As has become tradition, we don’t call before we go to visit Grandpa and Grandma, or ‘Ampa’ and ‘Amma’ as the Grandkids fondly call them.
On this particular day, I heard a love story, so pure and so true..
The kind of story so rare and hard to come by…
(Written By Faith Abassah)
PART 1: HIS VERSION OF A 50 YEAR OLD LOVE STORY
My name is Sir Matthew M. Abassah. I received the sacrament of matrimony precisely 50 years ago. I want to tell you a little about that journey.
Sometime in 1966 I was a young lad living in Port Harcourt. I had only just returned from Europe and was working at the time.
Everyday, I took the bus to work. It was a time when things were much simpler. On one of such occasions, I saw a young lady on the bus. What actually caught my attention was her feet, it reminded me of an European friend I used to have. I followed my gaze to her face, she was a beauty to behold, slim and with a head full of black thick hair. Her hair was attractive and she wore it afro style. A natural black beauty. As I kept staring, she got to her bus stop and alighted.
I saw her the very next day and was so happy. I kept glancing at her throughout the bus ride. She did not seem to notice.
A few days later I went to visit a relative of mine and his wife, Prof and Mrs, Eric and Pat Opia. I told them I had seen someone I thought I could spend the rest of my life with but I did not know how to strike up a conversation with her. I described her so well, including the bus route I had seen her on. It sort of clicked to my relative and his wife that I was talking about someone they knew. They kept probing till they were almost certain it was the same girl they knew. A dinner date was set for a few days later.
I walked in that evening and saw her. She said a lovely hello to me but barely glanced up. As our hosts ushered us to the dining table, I caught a good glimpse at her. She looked even better than I previously thought. Her hair was shiny and I saw how slim she was. I immediately knew I would spend my life feeding her – there was “room” for improvement.
Dinner was soon served. It was Irish potatoes served with sauce. Eric kept saying he wanted to have baked yam. I remember being very curious, as I had never heard that before. It was simply roasted yam made on the gas cooker.
As this beautiful girl made her way to the dining, I threw my head backwards to observe her feet. Seeing her hair and those cute feet again gave me so much joy. You see in those days, not many women in these parts cared about their feet.
After dinner, we all chatted for a bit and then it was my time to leave. Eric insisted that she walk me out, she obliged. We stood outside and talked a little. I gave her a peck on her cheek and started walking away fast.
The journey to today started soon after. I started inviting her out. My wife is the most interesting woman to talk with. I lived in a two bedroom flat on Aggrey road at the time. I would invite her over and cook goulash for her, a dish I had learned to make in Germany. We went out a couple of times to Rex cinemas and Rivoli cinemas.
I took her to my family home in Aba, and my mother’s only reservation was that she was too black. I reminded my mum that I could have stayed back in Germany after I got a few job offers but I chose to come back and be with them as the war was already brewing, and that I also came back so I could find a decent wife and start a family.
The idea was already conceived. I contacted a cousin of mine Mr Uzo Okogba who stood as a middle man between my family and her family for the traditional marriage rites, and the plans rolled on. We performed the traditional rites of Uvbwie Local Government area, Effurun (now Delta State) in the then Eastern Nigeria.
In 1967, in the heat of the raging war, we got married.
Sometimes people ask me why we got married knowing that we might not make it out of the war. I always tell them that I wanted to get married knowing that if I died, I would have died as her husband. I remember going to the registry to get married at the council and soon after we wanted the Catholic Church to bless our Union. The Sacrament of matrimony was to take place at the St Mary’s Catholic Church, but eventually it had to be moved because of heavy shelling and bombing that was going on at the time. We moved to Holy Rosary Secondary School and got married at the Chapel with MIG fighters in the air around us. The attendance was not good because the war stopped so many people from turning up.
The War was very difficult, we saw death a time too many. Sometimes it is hard to believe we made it out alive. We ran from Port Harcout to Aba then to Umuahia, and eventually ended up in a village called Okwelle. I don’t want to talk about the war. I want to focus on the best part of those years. The love my wife has for me kept us going and I did not want to ever break her heart by not making it. I am so thankful for the attention and affection she has always shown me.
What has kept us this past 50 years has been a major dedication to each other and the vows we took. I say friendship first and then mutual respect, We are also very honest with each other. Undiluted love has also been a major factor, and it has been cemented with a special grace from God.
Not once did I ever think this was over. We always knew it was forever.
I say to young people all the time that the secret to a successful marriage is that someone must play the fool each time and reconcile the home.