An edited extract from ‘The old man, his wife & the young girl’, a short story in Daniel’s book, ‘Survivor: Alive in Mum’s Loving Arms’, available from Amazon at this link for $16.26 (paperback) or $1.26 (Kindle) - KJ
WABAG - Akali Wakane had met Rosemary at university – he was a law student and she an arts student majoring in social work.
At the time he claimed her as his soulmate, they were both in their second year of study.
They decided not to seek prior approval from their parents and relatives before living together.
When the news reached their villages, it spread far and wide amongst both families.
Akali and Rosemary became the subject of ridicule and accused of seeking pleasures of their skin instead of concentrating on their studies.
Some relatives even predicted the young couple would drop out and felt school fees had been wasted on them.
People felt entitled to express their views because the fees they had paid seemed very important.
But nobody could deny or separate the pair from the unconditional love they had for each other. A powerful magnet had bonded them permanently. They were determined to face challenges together.
So they ignored the gossip and false rumours. They knew they had to complete their studies because their future was in their hands.
And they did not want to jeopardise the future of somebody so dear to them - the baby growing in Rosemary’s womb.
True, Akali decided to live with Rosemary because he loved her. But how does one perceive beauty in a woman. For some it could be her smile, white teeth, bright eyes, shapely legs, straight perfect nose, the rings in her ears, or her make up.
For others it could be her shapely body and firm jutting breasts. Rosemary possessed some of these attributes too, but Akali was drawn more by an air of openness that surrounded her like a halo.
He felt certain she was the robust hardworking type able to accomplish many tasks at ease without much complaint. And the fruit was that which was developing within her.
“You will be comfortable with a woman who works hard. Such women are humble. They will stand by your side in times of great need,” elders had told him in the hausman.
“And look after the first child she bears. Allow your children to grow strong before another is conceived, for he or she will look after the younger siblings.”
Akali felt proud to have made the right decision to claim Rosemary as his lifelong partner when they were still students. They remained true to each other in the 45 years they lived together before Rosemary tragically died.
They raised their first child, a boy, under trying conditions - with their meagre fortnightly pocket allowance of K13 paid to each of them under the government’s free tuition fee education program supplemented by occasional cash assistance given by generous friends and relatives.
They lived in a one-bedroom unit at the married quarters on campus and ate in the students’ mess. Book allowances were provided under the government’s free education scholarship scheme so there wasn’t much else they needed.
They put their scarce resources to maximum use, a habit that later saw them succeed in their working lives.
He loved the way Rosemary respected him, washed their laundry and managed to nurse their first child.
Never did she ask him to baby sit, which would undermine his manly character unless of course he himself picked up his son to give him a hug.
Her resilience and willingness to face tough challenges paid off when she graduated together with him in 1978.
During semester breaks, when she had funds, Rosemary liked going to the village to get herself acquainted with her in-laws.
Before they graduated, relatives were notified to prepare he bride price payment. They did not hesitate because she was an educated girl, a degree holder who would become their tambu for life.
The bridal wealth consisting of cash and pigs meant next to nothing. The whole tribe liked Rosemary for her selfless, open and sharing nature.
In April, the graduation party culminated with the bride price payment and the usual feasts and celebrations that follow a traditional marriage among the Enga people of the central Highlands.
People liked to contribute more to the payment when the bride is somebody they favour and, when Rosemary was paid her due, there was much wealth on display.
Over the years, Rosemary proved to be a loving mother to three gorgeous children – two boys and a girl. She was not only a mother but a close friend and supporter of her husband.
She was a strong influence in her children’s education, the type of woman men pay attention with special care and high esteem. She was everything a man could ever wish in a woman – a towering pillar of love and influence in the household.
In traditional times, Rosemary was the type of woman a man would sever a finger or an ear lobe over her dead body, then roll on the ground, kick dust clouds and wail with such force that it would seem as if the world would end, the mountains shake at their foundations and the rivers run dry.
But now, upon Rosemary’s death, the Old Man Akali confined himself to his mansion as if it were a cocoon.
Five years previously, Rosemary and the Old Man had renewed their wedding vows at the St Mary’s Cathedral in Port Moresby and celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary on the 20th floor of the Grand Papua Hotel.
It was a Ruby Anniversary and the room was filled with red. All the decorations were red. Every close friend and relative was dressed in red, and red wine flowed freely.
The glittering city lights outside seen through all the glass windows added more spectacle and it seemed that the couple were renewing their vows among the stars in the heavens.
But tonight, the Old Man was crying harder and longer because he could not believe he had actually considered remarrying a distant girl who pestered him with constant text messages.
‘Don’t you need a woman in your house right now?’ the girl had messaged. ‘Look at all your dirty linen, dirty utensils and dirty floor. And look outside the window. Who is tending the flower gardens and raking up dead leaves that are piling up?’
The Old Man had eventually replied, ‘Don’t write to me like that. You must complete your nurse training, find a job and start your own family. I have treated you like my own daughter. You must listen to my advice. Besides, I am a very old man for you to drag me along.’
‘I really appreciate your advice and what you have done for me and mum. I have always loved you like my own father. But take me into your life right now. I will look after you and repay your kindness,’ she replied.
‘I know what you mean. But listen to me. I can’t indulge in such thoughts. No, I can’t allow myself to go against my conscience. You are like my own child,’ responded the Old Man.
‘But you are not my father, nor are you my cousin, uncle or whatever. I am not a small girl any more. I know you enough to love you a notch higher. Don’t you know that many young girls marry much older men these days? Don’t be a silly old man. You must accept me into your life right now. Surely you need a woman, don’t you?’
‘But I am an old man of a different kind. I can’t discuss this issue with you anymore. Please stop texting me on this matter. Cheers.’
‘You don’t know what you are talking about. You don’t know what you are missing. I tell you - you need a woman in your house. I cannot allow anybody else to come live with you. I am already filled with your love. Think about me before you go to sleep tonight.’
What bothered the Old Man was that the young woman was no stranger but someone he and his late wife had helped over last couple of years and treated her as one of their own children.
But she was right in one sense. If he were like other men who had never been deeply committed to their wives, he would definitely have remarried as soon as Rosemary was buried.
But he had special regard for Rosemary and had mourned for a whole year up until now. To take this girl he and Rosemary had groomed into a beautiful young woman didn’t seem right.
The girl’s smiling picture was hanging right there on the living room wall among other family photos. He and Rosemary were responsible for putting that smile on her face.
How was it possible for the girl to insist on marrying him and express herself as she would to a young man?
‘Daddy, my heart. It is hard to forget you. You are not close by to see and understand my situation. The word cheers - it breaks my heart and my thoughts too. Oh, please.’
This last message stunned him – a young girl after a man fit to be her father.
But was she wrong?