FIND THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

I never thought that seeing my child would cause such pain.

There are people everywhere. Hundreds of them, no, maybe thousands.

Cameras in hand, fighting for the best seats. This is so different from life back home.

Although, life back home hasn’t been the same in a long while.

Ada was the one who changed me from a man into a father. Watching her grow from that tiny baby I was so afraid to hold, into a kind child and a gentle woman, was the light of my life.

Ada’s compassion shone bright. She wouldn’t let me kill the mice in the shed, so she stayed up all night catching them and walked kilometres to set them free. She loved the neighbour’s children like they were her own siblings. She even co-ordinated the women’s outreach in the Church. So it made sense when she told me she wanted go to the city, to earn money, and become a nurse. My daughter: the first child from the village to go to college! I wasn’t afraid or sad, I was proud. We taught her family values. We taught her that to be successful, you need to work hard. We taught her that no matter what, you never give up.

In just a week, my baby girl found a job. The owner said that her smile lit up the restaurant. Everything she touched turned to gold. If only some of her gold rubbed off on me.

I’d worked all my life on the farms. But one day a machine took my job. I searched for work but who would want an old man like me? My small savings soon ran out and I had nowhere to turn. I had to resort to the one thing I never wanted to do: I asked my child for help.

Every week, as she deposited money into my account, I’d get that SMS of shame. An aching reminder that I couldn’t afford to help my child study and now she had to help me live. I thought I’d reached the lowest of lows, but soon learn that I hadn’t.

I found work here and there. One hot Tuesday, I remember it like yesterday, I was fixing a fence along the road into the village. I saw a shiny, new car drive in and recognised my neighbour’s son who’d also gone to work in the city. I waved him down and asked if he had seen my Ada. He just looked at me. Seconds passed, too many to be comfortable. He shook his head and I saw drops of sweat fall from his forehead. “What? What’s wrong? Is she ok?” I begged. He sat me down and told me how my Ada was making enough money to support us both.

My daughter became a sex worker.

She lost all her morals! What happened to her values? What happened to my baby girl? She was gone.

She tried to call and write. She sent messages with aunties and uncles and friends. But this was not the child I raised. I didn’t want her filthy money, but as I got older, finding work became more and more difficult and I didn’t have a choice.

Finally, I moved in with my younger brother. I knew he was in contact with Ada and one day, he cornered me. He shook his head, sweat dripped from his forehead. A harsh reminder of that Tuesday. “Brother, enough is enough.” I knew what was coming, I’d heard it all before. That a job is a job. That she’s still my child. But he just didn’t understand. Before I could tell him that my daughter didn’t exist anymore, he said, “Ada is graduating next month. She’s going to be a nurse. I am going to her graduation and you should come with”.

My heart almost stopped beating. I thought she’d left that life behind.

“So, she’s not a sex worker anymore?”

“She is, brother. She is a nurse - and a sex worker. There are two sides of her and both sides are helping her have a good life. Sex work is still work. Why does it matter to you so much? You taught her never to give up, that success took hard work, and to be there for her family. She’s done everything you taught her, maybe not the way you’d have liked, but she’s done it. Now it’s time to stop judging her.”

So here I am. Surrounded by thousands of people. Waiting to see the daughter who I abandoned, collect her degree, sure that she’d never want to see me again.                                                                                 

“Ada Balewa!” boomed over the microphone. The audience erupted in applause around me and that beautiful smile lit up the stage.

“That’s my daughter!!” I screamed before I realised what I was doing. She turned.

When her eyes met mine, they were not full of hate, but love. My child, my baby girl, who never gave up on me. I couldn’t be prouder.

 

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