Eko Encounters: A Missive In May (I) – By Nana Awere Damoah
On the eve of Mothers’ Day and a month to our 10th wedding anniversary, I have decided to reflect on my journey with you so far and to appreciate, with gratitude to God first for the gift of you, and to you for the gift of your love, partnership, friendship and companionship.
My mind goes back to the ‘80s, in Ghana National College. That is where the excursions in my mind begin from.
I started praying for a marriage partner at the age of 14! Mr John Gordon Egyir-Croffet who was our Scripture Union patron at Ghana National encouraged us to start praying for our future spouses and said that no prayer is ever wasted. I remember numerous times when I would listen to a particularly good sermon or learnt something from my bible study and pray ‘Lord, please teach my future wife this also.’ So you see, I was praying into your life years before I met you, and indeed I see a lot of those traits I prayed about. Prayer is never wasted, ampa.
I always thought I would marry one of the numerous ladies I grew up with through secondary school, friends I had made through Scripture union, Burning Fire and Joyful Way through the years. So even now, it amazes me that it took a full three years in Tech (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi) for me to set my eyes on you for the first time!
April 1st 1998 was the birthday of Sharon Quarshie (now Odartey-Lamptey), one of the Joyful Way ladies in Kumasi and she was in Africa hall, which was your hall too. I was then President of the Joyful Way Kumasi branch. I came to Africa to see Sharon and we had a nice chat at the porter’s lodge. Then, I went up to room 40, which was a popular meeting place for the Joyful Way executives – it was the room of two members of the Exec, Joyce Kyei (now Opare) and Jennifer Fafa Fudjoe (now Asiedu-Dartey).
It was in this room, on this day in 1998, that I was introduced to the sister of Evelyn Richardson (now Dimado), a member of Joyful Way in Accra, and that was you – with your fresh girl face! You were introduced to me as the mother of the Joyful Way girls. It was a normal encounter. That was the first time I had ever seen you, and we had both been in the University since 1994, well effectively from 1996, because of the full year’s strike by the University lecturers across Ghana. It is amazing that in subsequent years, 1 April would mark other important dates in my life. In 2010, I rejoined Unilever on this date and in 2012, I joined PZ Wilmar on this same date.
Subsequent to that initial encounter, I visited you a number of times when you were Africa hall Vice President. I was just fulfilling a promise to visit. Well, that was my excuse for the start! We were both in our third year then, you studying Pharmacy and I was studying Chemical Engineering. A casual encounter, followed up with visits anytime I visited Africa Hall led to a developing friendship. I found you an interesting character to chat with, and usually when I visited you in Room 37 (I believe, you will have to confirm this), I met your friend Patricia Buadu (now Barnett-Quaicoo) who was also a Joyful Way member.
It confirmed to me the comment that you were a mother to the Joyful Way folks in your hall. I was touched by that. All this while, I saw you as just another female friend I had made on campus; I had a lot already.
We had numerous contacts after that. The most significant was on your birthday, 5 November 1998. We were now both in our final years. On the previous day, you met me on the stairway in Africa hall, and told me you had something to tell me. You told me I would hear from you later. A note followed via a small boy (who we used as couriers on campus; those were the days before mobile phones and text messages), in which you asked that I come to your room – 18 Africa – with my room-mate Seth Attram-Danso and my friend Hendrix Glover (who had left then for Accra), for a serious discussion. We were in our final year then.
I was worried, because I thought one of the Joyful Way ladies had done something wrong. I got there with Seth, only to find out that it was your birthday! I was impressed about how you had kept me in suspense, because I thought I was a master at that.
I had met my match. Thinking back, that was the first time I really gave a serious thought about you. I was really intrigued. During the long vacation of late June to early September 1998, I had began thinking seriously about getting hitched. During the first three years of University, I was not actively considering any relationship, as I wanted to focus on my studies, fully. I wanted to finish with a first class, and later I wanted to finish at the top of my class. I had achieved both by this time, and was well on my way to maintain both by the end of my course, which was a year away. So during that vacation, I started doing a list of the potentials and started my prayers and investigations. Actually, in November 1998, there was one lady I had zeroed in on, and was preparing to propose to in December when I went home to Tema/Accra for vacation.
You were food for thought after pulling off the birthday surprise. December 1998 and January 1999 came and went by, with some heartache.
I think it was in February when we resumed for our final semester that you must have visited me first in Katanga. You had a message for me from Accra, I believe from your sister Evelyn. You could have sent a note through a small boy, but you came yourself. Another notch on the special totem pole I was keeping in my memories for you. I wouldn’t say in my heart then, because I was still nursing some brushes from my heartaches.
I recall all the interesting tricks we played on each other, for example asking you to transfer/record music on a CD onto a tape, and you going out of your way to buy another cassette, so I could get the whole 2 volumes, and copying all the titles of the songs neatly in the sleeve; the greetings we exchanged through your sister Evelyn and Patricia, our mutual friend; how I got lost the first day I came to visit you at home in Mataheko and yet persisted till I found your house, all the time you were on the lobby upstairs looking out eagerly for moi! You turned me into a classical music expert, as I spent hours in room 58 (I believe) dubbing songs for you. A Wasa man dabbling in Handel, Beethoven and Mozart!
