appreciating the collective efforts. His stubbornness met mine and we quibbled over the idea of chasing after the doctor. I won and we got to the next hospital just in time to be signed in as the last patient to be seen that day, behind 20 other sickly patients.
 
We had been in the queue for about 20 minutes when guka started squealing while holding his tummy and rolling his torso on the floor. He was either in acute pain or trying to jump the queue in his usual stunts. Not sure which of the two was the case, two nurses rushed to put him on a stretcher and wheeled him into the consultation room. The scene of the famed TV program, Emergency Room (ER) was replaying in our very own eyes.
 
I quickly picked his (analogue) phone, A7 sized notebook with phone contacts and tattered handkerchief that dropped from his trouser pockets in the ensuing melee. Thanks to his erstwhile creativity, we safely and respectfully jumped the queue. The nurse checking the vital signs said the results showed he was hyperglycaemic (at 276 mg/dl, with normal being below 140mg/dl, after taking meals) and hypertensive (at 182/110mmHg, with normal being at or below 120/80mmHg) besides the excruciating pain from a bulging bladder that had not been emptied for at least 3 days.
 
Decisions were being made fast and furious, he was put on intravenous injection with God knows what drug combination and in a split second whisked off to the ward for admission and further emergency management. All this time he looked frail, in pain and beaten. Cucu’s eyes gazed blankly into the horizon as one who had grown numb to the reverberating health emergencies that guka had subjected her to, since his retirement.
 
Like the typical millennial, I was tempted to take a photo (or selfie) with them and post it on WhatsApp, appealing for prayers (and contributions). But it felt odd, very odd.
 
Three hours later, which seemed like eternity, he was stabilized but was deep asleep. The consultant doctor had finished doing his rounds in his third hospital for the day and had come back to check on guka’s progress. Considering guka’s age and multiple health conditions, he recommended we visit a Geriatrician, whatever or whoever that was!
 
He was discharged two days later and put on a bevy of expensive drugs to curtail his erratic blood pressure and sugar levels. Once at home, we realized his declining level of activity. He rarely sat up with family in the living room, save for watching prime time News after which he slid back to his bedroom where he would have endless and loud self-talk that was much later diagnosed as early signs of schizophrenia. Giving him medication was an emotional drill that even cucu dreaded.
 
When in good moods he would adhere to the drug administration routine, but when in stale moods he wanted nobody near him, which sometimes spanned a whole day.
 
Taking medication in sporadic fashion is akin to not taking them at all. That’s what our consultant doctor told us after observing no improvements in all the conditions he was being treated for. A Home for the aged or a Hospice would have been the perfect solution for guka’s sufferings. With time he was turning wild and extremely hostile, even to himself. In his self-talk he would question God, sometimes as to why he was born or as to why he was flung into the sea of pain. Mentally he was being tortured by his condition and by extension torturing his caregivers.
 
His urinary retention and prognosis of prostate cancer conditions required immediate surgical interventions, but hypertension and hyperglycaemia would give no room. Here was a man torn between disease and death, such a terrifying place to be. All the church and women groups that cucu belonged to had visited her ailing husband, at least twice. Fervent prayers had been made for his healing and quick recovery. Not once, but many times, traditional cures, concoctions and medical supplements had been considered, but guka would have none of that.
 
The only thing he seemed to enjoy in his agonizing sickness was watching prime time News.
 
On an evening before his scheduled Geriatrician’s appointment, I had gone to visit them when I found him glued at the same spot in the living room. As usual, I couldn’t interrupt the News streaming in, mostly about the aborted discussions where the doctors’ union declined a 40% salary increment, advanced by the President.
 
As the TV went into commercials, he tap-tapped with his hand on the coffee table in front of him in reaching out for the TV remote control. I didn’t know why he couldn’t have easily picked it, until cucu came in and said that his eyes too were failing and he was partially blind. JESUS, SON OF GOD! I bolted from my seat as one who was on the throes of being electrocuted. Poor old chap, such an unbearable agony of failing faculties, when he needed them most.
 

