“The tea has to be just the right temperature for me to take it.”
“How does she know the right temperature of tea to serve you?” I ask.
“She just knows. Even I have never known what technic she uses. But you can be sure I can’t remember the last time she served me tea that wasn’t of the right temperature since we got married, how many years ago?” He turns to his aged wife who is seated by his side on a rocky chair. But women never get old remember?
“Thirty nine years.” She says in a granny voice and smiles her way back to the sweater she is knitting. She has glasses hanging by her nasal bone. That must be the sweater she is preparing to welcome her third grandchild with. I guess she is not sure whether it will be a boy or a girl. No wonder she has mixed all sorts of colours maybe she thinks the rainbow has. Does the rainbow have grey? Maybe the rainbows of the 80’s. Who am I to judge? “You were just born the other day.” That’s what my mum still tells me up to today.
“Eti thirty nine? Why not forty?” He asks.
She stops knitting and looks at him in amusement. I knew she was going to make a joke. “Oh. You want them to be forty? It’s okay. Si stay with me for one more year and next year at a time like this, you will have your forty. Ama aje dada?” Who said humour fades away with age. I realised she calls him ‘dada’ which is her sweet way of calling him ‘daddy.’ It’s their thing so shush and shoo away.
“Ah!” Shakes his head. “Sawa. Thirty nine it is.”
She laughs. “Dada you never cease to amuse me.”
“So I was saying she is my wife for what it’s worth. She made it her job on that very day she said “Yes I do,” to check the temperature of my tea and many other things other girls of today would consider nonsense and a waste of time.”
I peek to see how she reacts to that in her silence. Oh yes she caught me because she was also peeking at me maybe to see how I’d react to that too.
“You know children of this generation don’t like being told.” She says.
I see the ol’man lean back on his one seater sofa and take a sip of his ‘right temperature tea.’ He must have thought, finally let her speak so I’d take my tea before it gets any colder. He is one man who measures his words by the way.
“What’s your view in the way wives treat their husbands in the present age compared to your age?”
“It was actually what I was about to say.” She slowly seats up. “I have never seen an age of wasted girls like this one. I think the generations get worse and worse as the times go. Wives were meant to be the helpers of their husbands. The woman of today doesn’t seem to even know that. Leave alone understanding. If she knew that, we wouldn’t be seeing cases of divorce in and out the courts today. Divorces that occur a few months after marriage. For petty reasons yet they have not even gotten to a quarter of what marriage is all about. The woman of the present day has become stubborn. Her interests are misaligned. It is no longer about getting the one who she is supposed to compliment, it has become all about getting the one who will satisfy her greed for money and the lush life. It has become about how fast she can get there thus not even having the time to realise that wealth is established through the journey of marriage and not necessarily in the beginning. Are you getting what I am saying?”
“Yes I am.”
“Today having a husband is being seen as a huge mistake,” the ol’ man coughed. He was almost chocking on his tea so he sat up quickly and cleared his throat loudly. She looked at him with concern immediately like saying, “Don’t clear your throat loudly like that. You might hurt your throat.” Old age comes with fragility huh.
“But the women who believe that have it all wrong. It is the best thing she’d ever have. There is nothing that gave me joy in the years of bringing up our three sons like when I saw him walk into the house from work and command order in the house, carrying some unga for the night, teaching the boys to mend the car and do all sorts of work around the house. Seeing them have a father figure in their lives. Look at the woman today who says she can have children on her own. It’s okay yes. But she will have children who will miss that important part in their growth into adults. They might find father figures in men who will mislead them. Who knows? That is why you need to be very careful to find a woman who is totally willing to raise a family with you. Not one who thinks she can do without you whenever things go wrong.”
I saw what she did there. She was turning the wheel of her vehicle of wisdom over to my house. My bachelor house. I came to interview them as they prepare to celebrate their thirty ninth anniversary. Not only to interview, but to visit. A personal visit. I have been in the States for two years now. I signed a contract with Time Warner to work as an editor of a new talk show entitled ‘The Changing Times’ that was set to run for a year. That is reason enough to hang around these folks for as long as they’d want. I recently turned 27 and I have a feeling they will turn me into the interviewee from the look of things.
After clearing his throat, “Have you found a wife material yet?”
I laugh sarcastically in a bid to skip the topic. They took it as if I was finding it hard to say no. What they don’t know and won’t get to for now is that I had found a wife in someone. Not just a material.
“You should make a lot of effort.” He says as he rubs his white spotted chin.
During our man talk earlier, I asked him about shaving. He used to shave his cheeks and chin every once a week.
“What happened to that?” I ask.
“Growth. Maybe.” He smiles. I think to myself, who taught him how to smile? He looks young when he smiles. He continues, “I just appreciate the fact that I am getting old. Who do I want to hide it from? Not like you though. Remember there was a time you went to campus and came back after two semesters without even having shaved once?”
