Matthew and Stella… 50 years of saying I do (Written By Faith Abassah)
PART 2: HER VERSION OF A 50 YEAR OLD LOVE STORY
I remember the first time I set eyes on Blondie as I fondly call my husband. I was on a bus ride to work, I noticed this young man kept staring at my feet and glancing at me, so I got off at the next bus stop, took a foot path and went to another bus-stop. I found it uncomfortable to be stared at.
The next day, as I sat on the bus, I saw the young man again. I avoided his glance and soon got off at my bus stop.
A few days later, I was home with Prof Eric Opia and his wife Francine Pat Opia. I was living at their house because Pat had taken a liking to me and they had come to the convent to ask that I be their house guest for as long as I wanted; seeing that the war was starting to brew and I wanted to return to my home town in Effurun. One day I was asked to get dressed; they told me that they were expecting a guest for dinner. I reluctantly put on a shirt and tied a wrapper. In all honesty, the couple entertained a lot and I sometimes stayed in my room when they had guests. But this day was different. Eric insisted I took extra care in getting dressed. They were so adamant on that particular day.
I was sitting in the living room when the young man walked in. I barely glanced up but I said hello. The living room was dimly lit. Shortly after he walked in, the table was laid out and we proceeded to sit at the dining area. Prof Eric was teasing the young man about his lack of charm and how a beautiful lady was seated right next to him and he was tongue tied. I glanced up a bit embarrassed and he suddenly looked vaguely familiar. I sat through dinner wondering where I had seen him.
Soon after, our hosts did the proper introductions. The evening went on really well and when it was time to call it a night, I walked him to the yard. We promised to see each other again and he left me with a peck.
We would go to cinemas together at the insistence of my hosts. They made sure I always went out with him. I soon found out that our fathers were very good friends in Aba where our parents lived. We actually lived on the same street in Aba, adjacent to each other but for so many reasons, our paths never crossed till now.
I remember the first night we went dancing; it was Lido nightclub. I was dancing the latest dance step – then the “chachacha”. Blondie could only dance some foreign steps that made us laugh. His chachacha was not good at all. It seemed like we were seeing each other every day at this point.
Occasionally, my host, Pat would ask if I liked him. I would say yes but whenever she asked about love, I would tactically evade the question. Pat kept trying to make me admit that I loved him. She would always tell me that apart from her husband Eric, Matthew was one of the great men she had met in Nigeria. Pat was an American and a lecturer at UNN.
It was one evening when Eric walked in and told me that Matthew had been down; that I knew I had fallen in love. I jumped up in panic and they laughed at me. Early the next day, I went to check up on him and was told he already left for work, I was so angry. Not angry enough I guess because I returned after work to check up on him. We did not ever meet on the bus again after our initial introduction. I met him playing the guitar, we chatted for a bit and I left.
Soon after, he told me he wanted to marry me. I replied that I would love to. We went to see his mother and shortly after, we sent word to my people too. We were married in three months; first at my village and subsequently in Port Harcourt.
People kept asking what we were thinking getting married during the war. Blondie had bought a two door Ford Anglia. It conveyed us to the church in the company of his Uncle and his wife. I had no wedding dress or bouquet. I wore a suit and I remember my aunt plucked hibiscus flowers and a few leaves. I had to carry those as my bouquet. We had to move from one church location to another because of heavy shelling around us. The war was on in full.
Some months after we got married, I was pregnant when a bomb finally tore off a portion of our home. Suddenly, we were on the run for the next three years. We went from Port Harcourt to Aba and still kept running.
I had just gotten to Umuahia from Aba when I had my first daughter. Life was difficult then, but with Blondie by my side and my little daughter Boloere, I knew we had to survive.
So many times during the war, death came to separate us. When I think back now, I see that life has been so kind to us. I remember the few moments of separation during the war and how I would feel like my world had collapsed and God would bring my husband back to me.
After the war, we picked up our lives and the journey so far has been amazing, six children later and so many grand children.
People ask me what has kept us for so long. I know it’s God because firstly, long life comes from God only. After God it’s friendship – mainly and a deep understanding of each other’s dynamic personalities. I am an extrovert and blondie is an introvert. He is very mild tempered whereas I can be volatile. I say what is on my mind quickly and forget about it. We have never been greedy, I have never wanted what he could not give and vice versa.We are very content with all we have. The love from our children and grand children has also been a propelling force up to this point.
Life has tried to bury us so many times but we are seeds, we cannot stay buried. We rise.