Views expressed in this article are my own

Joseph N. Mungai is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Wayward Spouse

Spouse

Facebook link and LinkedIn link, published on June 7, 2016

Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. He who said these words must have drunk the juice and put on the t-shirt, otherwise he lacks the authority to state these words categorically and with such finality.

Gabriel and Martha are your typical couple who met in the most unlikely circumstances, fell in love and chose marriage to cement a long term relationship. Based on the concept of love banks, they deposited love units into one another’s account at such an accelerated rate. Long phone calls, walks in the streets and parks, dinner in exclusive places and night outs accumulated fabulous experiences between them.

The transition from dating to honeymoon was so seamless that they literally became one, but not yet! Gabriel found Martha to be beautiful, intelligent and full life while she found him to be attractive and the best description of a gentleman. They were so fond of each other and eclipsed their past broken relationships in every way. Being away from each other filled their moments with misery. They were such a love-struck couple. However, what they didn’t realize at the time of naivety was that marriage requires more than love to survive the pressures of life.

After the honeymoon

Their first year of their marriage was an extremely happy one. Without really thinking about it, Gabriel and Martha met each other’s basic needs quite well. Gabriel remained affectionate, patient, and as caring as he was when they dated. Martha responded passionately during lovemaking. They spent considerable time together sharing their hopes and dreams in long conversations. Martha took tennis lessons so that she could keep up with Gabriel in his favourite recreational pastime. What more would a man ask for than recreational companionship from his wife! Martha knew she could trust

Gabriel, because he was so honest in everything. Gabriel was proud of his attractive wife and felt particularly pleased with how she handled details around their house while still keeping her secretarial job on part time basis. Gabriel earned an excellent income as a Computer Analyst, but he and Martha had agreed she should work as much as she likes, at least for the present.

Martha felt secure with Gabriel, who gave every indication he loved being settled down with a home and family. She felt proud of Gabriel and often told him so. During their first year of married bliss, their love banks did not accumulate love points at the rate they did before the marriage, mainly because they shared a much wider variety of experiences than they had while dating. Now they were together when they felt good and when they felt bad. Credits and debts in their love bank accounts were being posted in accordance with the ups and downs in life. On their fifth anniversary, Gabriel still felt madly in love with Martha, and she felt the same about him. They decided to start a family and little Tiffany arrived as they started their sixth year of marriage.

Critical changes started taking place in that sixth year. Martha was still the joy of Gabriel’s life, but he noticed an increase in her ‘down times’. While Tiffany was a little doll and Gabriel loved her dearly, she created new demands (of being nursed) and negative experiences (considering she was a cry baby). Taking his turn to change baby’s diaper in the middle of the night was not Gabriel’s idea of a pleasant time.

Also Martha’s decision not to stay at home after her maternity leave to nurse Tiffany left Gabriel with his share of responsibilities, including holding her feeding bottle. In addition, Martha had a tough time losing baby fat. In church, Gabriel would be spotted with Tiffany strapped on his chest and his hands either holding a feeding bottle or some carry-case that had clothe changes for the baby, feeder and liner. He was the admiration of many women who saw a young dad assuming non-traditional gender roles. But inside he was getting out of joint with his relationship with the baby’s mother.

As a net result of all these little vicissitudes, Martha’s balance in Gabriel’s love bank dropped over the year. Around Tiffany’s second birthday, Martha got restless and wanted to be more than just a part time secretary. She wanted to have a more important career and didn’t want to wait until all of her children were grown and gone. She asked Gabriel if he would object if she returned to college, finish her Bachelor’s degree and possibly went on for an MBA. ‘It will take six years of classes,’

Martha explained. ‘But I’ll quit my part time job so I can concentrate on the baby during the day and take most of the classwork at night’. Gabriel agreed to her idea enthusiastically and without second thoughts. He enjoyed a solid and stable income by then, and they didn’t really need Martha’s pay check. He offered to baby-sit for Martha while she was at school and when she needed time on occasion to finish class assignments.

