‘Carol! Carol!’ Her friends and family called and hugged her affectionately, thrilled to see her again. Her siblings looked mature, healthy and doing very well. Some had married and had good jobs and others rounding off their academics. The family businesses had thrived under them, and were being run as the family name group of companies. Her entire family, which had grown with in-laws, nephews and nieces, looked well and happy, but not perfect.
Jeff, she learned, was heartbroken at her disappearance, but she was glad he got over it and got married with two children. She got her immediate younger sibling, OgeChukwu, to show her where he lived, and from a distance she watched him arrive home in a car while his beautiful wife and cute children came out to welcome him tenderly. The picture looked like what she had once dreamt for him and tears ran down her cheeks.
‘Sister,’ Oge called her in Igbo modulation, ‘should we leave or will you like to go meet him?’ OgeChukwu asked in an empathizing manner in the car they watched from.
‘No, let’s go’ And they drove away.
Jeff instinctively looked towards the car that was driving out of the parking lot. He recognized it as OgeChukwu’s car and wondered suspiciously.
In the car, Oge gave her time to calm down, and then asked, ‘Do you regret it all?’
Wiping her tears, she sighed and smiled, ‘No. I only wondered how it would have been if it had been me. But I do not regret my decision to become a nun’.
‘And that is what the tears are for?’ He frowned.
‘They are tears of joy. I’m happy that he is able to get over me because I was worried for him knowing how he felt about me. I’m glad to see that he’s married and has such lovely children. You know, I had been saying more prayers for him and you all than for any other. Now I’m glad to see that my prayers are answered. Perhaps, I can now channel my prayers evenly on the world as this is the cause of my vocation’ She smiled at her brother.
But OgeChukwu looked away from her, and then ahead, driving, ‘You took a bold step to give up everything for God. And it still feels like you made yourself a sacrificial lamb for us. You know you needn’t have. We, your brothers, are the men in the house and our duty to protect and provide for our sisters and the family. You took that away from us and all we do is try to build on what you started … for us’.
She understood him because she had always suspected that, hidden in her brothers’ gratitude, was the feeling of being robbed of their manly role as providers and protectors of the women in their lives. Her suspicion did not bother her at the time because she was focused on the mission to secure the family’s financial wellbeing, get done with it and follow her vocation to serve God. She did not want to be discouraged by their sentiments as it was not as important to her as her motive. But now, after all these years and after all that had happened, she was sorry for it all. When she realized he had finished complaining, she replied calmly, ‘You’re not entirely wrong’.
‘Meaning?’ He turned to her, enquiringly.
She continued, now looking away too and then ahead as Oge was doing, both avoiding each other’s eyes in the discussion, but Oge in addition, paying attention to the road. ‘Perhaps you are right about me usurping your role. I am sorry’.
OgeChukwu was slightly confused and asked, ‘And what am I wrong about?’
‘I should have joined the convent longer ago than I joined the monastery. Being in God’s house is what I’d always wanted. God is all I want, but the fear of leaving my family … unprovided for …’
OgeChukwu cut in, ‘That is not your responsibility …’
‘I know! That is why I am sorry’. A brief silence followed, and then she continued. ‘I played God instead of trusting in Him. And I undermined your … my siblings’ capability to take care of themselves and the family. For this I am very sorry’.
Accepting her apology, OgeChukwu replied, ‘Well, for what it’s worth, you did us a great favour by thinking up all the business ideas and creating a foundation for all of us. Thank you’.
‘Well, you were able to resuscitate the businesses and grow them well. How did you do it?’
‘Like I said,’ Oge gladly supplied, ‘you paved the way’.
‘You showed us we could become whatever we want in spite of our parents’ disapproval’.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘After you left Mama and Papa were downcast for quite a while, blaming themselves for your decision, but they survived it. Hence, Obi and I returned to school despite their fears and finished without any more problems; we didn’t allow their fears to affect our education and our personal goals.’ He paused a while for her reaction.
‘I guess life is a risk worth taking’ She chuckled silently. But in her mind she was glad her siblings followed her cue as she intended.
‘Yes. Thanks to Ijeoma’s business acumen, she singlehandedly managed and marketed the businesses to live again. It seems the women in our house are the ones gifted with the ability to grow businesses’ Oge also chuckled, heartily. Carol agreed, chuckling along. ‘Of course, Obi and I chipped in whenever we could and after our study, we started applying the knowledge we acquired from school. Soon after, Mama and Papa became confident and happy again’ He chuckled again, ‘Those two would have felt disappointed in us had we succumb to their blackmail to drop out of school just to be alive for them and do business’.
‘Well, we understand their feeling, but we are created to live our own lives, not theirs’. Carol added.
‘Yeah, it is one thing to commiserate with them and another to fall for their blackmail. We found the courage to break away from that overprotection by following your footstep’ Oge repeated.