I laughed. “Oh Lord! Of all the things you’d remember. You said we wouldn’t have a conversation until I took down the pride sticking out of my face through my afro, beard and moustache.” I giggled, “Oh and I also remember mum asked me whether I was mourning the death of my barber in the university.” The ol’ man laughed until he risked a tear. It would be a taboo to have a man like him cry. But why shouldn’t he for the sake of a good laugh and the addition of many more years to the pockets of his heart.
Anyway, they began arguing on whether to pressure me to match my intended companion into their home just yet; that is regardless of whether I had found the right one or just any Tina, Virginia and Harriet. (The opposite of Tom, Dick and Harry? Let those who have eyes see what I did somewhere there.)
“No my dear. Let us not pressure him. If it’s the Lord’s timing he will get.” She said while pointing her husband with the needle.
“It’s not about the Lord. A man has to make effort to get what he wants. If he wants to get a wife, he can get one whenever.” He says maybe almost pointing her with his empty beautiful mug. On the side of the mug are the words, ‘Best Dad Ever.’ His first born son must have had that made for him. The mjango is a professional graphic designer. He owns a graphic and interior design agency now. I know him. He is a husband to one wife (I wonder why people like saying that by the way. Okay fine we know you’re not a player already, moving on swiftly,) and has two kids. The first one is six already.
“Maybe he is just not ready dada. Give him time. Why should he rush to decisions only for him to marry a disgrace?”
“But he might be wasting time when he is already looking at the right one. Si atanyakuliwa?”
I am loving this. It has become a head to head. The interview was giving me all I wanted to know bit by bit.
“Young man you listen to me. I am a man like you are and I have been where you are. I know even if you haven’t made a decision yet, just make sure you do as quickly as possible. You’re a decent man. For you I can’t be worried about whether you will get the right one. Decent men attract the right ones. So proceed and…”
“No no Mjango listen. He has a point but you can’t always be sure about the right one until you pray about it.” And there goes the big question, “Have you been praying about it?” Oh mothers and prayer. What would we do without your prayers?
After a short silence, “Yea I have prayed.”
Thinking that she’d let it be, “And what did God say?”
I was like, “Mmh?” I felt my blood turn into water. Or even wine. Red wine.
“Stop stressing the young man for heaven’s sake with questions. He is a grown man.” He said.
At that point I began to feel like a kid just from high school being told to try get a girlfriend and if I do, I shouldn’t kiss her. Whatever the hell that means.
“Okay listen,” she says. “We met in church in the 80s. In those days we were taught to be very keen when listening to God. Especially when approaching marriage, pastor who is now Bishop used to enquire from the man about whether he heard from God. I was also asked the same but it first starts with the man. And because I know him very well, I know he heard from the lord concerning me and that is why we have made it this far and I know, na bado.”
I laugh to the last part. I like the bae goals I am seeing here. Even though the ol’ man was already quiet. Why else would he be quiet? Two reasons. One, she must have been saying the truth. Two, he is a man who knows that a man can never win an argument between him and his wife. That’s a sure bet. If he wins it, he will be lesser of a man than the way he’d be thinking he is at the time. So in the world of men that I comprehend as well, he won the argument. I have found the right one and I won’t blow the few chances I have to go on my knees before the soon to be Empress, Mistress, Wife and Mother of my children – just like the way my pops said in the few words he used in his case.
“So Mjango.” She began. “As your parents, you have our blessings concerning a wife and a family for yourself. Did you see the way your two brothers made us proud with the way they approached this stage you’re in. Now your brother is expecting a child in a few months.
“In fact today is his birthday, 26th.” My dad says.
“Oh. Na hio umekumbuka aje?” She says and I shake my head in amusement.
She continues, “Your eldest brother, he already has a family of four. They are both doing very well since you went to the America. We are also happy for you that you made the family name get mentioned in the airwaves for all the right reasons. You have become a wealthy young man. Now get yourself a good wife, who can cook…”
I chuckle, “Oh surely mum aki! Hio ni obvious.” In my mind I tell her that she will be surprised on that day I will bring her home. You just wait.
“It sounds obvious but I know what I am saying. She can cook, be tidy, do house chores and respect us and our extended family.”
“You’ve forgotten to say God fearing.” I say.
“Yes I was going to say that,”
No you had forgotten. Hehe.
“Anyway, consider those things before you put a ring on her finger. Sawa our son?”
“Yes mum and dad.” I say.
My dad gets up and groans a bit. I don’t know how he saw humour on my face. So he says, “Wewe cheka tu na utafika hii miaka. Twende tuchome nyama. Your brothers and their families will be here any minute now.”
“Dada you remember you’re not supposed to eat a lot of meat.”
He keeps walking away silently.
Don’t I just love this couple? Maybe all these will come to pass after I send this story to God asking Him if He’d make a day like today in ten years from now be like this.
“The tea has to be just the right temperature for me to take it.”