I was privileged to be among the select guests at the 80th birthday party for a cousin’s mother- in- law which held recently at the Civic centre, in Lagos.
Events like that are exciting for me because we all gather to celebrate life, versus what we are now often plagued with on a daily basis; 45 year old man dies at the hospital as doctor’s go on strike; 30 year old dies in car crash; 12 year old disappears from parents’ home, corpse of a 3 months old baby found by the canal…
In Nigeria, people drop dead from the most mundane reasons – like lack of electricity, bad roads, KAI chasing them across the road, bullet from trigger happy police men five streets away-People die over ridiculous and totally unconnected things that wouldn’t take the life of an average individual in saner climes.
Anyway, we dressed up to the nines to party hard, because like we say around here, 80 years is not an easy sontin.
Lady Adebisi Omolara Fajemirokun was the celebrant and the matriarch who having spent more than half of her life raising three daughters in a society that looks down its nose at female children was rewarded with the mother of all birthday bashes for her labour over the years; her girls pulled out all the stops to celebrate like there’s no tomorrow. And what lovely ladies they are, each of them, highly educated and accomplished the most well known amongst them being Bukkie George, CEO of the popular chain of neighbourhood pharmacies, Healthplus.
I’ve met Lady Fajemirokun up-close a number of times and I always see a well-cared- for-woman, a well-loved mother which perhaps explains my surprise when I learnt she was turning 80. She’s still as fit as the proverbial fiddle and quite nimble, too. I say kudos to the woman who didn’t let life beat her down and more grace to her daughters who chose to celebrate her while she still has breath in her.
So, since we all wanted her good life to rub off on us, we swayed to good music and tucked into exclusive caterings; what more can a woman want?
You know, when you have good food and wine flowing easily, it’s easy to hear ‘elevated’ conversations…uh huh. I overheard some guests attribute the celebrant’s agility and glow to money, ‘Its money keeping her going like that, shebi her daughters can take care of her,’ hummn, I won’t deny that, but I’ve also discovered many times that money isn’t all there is to it.
In the western world, people her age with half her resources would have replaced virtually every body part- hip replacement, knee joint replacement, kidney transplant et al, and that’s how come they live longer, more quality life than us here. Not that there’s anything wrong with these procedures, nah! Just saying it’s rare to find a senior with all parts in working order.
‘Could be a combination of good genes and good living.’ Someone chipped in.
I’ll toast to that!
But many times, life throws out a few slaps here and there to some of us and so while we all want to age well, old age comes with its bag of issues and challenges to this dream of happily ever after.
A childhood friend of mine is still at odds at the rate at which her once agile and sharp witted mum of 77 years has suddenly lost her zest for life. Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is defined by Alz.org as a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behaviour. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
I knew my friend’s mum when my friend and I were in secondary school; she was a very fierce and detailed woman, unfortunately, Alzheimer is rubbing the shine off her, she doesn’t even remember her own kids anymore. They are now total strangers to her but what’s worse is she can’t even perform simple tasks like eating her own meal, taking a bath etc.
It’s hard on the sufferer and harder still on the family.
My friend and her siblings got their mum a care giver, paid her handsomely and moved her in to live with their mum as all of them live far from her. They thought they had found the perfect deal, until they began to find bruises all over their mother whenever they visited. Sometimes they would find fresh bruises, other times old bruised wounds.
When they inquired, the care giver informed them their mother had been falling on the staircase and walking into doors, ‘She forgets to take the next step down and so she falls often.’ They didn’t believe her. So they installed cameras around the house without the care giver’s knowledge. Only then did they know the truth. They discovered to their horror the caregiver had been beating their mum!
She was promptly arrested.
There are hundreds of elderly people neglected on a daily basis; we used to be a tribe of people who cared for their aged; we used to offer them our seats in public places, stopped taxis for them and let them go first on the long queues for bus. We used to carry their heavy loads and walk them home. We used to celebrate their wisdom and not shut them down in public places.
Our aged are best celebrated and cared for when they are still alive, when they can say, ‘thank you’, when they can live a more comfortable life in their old age.
So celebrate and appreciate them now for whatever we do when they die, we would only be announcing our wealth or lack of to the rest of the world and not to the loved one that is gone.
Read more from Peju
When abortion is a good thing – Peju Akande