Cold Case File - Did the Family Commit a Crime?
8th January 2019, Labadi Beach Resort Hotel Accra Ghana. It was 4:30 pm local time, we had just completed an all day training for some top government officials from Nigeria. My rubber sole, black lace up shoes had become very tight due to standing all day. I stepped out of the training hall and removed my shoes and stepped on the sand walking directly to the water. I dropped all my documents and bag by a tent and got into the waves, running my feet into the salty cold water. I stayed in the waves for about 10 minutes, getting the stress off my feet.
I began walking back to the hotel lobby along the concrete slab path made to beautify the beachfront. I said hello to a young woman with a smile, she waved and smiled back, then she said that was a very inspirational session. I was surprised and wondered if she was in the session as I recognized all the participants . She saw the surprise and said “I was seated in the next hall, it was a collapsible wall pattern, I could see and hear you and the team”. Then she said “do you have a minute?”. “Yes, sure, '' I said. That was a mistake, I should have said no and gone to rest for the day.
Then she said "You talked about emotional smartness and I was really fascinated by those thoughts. I have kept mute and don’t speak with my father, because I know what he did to my mum 9 years ago. I am 18 years old now, both of us are aware that I know but I am totally mute. Then she asked me “so what do you think ? Am I emotionally smart?"
Wow…. This was about to turn into a long evening session and yes, I am so tired, but how do I escape?
Many times as parents we imagine that our children can not comprehend some of the family occurrences and wave away their presence and emotions. It's time to know that children can read situations, internalise and even make judgments but might not say anything for a long time.
Yaaba said “I left the hotel room because I was upset with my father and that was how I came to accidentally listen to your session. I may not see you again but I need to talk to a stranger and unpack my deep secrets about my family”. At this time we sat on an old bench overlooking the beach and the sea breeze was slowly but surely drifting me away.
I put all my documents into my bag and relaxed to take a listening position. Then Yaaba dropped the unthinkable statement “I know my father had something to do with my mother’s death but I can't prove it. As a child I helped him to hide many things from my mum initially, not realising the relevance of documents and pictures but one day something strange happened and I immediately knew my mum could pay with her dear life.
8 years ago I began to become mute as I constantly went into my father’s room and hid to listen to his conversations, plans and saw where he kept documents and money.”
“I have never told anyone my story, but I am telling you because you'll leave Accra tomorrow and we will never see each other again. My father trades unusual things and my mother was against it. It made them fight all the time. My father is such a loving, caring, gentle and ever present father, he gives me the best life. He thinks ahead and does everything for me, but sometimes I believe he’s trying to cover up and compensate me for the mistakes he made.
I have kept mute for years, but now I am talking to you”. At 9pm my bones began to feel the sensation of hypothermia because of the slow, gentle and cold wind from the sea. I was nearly numb, not sure if it was from the cold or the story from Yaaba’s family.
We talked for 3 hours and she kept pouring out all the stuff. I quickly realised early in the conversation that she had chosen me as a chopping board, a vent tool and a listening ear. My job was to listen and nod and say hmmm, wow, ask pacifying questions and then continue to listen.
How many Yaaba’s do we have out there, muted by their parent’s deep issues and past mistakes, looking for a stranger to listen totally and patiently without fear or judgement.
My role, to Yaaba was purely coincidental occasioned by the training event that was held at the hotel at the same time she was there with her father and also her rare opportunity to have sat and listened from the adjoining meeting hall.
Parents and guardians must come to realise that children have experiences and conclusions residing deep within them, we need to protect children from seeing and experiencing situations that can leave them scared for life. We need to consider the children in our space before we take any greasily actions. Children are not too young to understand a situation or experience a broad range of emotions. If our children have gone through some extreme family situations, you need to seek professional help to unearth the locked up thoughts and conclusions in the child's mind and to help the child see new possibilities.
Just before I stood up to wrap up the listening session with Yaaba. She said 2 things.
Firstly, it's obvious you don't know who I am, my name is not Yaaba, that is my name to you for today and my father is a very prominent figure in this place and town. You will discover who we are by the time you get back to Nigeria, then you will understand and appreciate the complexities around my life.
Secondly, my father’s biggest challenge is not his local and international business nor his public office, it is not about his failing health, it's about me Yaaba. I'm the second child of 5 children and the only girl. I'm totally calm and yet I have done the most unthinkable things to my father.
My siblings cannot understand why my father is unable to deeply deal with my uncanny extremities towards him. Today, I decided to stop, to become a better person, to let go of the past, to stop seeking revenge, to start loving my beautiful and caring stepmother and to start my life with a fresh direction.
"Why?" I asked. One of the participants in your session said something that made me cry until I found my Eureka. He said “you cannot undo your past, so leave it”. You cannot dig only one grave before revenge, dig two”. “Your hurt will destroy you and anyone that tries to love you or help you”. That was it for me. It broke me, I was totally broken and pained - I just lost the ability to execute my plot - and so I left the hall to cry at the beachfront for a long period waiting and hoping that someone from the session would come along.
Hmmmm, “na wa ooo”. “So what did you do after hearing those words?” I asked her , she said “I immediately deleted my Facebook, Instagram and twitter pages and I followed you to talk to” I needed to become something and someone else and I sent a message to my brothers - guess what - two of my brothers asked me - “Who is this please ? this is not my sister - what are you doing with her phone?. I didn't realise it was that bad, and I can't really remember saying any kind words or showing any softness to my brothers.
At this point I was very cold, my teeth were grinding and we began to walk towards the lobby. Then I asked “what next?” She said “my dad and I are in the best suite in the hotel but we have never really enjoyed the ambience and beauty of this place. I will order his favourite meal and drinks, have a ceremony and I will tell him I have forgiven him”.
“Why?” I asked her. She called me Mr. Don (as in DonQuester) sir, the stakes are too high and the odds of the future will be stacked against me. If I continue to fight, hate and hurt, I will destroy the whole family. Everyone already thinks I am psychotic and I have been taken to the specialists several times but really my dad and I know the deep truth.
If we ever meet again or you find out my true identity– this never happened. Goodbye.
She walked away through the lobby up the flight of stairs and she was gone. I stood there for the next few minutes wondering what just happened in the last 3 hours. Wow….I reflected deeply and then, I heard “sir sir sir are you okay, you are standing by the swing door?” . The hotel concierge tried to get my attention without touching me. This is so much to handle for a day.
I went back into the training hall to check that we had packed all our stuff ready to go back to Lagos. When I got back to my room I checked my phone to see I had about 40 missed calls, everyone was looking for me.
Yaaba set off a new vision and decision inside me. I gave birth to a new vision and created platforms to achieve it. It is time to think about what you are exposing your children to and what you are saying to them. I began to read and talk about parenting for the next two years.
We are all on a journey called life. We have dreams , we have successes and disappointments, we are full of hope and sometimes we get hurt, we fall, we get back up, we press on or give up, we wake up happy or sad, we love the company of friends and other times they are a pain in the wrong place. Yet, we must continue our upward and forward journey of life. Regardless of your state of mind and challenges.
Check out our post on Midlife Contemplations