Updated: Jul 2, 2020
| This is the 121st story of Our Life Logs |
I had a happy childhood growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. I was born in 1973 and was the eldest of three children. My mom was a nurse, and my dad was a realtor in Lekki, Lagos. My dad was strict with me since I was the first born, but my mom had a warm personality and showed more leniency. I always had a great time in school because I was very social. In 1996, I graduated college, interested in finance.
In my mid-20s, I met the woman of my dreams at Badagry Beach on a beautiful sunny day. Sodunke was down on the shore with some friends. It looked like they were having a great time, so I decided to join them. Sodunke immediately caught my eye. She was gorgeous and had a terrific, jovial personality. As we spent more time together, she developed more interest in me, and soon enough, we had fallen in love. We found out that we had a lot in common. We both loved watching musicals, playing board games, and swimming. If I tried to list everything I liked about her, I’d be listing things all day. We dated for about two years before I asked her to marry me. In 2001, we began a new life together.
Marriage strengthened our bond and made us feel closer to each other. Of course, like most married couples, we had to tolerate each other’s strange habits and compromise often, but we were always happy. However, when we began talking about having children, I could sense her fear. The maternal mortality rate was relatively high in Lagos, but at the time I didn’t care or think about that. I just wanted a child of my own blood.
When she asked me to adopt instead, I thought, “Why on earth would she think I would adopt someone’s child when she isn’t barren?” From my perspective at the time, I thought she was being selfish and letting fear consume her. I was stubborn, unwilling to make a compromise. After constant rejections, mild arguments, and my reasoning, she became less insecure about giving birth. She agreed eventually, and she quickly got pregnant. I was ready and happy to get the chance to have a child of my own.
Tragedy struck on the day of my child’s birth. After going into labor, she was rushed to the hospital. I waited outside as the doctors began the delivery procedure. After a while, I heard my baby crying. The nurse stumbled out and I expected to hear, “It’s a boy,” “It’s a girl,” or “She delivered twins!” But as I watched frantic contortion of the nurse’s face, the message became quite clear.
Instead, she said, “I am so sorry sir… your wife didn’t survive… after the boy was born.”
Then she walked away, leaving me to weep alone. I hate talking about this particular experience, so pardon me for skipping how I got ahold of myself afterwards. I will say it was very hard. Sodunke was the best thing to ever happen to me, and to lose her in such a way was devastating. A day that was supposed to be exciting turned to one of unbearable sadness.
I had way too much to deal with at once. I hadn’t realized how much work raising our son Tolu would be. Without my wife’s guidance, I felt lost as I tried caring for him. I had to quit my job and was feeling overworked and worn down every day. Unable to face my wife’s family and friends, I hid away and ignored them. I saw my wife in them, and I couldn’t bear the guilt. Even more so, caring for my son every day was a constant reminder of losing my wife. It was like the universe had conducted an unfair trade: to have a child, you must lose your wife.
It was all too much for me to bear. I wanted my good life back, and I wanted a life where I didn’t have to share a house with the reason why my wife was dead. So, after all the torture inside my mind, I selfishly made the choice to give up my son for adoption when he was five years old. I had more sorrow than joy in my heart when I embraced him. His presence reminded me of what I had lost. I had no intentions at the time of ever returning to the foster home to get him. I thought he’d be better off living away from me. It was selfish, I know, but I can’t change that it happened.
I made a pact with the foster home staff to tell my son that his parents had died in a car accident and his uncle had put him up for adoption after being unable to care for him. I lied to protect him, but mostly myself. I didn’t want him to know that I had given up trying to care for him. Posing as his “uncle,” I would send payments to the foster home every three months to help them care for him.
I moved to a new state to leave behind the pain associated with our home. Like I always say, “man must move,” and so I did. With my previous banking and finance experience, I was able to get a job as a sales representative for a beer wholesaling company. Since I did not have a family to spend money on, I made plans to commence building a small house and apartments to rent out.
In about eight years, I got promoted to the assistant manager of the company. After my promotion, I started building more and decided to build a home for my son in secret. I figured that maybe one day when he is grown, I could gift it to him, not to buy his love or forgiveness, but to make up for all the lost time and show him that even though I had given him up, I still loved him.
When I was 40, I met and fell in love with a woman in her late 20s. It surprised me that she was interested in me, but I was very happy she was. Her name was Tolani. She was beautiful, smart, and eloquent like Sodunke. Well, to cut a long story short, we went on many dates starting in 2013, and we got serious very quickly.