Enter Lizzy

Martha enrolled in classes and began earning excellent grades. But those grades required sacrifice, which Gabriel was not too happy about, at all. What bothered him most was that Martha rarely seemed in the mood to make love. Gabriel understood her dilemma. College consumed a lot of her energy, and what was left was devoted to housekeeping and caring for Tiffany. By bed-time Martha felt exhausted, and Gabriel felt it would be inconsiderate to insist on making love under those conditions. Gabriel made the best of it with less frequent and more hurried love making when he found Martha in the mood, but he also missed the attention she used to give him and the tennis games they played on Saturday mornings. Now Martha seldom spent time with him, much less played tennis on Saturdays. Instead on weekends she always did the housework and caught up on homework assignment for Monday classes.

Gabriel and Martha continued in this pattern for the next two years. Martha’s account in Gabriel’s love bank dropped slowly but steadily. Gabriel begun wondering what happened to the lovely creature he married. She seemed lost in her books, but ironically enough she didn’t want to discuss any of her classes with him. ‘It’s all stuff you had years ago,’ Martha told him. ‘Besides, you’re a math expert, and I’m only a part time secretary.’ Such were the low punches that Martha gave Gabriel in the middle of studying or taking her assignments. However, she appreciated all Gabriel’s sacrifices and his apparent total commitment to his family.

Things will be better as soon as I get my degree, she told herself. So Martha plunged on into academia, not quite realizing how her husband felt or was thrown out of balance. Meanwhile at his workplace, Gabriel was seconded to a project with an attractive Product Manager named Lizzy where they spent more than the working hours together. The project included benchmarking visits to best practise countries to improve their company’s competitiveness in service provision. Conversations between the two crossed the emotional boundaries of personal space and they quickly yielded to the allure of being best friends forever. In no time, Gabriel had no qualms about sharing the good and the bad experiences of his life and wife with Lizzy. They talked about anything and everything, literally. Fast enough, Lizzy made deposits of love units into Gabriel’s love bank, thanks to the facilitative working environment and out of the country tours that took their teenage excitement and ecstasy to a whole new level! Their conversations reminded Gabriel of the ‘old days’ with Martha.

So when Gabriel started feeling frustrated due to Martha’s lack of time for sex (or anything else but studying it seemed) he shared his frustration with Lizzy and found her quite sympathetic. Her knee-jack reaction was the urge to ‘shield’ this handsome face from the barbs of life.

Weeks and months flew by, and Martha finished her Bachelor’s degree and launched into her Masters’ program. ‘Only two more years and it will be over, ‘ she told Gabriel. ‘You’ve been wonderful to back me up like this.’ Gabriel smiled and said he had been glad to do it, but inside he felt like a husk filled with piles of skeletons. ‘She’s just so wrapped up in that degree she can’t think of anything else,’ Gabriel told Lizzy at coffee the next day. ‘I want her to have it, but I’m wondering if the cost is too high to pay.’ A few weeks later, Martha was deeply engrossed with studying for midterm exams.

At the same time, Gabriel was hit with a special project that forced him into a great deal of overtime, with Lizzy helping him. One night as Gabriel and Lizzy worked late, alone, it happened. One moment Gabriel was telling Lizzy about how lonely he felt. The next moment she was in his arms, and they made love, just like that! When the stolen moment of passion was over and they were getting ready to go home for the night, Gabriel was visibly agitated and guilt ridden. Lizzy sensed his feelings and told him she didn’t want to wreck his marriage or come between him and Martha.

‘Look’ she said, ‘I have to be honest, I’ve fallen in love with you and I want to make you happy. Why don’t we just make love together when we can? That will be all I want.’ All this far, it had been a slow fade. Like lyrics of the Slow fade song, ‘it’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings’. Gabriel had completely given himself away to wild passions and an extramarital affair with a colleague. On his way home Gabriel decided he didn’t feel so guilty after all. In fact, he started feeling elated. Through no fault of her own, Martha was unable at present to meet his sexual needs. Now Lizzy wanted nothing more than to fill in as a temporary sexual partner.