In the second semester of our final year, my visits to you had increased exponentially! And you were coming to Katanga hall, the farthest hall from Africa hall as if the Africa hall porter’s lodge was in Katanga! Your room mate Ekua (who is your brother James’s wife and was our maid of honour) would be so worried when I came to visit your room and you were not in. The clouds were gathering for a downpour…
You used to come and visit when I was busy at work with my best pal Eric Dapaa Asiedu (who would later be my bestman during our wedding) on our project work. And you will still find time to sit and just watch us. I loved it anytime you visited. And you didn’t know then, but you were fulfilling, gradually, a fantasy I had. A personal prophecy I gave myself, if you like.
I fantasised about someone loving me from afar and letting me know. A lady caring enough to let it show. And in some ways, you did that. You took a risk to let your affection for me be evident. And I found the evidence in little ways. I remember once I was walking on campus with you and a guy met us, complaining that you hardly visited him. And yet, you were visiting me many times in Katanga. And I also knew that usually you took taxi to Mecca from Africa Hall and yet you walked to visit me in my hall, and we walked back.
My birthday in 1999 was a special one. You got a card specially designed, desktop published for me. By a computer science guy, I think he was called Henry. Ok, I may have forgotten the name, but I remember the face well. Anytime he saw me on campus thereafter, he gave me a knowing wink. And one major memory: I wanted transparent sheets to use for my project defence presentation and you indicated that you had some you had used but you would clean and send to me. They arrived, with a note. And a fragrant smell. You had used your perfume, which contains alcohol, obviously, to clean those sheets. That fragrance stayed with me for a long time!
Sunday 11th July 1999. It was a Sunday. After church which was at Africa hall, I went up to room 40 to see Fafa and Joyce. I descended to room 18 with Fafa to see you. You were not feeling well. But you had the strength to compliment me on how well I was looking! It was at the junction between Africa hall and Republic hall that I first shared with Fafa (the first time with anyone) that I wanted her to pray with me concerning you, that I liked you, that you were a nice friend to me, etc. When I got to my room, I told my roommate and friend Seth as well.
Monday 12 July. Something happened. I wrote to you at 2pm, wishing you all the best in the exams, etc. It rained between 2pm and 4pm. Then after the rains, I called a small boy and sent him to Africa to deliver the letter. A few minutes later, my room-mates and I heard a knock on our door, Room 61 Katanga Hall and we were like ‘How can the small boy come back so early?’ In came a different boy! With a letter from you, wishing me all the best, etc. It turned out that we had been thinking of each other around the same time, had written and the two couriers had bypassed each other! In about 20minutes, the courier boy returned with your response!
That week passed at the speed of light, and still didn’t pass fast enough! I visited you in Africa Hall everyday except for either Tuesday or Wednesday (because I had this particular paper to write that I just couldn’t take time off), even though it was the exam week, in the final semester of our final year. It was the last but one week we were spending in the University. I recollect that Dapaa would come looking for me for us to discuss some questions or part of the notes, and I would be absent. Paddyman had gone to Africa Hall, again! I would return, follow up to Dapaa’s room, get to know the question or portion of the notes he wanted us to discuss, realise that I hadn’t read it up yet, get back to my notes, read up in record time and together we crack the question! A special grace for studying descended after a visit to Room 18!
Friday the 16th. I asked you to come over to my room, we went for a walk, after taking some drinks at the JCR Canteen of Independence Hall. We went by Africa Hall and branches onto Okoree street, by the lecturers’ bungalows. The weather was just right that evening, and we were both happy in our shared company. I told you that there were two occupants in Room 18 Africa Hall; one was engaged and so I was asking for the hand the other one in marriage.
Immediately the birds stopped singing, the wind ceased, the branches of the trees craned their long necks, traffic stopped on that street, nature came to a standstill, and at exactly 9.23pm that 16th July, you said ‘Damoah, I give it to you!’ and that response was within seconds!
I think we went back to your room after calling my sister Mercy to break the news to her. And then I went back to Katanga where I told my room mates Seth and Felix Afeti, who pounded me!
It was the happiest day in my life!
The ability to assess/appreciate present worth, even small and predict future worth and say ‘Yes’ to the proposal of someone whose only claim to fame was a promised first degree! That is what you demonstrated and that is the risk you took by committing to marrying me, right from the acceptance of my proposal.
I will pause here and continue in part 2 of this letter.
Today is Mothers’ Day. 12 May 2012. Since I got to know you on 1 April 1998, you have been a fantastic friend, confidante and lover. You have been a great mother to my children and a strong supporter of my career, both as an engineer and a writer. You give me space to explore my talents. You represent that quiet yet unshaken drive behind what I have been able to achieve so far. You are an excellent manager and the chief of staff of our home. As you would put it, in you, I found not just a wife, but a good one as such!
Happy Mothers’ Day, my love. I really appreciate you, in gargantuan proportions!
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