The aroma of jollof rice and fried chicken was very heavy in the air. Caterers had been cooking since the crack of dawn for the big celebration. Chief Ayomikun was retiring after 35 years of faithful service and no expenses were spared. In fact, he insisted that all his names and titles be branded on all the souvenirs: Chief Professor Architect Elder Tomiwa Oyebowale Ayomikun (J.P), the Isomo of Somodobo II.
I smiled. Parents and their love for titles.
Everything was set.
Later that evening, the hall filled up rapidly. Food and drinks flowed freely like a classical Nigerian owambe.
After much feasting and dancing, daddy stood up to give his vote of thanks, expressing his joy and gratitude to God. He made it clear that he was retired but not tired, and he had a twinkle in his eye when he said, “So, if you want to see me, I’ll suggest you send a message days ahead because I’ll be locked up in my room with my wife catching up on all the days I missed.”
Boisterous laughter broke out in the hall.
Two weeks after the party, I arrived home to meet mum and dad in the parlour. This was quite suspicious.
“Good evening daddy, mummy… “
“Welcome my daughter, sit down.” Daddy said.
I had barely sat when mum reeled out. “Tife they have come again! All those enemies,… wicked people waiting for my husband to retire before they attack.”
Didn’t I say something was wrong? “Which people? Which attack?” I asked, trying not to be alarmed.
“We need to pray against all forms of evil and wickedness. They shall never, never prosper.” she said in her high-pitched voice, ignoring my question.
I stylishly rolled my eyes. Mothers can be
so dramatic so exciting. I waited till she was ready to continue.
“Yesterday, your father went to the hospital, and what would they say? He has open eye glaco something…”
“Open-angle glaucoma.” Daddy said. “Meaning the pressure in my eye is too high.”
Mummy continued. “And to crown it all, they said this glaucoma can lead to blindness. My question is this: why is it just now he is having it? Somebody that just retired? Can you see that it is enemies at work? They want him to be blind. NEVER! It is their enemy that will be blind in Jesus name!”
“Amen!” I replied, laughing at her antics. “So what else did they say?” I prodded.
Daddy answered this time. “70% of my vision is gone.”
And so did my laughter.
Huh? Was I dreaming?
“Did you say 70% gone? Are you blind? Can you see?…”
I walked over and stooped down to look at his eyes. “Did you have any symptoms before?” I queried.
“No. No symptoms at all, and yes I can see. You’re wearing a yellow blazer and you’re right in front of me.” he replied.
Phew! That was reassuring; at least he could see.
“So if you can see me, how can 70% of your vision be gone?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“Let me explain it the way the doctor did. She said this open-angle glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the nerve in the eye that enables us see, and it usually comes unannounced, without alarming warning symptoms. Also, like a clever thief, glaucoma steals vision at the edges first, leaving the centre so that one will hardly notice.
So, for instance, as I’m looking straight ahead, I can only see you. Everything on the edge is gone. I can’t see your mother on my right or the door on my left without turning my eyes or my head.”
“Wow. That’s not funny.”
“Yes my dear. I didn’t even notice it until I went for the checkup. Glaucoma is so stealthy and deceitful that a person will hardly notice any changes. It just keeps encroaching the visual field silently, and if nothing is done, it leads to complete blindness.”
“You shall not be blind in Jesus name!” mummy interjected.
“Amen.” I responded soberly.
“But daddy you know I’ve been saying you two should go for eye check-ups since. My friend who is an eye doctor said that once a person is forty years old, he or she needs comprehensive eye checks every year, or at most every two years to prevent stories that touch.”
“Don’t mind my ignorance. I was waiting to retire so that I will have time not knowing that glaucoma has already started damaging my sight.
“So how will they restore the lost vision? Will drugs or surgery fix it?” I asked.
Dad was obviously unhappy as he responded. “Unfortunately, nothing can be done to restore vision loss caused by glaucoma because it damages the nerve, and so cannot be reversed. The treatment now is to reduce the eye pressure so that the rest of the nerve won’t be damaged; such that the remaining vision will not be lost. On the positive side, the doctor said I was lucky I came before my whole sight was gone.”
This was a shocking revelation! So that is how people can go blind just like that. I couldn’t even imagine… I only wished I had been more insistent on them going for a full eye exam sooner.
Strangely, mummy had been quiet. Something was cooking in her head; I could almost see the wheels turning. Then she said, “Tife, that your eye doctor friend, is he my future son-in-law?”
Mum had been on my case for a while now with all sorts of match-making escapades. I had been embarrassed to no end in times past, but today, I was ready. Without flinching, I replied, “I was actually thinking of him too but the only thing is that he’s married with two kids, so if you don’t mind that type of son-in-law then…”
“I reject it in Jesus name.” she said cutting me short.
Turning the tables, I asked if she checked her eyes at the hospital.
“My eyes? There is nothing to check because there is no blind person in our family. I will not be the first!” she retorted sharply.
“Mama, mama!” I teased. “Nobody said you will be blind. It is simply to check.”
“I hear. That is how they will start seeing what is not there, calling big big names to scare somebody.”
I laughed so hard tears began to fall from my eyes.
“They only say what they see mum. If there is nothing is there, they’ll tell you there’s nothing.”
“THANK YOU MY DEAR!” daddy exclaimed. “We’ve been on this matter since yesterday. She has refused to check as if they will manufacture a problem for her.”
She still looked uninterested. Mummy only bowed to a superior argument. I needed one fast.
“Mummy, do you remember what your husband said during the party? He’s ready to catch up on all the missed days… Check your eyes so that you will be seeing and enjoying it well.”
She quickly averted her gaze to hide her embarassment.
“Na you sabi.” was all she could reply.
Pushing further, I continued. “Do you remember Jennifer my friend? Her mum is now blind…”
“Ha! Fine woman like that… you see what I’m saying; her enemies must have been responsible.”
“It wasn’t any enemy o. It was glaucoma… and nobody in the family had it before.”
That was all she needed to hear.
“My dear husband, I’m ready now. Let’s go for my eye check. I cannot let one nonsense glaucoma make me blind when I’m waiting for grandchildren from Tife.”
I smiled smugly. Case closed; mission accomplished!
Jollof rice: A West African rice dish.
Owambe: A lavish and flamboyant party.
Big big names: Essentially means names she doesn’t understand; medical jargon.
Ha!: A Nigerian exclamation showing shock, surprise.
Na you sabi: Pidgin slang that can be loosely translated as “that’s your business.”
Further reading on glaucoma:
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