Why not let her, since it was helping meet her needs, too? Gabriel rationalized. It will all be temporary of course – until Martha is finished with college and can have more energy for sex. Whatever guilt Gabriel felt, he quickly quashed with a thought of his unfulfilled needs. From that time on, Gabriel and Lizzy made love at least once a week and sometimes more often. Every sexual encounter was wildly passionate and Gabriel had fallen for her hook, line and sinker! In short, Gabriel thought Lizzy was terrific and he fell very much in love with her. With no sexual frustrations, Gabriel’s relationship with Martha improved a great deal. When Martha had a brief break from studies and wanted to make love, Gabriel was an enthusiastic partner. Those moments, unfortunately, were infrequent.

A folklore is told of a frog that fell into a vessel that was filled with water. While the water was heating, the frog adjusted its body temperatures in tandem. Just when the water was about to reach boiling point, the frog could not adjust anymore. It was at that point that the frog decided to jump out. It tried several times but was unable to do so because it had lost all its strength in adjusting with the rising water temperature.

Soon enough the frog died and pundits were called upon to find out what killed the frog. While most thought the boiling water was the cause of death, it was established that its death was a result of the inability of the frog to decide when to jump out. Sure enough, Gabriel had overstayed his welcome in the relationship. He had gotten comfy and time demanded that he and Lizzy work out their weekly rendezvous to a science. He never gave the right and wrong of the situation a second thought. His newly acquired twisted thoughts consoled him that cheating is never cheating until you get caught (by your spouse).

The work project they had been assigned had continued to demand overtime, and Martha never suspected a thing. In fact, Martha would have never known Lizzy existed if it hadn’t been for Jane, her good friend. Through another woman whose husband worked in Gabriel’s division, Jane heard about how cozy he and Lizzy were at coffee breaks. She got suspicious and did a bit of snooping. She discovered Gabriel and Lizzy’s affair and went right to Martha with the news. At first Martha did not believe Jane, but when she checked for herself she caught Gabriel red-handed and red-faced.

Gabriel was shaken (to the core) because he never believed he’d be discovered, least of all by his wife. If Martha had never known about Lizzy, she could never have been hurt. For the first time, Gabriel felt deeply guilty. He begged Martha to forgive him and tried to explain why he did it. ‘I could see how hard you were working with your studies, and I didn’t want to be selfish and demand that we make love.

The thing with Lizzy just happened – then I guess I let it continue because I needed it. I never meant to hurt you. Now I can see that I was selfish after all and really stupid. I promise you it won’t happen again.’ Martha was heartbroken and furious. Why couldn’t Gabriel have said something? Why did he have to betray their marriage in order to meet his needs? For the first time Martha saw that her drive for her degree had become a booby trap. She wept uncontrollably, and Gabriel felt equally devastated. He again begged Martha to forgive him and swore he will never see Lizzy again.

Love compelled Martha to forgive him and she tried to make some changes. She cut back on classes to make time for tennis again. She tried to make love to Gabriel several times a week, with passion and enthusiasm. But her salvaging efforts were a little too late. Gabriel intended to be faithful, but in the first weeks after the confrontation he suffered severe depression. He had lost emotional control of which of the two women to love or leave. He loved both Martha and Lizzy. He missed Lizzy, but he couldn’t leave Martha. In short, Gabriel loved and needed both women. They both have substantial balances in his love bank, and he could not seem to do without either one of them.

Hard as it was, he tried to stay away from Lizzy. To relieve his depression, he got back together with her and found that she has also been depressed in his absence. She welcomed him back in a wild evening of lovemaking, and they schemed more elaborate ways to get together without being discovered. But before long Martha became suspicious, and soon she knew and came to terms with the fact that she was sharing her husband with another woman, a woman to whom he had become addicted.

What Next?

Martha wanted, rather demanded that Gabriel gets rid of the other woman because it drove her crazy. Lizzy on the other hand had by then grown tired of being noble and patient. She pressured Gabriel to divorce his wife and marry her. The trouble was, the wayward spouse, in this case Gabriel couldn’t bring himself to give up either woman. His lover provided some of his needs (unlimited sex and admiration) and his wife provided others (recreational companionship, domestic support and societal respect).