Tolani tried to ask about my past life many times, but I always changed the subject. I did tell her briefly about Sodunke, but I never told her how she died or about my son. I did feel guilty about never telling her about Tolu, but I felt ashamed at how selfish I’d been, even now not getting him from the home after finding financial success. I did have a plan of retrieving him from the home when he reached 18 and hopefully more understanding about why I abandoned him. Until then, I didn’t want to say anything to Tolani because I was enjoying our uncomplicated life.
Tolani ended up finding out about Tolu when he miraculously showed up on our doorstep one evening when he was 15. Tolani was the only one home and was in shock. She sent me a message urging me to come home but didn’t tell me why. When I came home, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In front of me was a young boy who looked so much like my wife. It had to be my son, Tolu. But how had he found me?
My son had found my home on his own and collected information about me from a friend who was a staff member. The friend gave him some money and sent him on his way. I later learned that Tolu had slept on the streets on his way to my home. All the while, I was at home in a bed. I felt very guilty when I thought about how different our lives had been. The visit did not start out well. Tolu was—understandably—very upset with me for abandoning him.
“Is this how you choose to live, Dad?! Lies, deceit, and selfishness? Did you ever consider how I would have felt knowing that you were out there living a happy life without me? I figured everything out, as you can see. You paid the staff to lie to me, so you could start a new fake lifestyle as if I didn’t exist. The only reason why I came all this way was—”
I cut him off with a hug. I didn’t want him to say anything else that would give me a greater heartache. I begged him to hear me out. I sincerely thought of how he was doing every day, but never wanted to make it conspicuous. It was the greatest mistake of my life, and I deserved to be despised by him. I began to cry and grovel at his feet because my words weren’t enough to convince him that I still loved him.
Tolani did not take the news well and was completely caught off guard. She left me the next morning only saying, “If you care about yourself at all, you won’t dare reach out to me.” My son decided he was fed up with me too, but Tolani somehow convinced him to stay and talk with me before she disappeared.
I knew I had messed up and been selfish, and I wanted to make it right. The first step to doing that would be to kindle a relationship with my son. Later that morning after Tolani left, I prepared breakfast to share with Tolu. To begin our conversation, I started with simple questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” and “Do you have any allergies?” He gave me simple, short answers at first until he couldn’t hold in his true feelings any longer.
“Tell me the whole truth. That’s all I want to hear from you.”
I agreed to tell him everything, but first I told him that we had to take a trip out of the state, so I would give a more articulate explanation. He begrudgingly agreed, and we set out for Lagos that day. I walked him through all the locations of that difficult time, telling him the story and my reasons. He was still not understanding of what I had been through. I had one more thing to show him to prove my inconspicuous love after all these years.
The next day, I took him to the house I had built for him years ago. I explained to him that when he reached 18, I was going to take him from the foster home and try to rekindle our relationship, but he had beat me to it by a couple of years. Tolu was overwhelmed and hugged me tightly as tears rolled down his face. In that moment, I knew that I had gained his trust and that we could finally begin a relationship that should have been started a long time ago.
I’ve done some terrible and selfish things in my life that I’m ashamed of today, but I can’t change the past. I can’t change that my wife died during childbirth or that I gave up my son because I didn’t feel like raising him on my own. But I can try to make up for the things I’ve done wrong. Redemption is possible for anyone, and I’m glad that my son gave me the chance to make up for everything I’ve done so that we can have a relationship. I have a lot of regrets, but I’m glad that I’m able to look back at the mistakes I’ve made and learn from them. Today, I strive to be a more selfless person and hope that I can one day become someone my son can be proud of.
This is the story of Kolade Adebanjo
Kolade is a Yoruba man born and brought up in Nigeria by his late parents. After his wife died during childbirth, Kolade struggled to raise his son, Tolu, alone and ended up giving him up for adoption. Later in life, his son returned to him and Kolade had to face the consequences of his early-life actions. They reunited eventually. Tolu later reached out to Tolani, Kolade’s later girlfriend who walked away on him after finding out the truth about Tolu, to see if she’d forgive Kolade. Since then, she has promised to come and visit, but not necessarily get back with Kolade. Today, Kolade is 44 years old. He works as the assistant manager of a beer-selling industry (Nigerian Breweries) and has two homes: one in Ogun State and the other in Lagos State. He claims to be a more sensitive, generous, and prayerful man these days as he is earnestly looking forward to starting a new relationship with his son.
This story first touched our hearts on July 12, 2018.
| Writers: Kristen Petronio; Albert Omene | Editor: Colleen Walker |