‘We have God to thank for helping us realize that. So what happened to Evelyn and Jude?’ Carol’s eyes narrowed in enquiry.
‘None of us but you understand those two. Now that you are around you should do something about them, because you always got around to them’.
Carol thought awhile, ‘I’ll have a chat with them’.
It was secretly a big relief to both of them that neither brought OluChukwu into the talk.
Hardly had they arrived home and the whole family done with the Angelus at 6pm than Jeff rang the bell and entered.
Seeing her amidst her family he gritted in anger and sadness, ‘I thought as much. It wasn’t for nothing that Oge pulled out of the motor park without a word to me. I strongly felt you were the lady beside him’.
‘We should speak in private,’ Carol said considerately.
The family excused both of them, all leaving to their rooms and not minding Jeff’s forgetfulness to greet them; they understood his feeling and what he had been through at discovering Carol’s parting from him to the monastery.
Alone with Jeff she ushered him to a seat. ‘Please, sit down’.
Jeff took a seat to avoid any delay his refusing might cause. She did the same on another couch adjacent his’. Since she came back she had been in brown long dresses, held with white rope around the waist, and a long brown scarf neatly covering every bit of her hair and ears.
‘I am sorry’ She said.
After a moment’s pause, he frowned, ‘Is that all you have to say about it?’
‘Jeff, I couldn’t mention it to anyone when I made the decision because I knew all my loved ones would try to convince me otherwise. And I knew that you, especially, would not have accepted it’.
‘Was it anything I did that caused you to make the decision?’ Jeff asked particularly as if that was what bothered him more.
‘No! You were a dream I didn’t ask for because I had always wanted to be a Reverend Sister’.
‘You didn’t ask for?’
‘Yes! You were too good to be true and had I returned home to tell you about it I would have changed my mind had you asked me to’.
Letting go of suppressed tears, Jeff began to cry, ‘Then why didn’t you come back for that?’
Carol responded sadly, ‘Because I had procrastinated for too long for the call into God’s house as a Reverend Sister. He had borne with me and I felt it. He had supplied me everything I had worried over as excuse for not answering His call much earlier. On that day, His call was pretty loud in my ears and I became more eager to respond than allow any other temptation’.
‘Temptation? But God is not against marriage?’
‘Yes, He is not. But I will not make you a happy husband if my mind is not with you. I had a calling and that was all I felt my life was for … is for … and all I wanted … and still want … to be with Him and to love Him, and Him in all, the best I can; and bear the fruits of this love for Him! Do you understand?’ She said with growing enthusiasm.
Calmed, Jeff asked, ‘What fruits?’
‘The fruits of love towards all the needy I can reach out to in prayer and kindness, so that they may see the Hand of God working for them and know that God is still with them and loves them’.
‘You think you couldn’t have been able to do that with me?’
‘My loyalty would be divided between you and God. And my whole being want it to be for God alone so I can reach out to more’.
Jeff, thoughtful, said, ‘So if your whole being wanted to be with God, how could you have loved me at all?’
Downcast by the question she answered reluctantly, ‘I’m afraid I didn’t love you enough to give up my call. This is why I am sorry. Please, forgive me’.
Jeff sighed and cleaned anymore tears that lingered on his face. ‘I needed a closure and that is why I came’. Standing, he said conclusively, ‘I can only wish you good fruits and God’s protection’.
Standing too, she smiled affectionately, ‘Thank you. I am glad you have a beautiful family’.
‘Thank you’ As he turned to leave he remembered to ask, ‘Why did you come to check on me?’
‘To see with my eyes that my prayers have been answered’.
They looked at each other for seconds and then embrace.
On releasing their embrace he said, holding her face close to his, ‘I cannot promise that I will stop loving you like I always have, but I’ll try, because my wife is indeed a good woman’. Then he let go and stepped farther away, ‘I needed the closure so I can wholly give back to her all the love she gives to me. And! … I’m glad it is God you left me for’.
She smiled appreciatively.
He turned proceeding towards the door, ‘You said you wanted to be a Reverend Sister? But you’re in the monastery instead of the Convent’.
‘Yes, to be out of everyone’s influence. But now, it’s all the same to me: prayer, charity and service for Christ’s sake’.
Smiling contentedly, ‘Please apologize to all for my rudeness earlier. I’ll see them again soon’.
‘You don’t need to apologize; they understand’.
‘All the same. Good night!’
‘Good night and thank you for your understanding, and forgiveness’.
‘There’s nothing to forgive’. He left on that note.
She was relieved to have resolved that part of her life. Although, having those lovely children with him was a good dream, but as a Nun, she would have more in the multitude she would care and pray for.
However, like she observed earlier, it was not a perfect family, because the …
© by Ifeanyi Oluwafemi Chukwudi – Jan 06, 2011