Gabriel turned out to be like the proverbial donkey between two bales of hay, instead of starving to death because it couldn’t decide which bale to choose, it tried to nibble on both bales. This affirms the lyrics ‘thoughts invade, choices are made and a price will be paid; daddies never crumble in a day; families never crumble in a day.’ It’s a slow fade… in slurping stolen waters and eating bread in secret!

Views expressed in this article are my own

Joseph N. Mungai is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk

Plight of the Girl with a Twisted Future

GirlFacebook link and LinkedIn link, published on April 12, 2016

If you studied ‘Looking for a Rain God’ as a set book in high school (in Kenya), you may recall one of the short stories with the title ‘The Girl With A Twisted Future’, by Mia Couto of Mozambique. It was a prose fiction that abound in the themes of exploitation or victimization of women [particularly daughters] for economic gains. The imagery from that story is still etched on my mind at how a father [who right now should be rotting in hell] could tie the back of her daughter, Filomeninha on a drum for a whole night, then in the morning pour hot water on her so as to soften her bones. All in the name of launching a career for her as a contortionist, who would wreck millions for the family.

Ultimately, Filomeninha’s back bent over backwards, her blood flow became irregular and her bones went out of joint… she was crumpling for all to see. She looked like a hook without any more use, an abandoned rag!

Over the weekend I had an interesting conversation that sparked this memory, but left me feeling very much ashamed to be a man. So this lady is barely 24 years old, having a curvaceous body plus her sassy looks that would halt in his path a straightforward thinking but lustful man, for a glance or two. Her face had all the make-up, which my female colleague once informed me is supposed to make a lady look natural and not any other way. According to my colleague, when complementing a lady for her made up beauty, the verbatim should be ‘you look natural’. Really? But this lady had applied blue eye shadow and pitch dark eye pencil that made her tender eyes sparkle in a very unnatural way. Anyhow, it reminded of Jacob when he got up in the middle of the night after the wedding to see he’d been duped with Leah, the tender eyed and not Rachel, the beautiful one.

For the purpose of this narrative, let’s call her Gerties. She recently moved out of her mom’s house leaving behind her 4 year old daughter. She lives in an apartment, adjacent to the road for convenience on public transport considering that she wakes up with the birds and retreats with the bats! She works at the grooming section of a barber shop that involves washing men’s hair after they’ve been shaved, doing facials, pedicure, manicure and a wide array of body massage for the metrosexual urbanite. Her work dictates that she is tender and dresses to appeal and kill in one straw. And so, if all the male patrons of the barber shop were to open up their hearts on the sensations they get upon visiting the barber shop and grooming parlor, then the road to hell could be widened! On the converse, if information on these sensations were to be exposed to their girlfriends and spouses, the latter would quickly enroll for a crush program in shaving men’s hair and grooming their bodies so as to keep their men away from these places that stand on the brink of morality.

Gerties separated from her baby daddy about a year and a half ago on accounts of infidelity, despite his having completed a big residential house in a posh estate in the suburbs of Nairobi. He joins the list of deadbeat dads who live well while their progenies and minders are squatters at the homes of their maternal grannies or other well-wishers. Looking at her nearly visible stretch marks and narrowing eye pupils, one could tell that Gerties lives from hand to mouth on the meager pay from the massage parlor besides the fact that she needs to talk, dress and walk like a city queen to match her profile of clientele. The lethal combination you get here is that of a city girl who needs to fit by hook or crook, into a social class that she doesn’t belong to or can’t afford.

After falling out with her baby daddy, she hated men (as one would naturally expect) but soon after felt the pressing need for male company and what she calls ‘service’. Unwittingly or otherwise, she fell prey to a mama’s boy who moved into her apartment since he was jobless with much of his time spent with the boys at the muguka base talking politics, football, and women, in that order. Her second pregnancy was the product of this arranged marriage, which she lived to regret in the first trimester of the unborn. Short of two months of gestation, she terminated the pregnancy with the help of God-knows-who, using a pair of drugs, administered through the oral and vaginal body entries. Just like that! And the fetus and his father were out of her way!

Back to the high street of city life, Gerties kept her job of massaging and grooming the urbanite men though she also joined a lady’s chama with obligations of contributing Ksh. 6,000 weekly. I could bet, she earns less than Ksh.10,000 monthly at her day job and silently wondered how she raised such an amount weekly, let alone afford house rent by the roadside. Unfortunately, that is where the sad tale of exploitation and victimization by men begins. While at college I was naïve about sex matters and in fact I recall a group session for peer counseling where the facilitator was discussing about being ‘sexually active’ and I was audacious enough to ask ‘what’s that’?

Fast forward to life after college where now I should be all the brighter with knowledge that sex for economic gains is no longer confined to the red-light streets. As though on a free fall, gullible men and women are daily negotiating for quick punches within veneers of cool, seduction and haste. From the conversation, I learnt that Gerties has sex with different men for different reasons. She has a category of (married) men who pay her weekly contributions at the price of her body and dignity, and another category (of bachelors) who give her ‘service’ as and when she needs to play.

I muse at the lamentable state of a relatively young girl in her early 20’s whose understanding of dignity has been twisted by the pressures of survival and keeping up with the Jones for such a high price. At her counting, [as said one of the Divorce Court episodes on TV] she has opened up her legs to at least 32 men although she is desperate for a husband. She defiantly looks forward to a church wedding and blissful marriage. It bemuses me, why a married man would still go after another woman for passion while his wife should meet his sexual needs. Even if she doesn’t, he is bound with life chains on her (pingu za maisha)!

It’s not a straight answer, since we live in a world of relativism where responses to such questions are either ‘it depends’ or ‘he must meet her needs before his needs are met’. Just like the Jewish soldiers who were reprimanded for not being satisfied with their salaries, to purge the problem of corruption, I bet married men should be rebuked for not being satisfied with their wives, to abet immorality. Again, what does it benefit a male chauvinist or macho man to add to his CV that he has slept with all the women in the pub, market place and church (yes, I said church!), despite the fact that others have done the same with the same women, albeit ahead of him?

Methinks, although the world is full of evil and obscenities, we are yet to see the full breadth of moral decadence. Perchance it is a wake up call where men of courage and responsibility to stand out of the masses. and be counted. I can bet with my ten fingers and ten toes that Gerties represents a host of ladiesalong the continuum of life (in high school, fresh from high school, in college, fresh from college, new in career, besides innocent or opportunistic women caught up in economic hardships). How selfish it must be for the man who prowls for her wine in the streets or market place and easily ignites himself with unguarded passions to take advantage of her situation.

He dangles money and pleasure at her with all the motives of a dark monster, while blaming it on high testosterone levels. Whether he is a husband of a heavily pregnant wife or nursing mother, there is no justification as to why he can’t zip up and control his sexual urges. Self-control seems to have been shoved off by some to the list of optional moral values, with others consciously pursuing the philanderer’s woman and drinking of her debauchery. Such behaviors in mature men should be wrapped on a great millstone and cast into the deep seas.

Gerties may appear to any lay man as an individual caught up in the struts of life who is trying to put her best foot forward. However, she carries with her a future and potential wife or mother who will bring up her own children. Who knows whether she will pass onto another generation the twisted mentality about sexuality, morality and most importantly dignity? In my view, she is tending towards getting out of joint on the meaning of womanhood and will soon lose the vigor of her youth on the laps of carefree men who are happy-go-lucky. Soon enough, Gerties will become like Filomeninha, a hook without any more use, an abandoned rag!

Although my anger is stirred up… I still have to think more about what to do. In the meantime, I leave the narrative in this space as I retreat back to drafting the upcoming ‘Chronicles of my 7 years working in Somalia’.

Views expressed in this article are my own

Joseph N. Mungai is inspired by people’s life experiences. Do you have a intriguing life story and need a ghost writer? Email: j.mungai@hotmail.co.uk