GOODBYE, MY ‘LITTLE SISTER’ ALICE
By CAMERON DUODU
ALICE DUODUAA (left) AND HER BRO CAMERON DUODU
Alice Duoduaa was the first sister I ever had. My father was very proud when she was born, for she was also his first daughter.
He had always wanted a girl to name after his mother, but had not been lucky enough to get one. But he wouldn’t give up. Unfortunately, his first wife gave him only boys – three of them! He named them after his dead father, his grandfather and his uncle.
His third son was the last child he had with his first wife. For she died in child-birth.
Then he married my mother. And I was the first child of my mother. But I too was a boy. Now despairing of ever having a daughter, he named me after his beloved mother — Duodu, the male version of Duoduaa.
Having at last named someone after his mother, he stopped worrying about the matter. And it was wise of him to do so, for my mother followed me with — yet another son.
But then, he was blessed with a daughter the next time my mother gave birth. My first sister was born on 21 May 1943. At last, my father had someone whose name would bring his mother’s name really back to life – Duoduaa.
My mother, who had never been to school, nevertheless chose a beautiful Christian name for her daughter – Alice. It sounded good, and we all loved the little girl who bore the catchy name.
But tragedy nearly robbed us of little Alice. Shortly after she had begun to walk, we were preparing the evening meal one day when she happened to walk behind me, as I was pounding the fufuo. I couldn’t have been more than seven years old, and was not an expert fufuo pounder. As Alice walked behind me, unseen by either me or my mother, my buttocks struck her and she fell – straight towards the hearth on which our soup was cooking.
One of her arms went straight into the soup, and was scalded raw!
She cried from the pain.
I cried for having been the cause of her pain – unwitting though my part had been.
And my mother cried – because her only daughter would be scarred for life.
In the days following the accident, I felt suicidal. How could this calamity have befallen me? I knew that although no-one blamed me openly for causing Alice to nearly get killed in the soup, nevertheless, they secretly held me responsible. I even heard my mother insinuating that “witches” who didn’t want her to have a daughter, had “used” me to try “to cook and eat Alice!”
It was one of the most heart-rending things I ever heard said in connection with myself.
For even if my mother did not suspect me of being “in league” with the witches, the direct linkage she had made of myself and them – with myself cast as their chosen instrument – was a harrowing thought to bear as a seven-year-old child. And every day, as Alice’s wounds were tended and she cried in pain, the guilt mounted up in me.
Fortunately, her arm eventually healed, and she only had a scar running down it to show for the enormous pain she had endured at such a young age. But she and I were linked by a psychological bond that no-one could ever understand: the fact that I had accidentally caused her so much pain, and that we were both named after the same person – my father’s mother.
After completing her Middle School Education at Asiakwa, Alice was married twice – first to Rev Okoampa Agyemang of Asiakwa, and then to Mr J Q Sonne of Osu, Accra, whom she met when he was Medical Superintendent at Kyebi Hospital. She had children with both husbands.
It was no doubt the unspoken bond between us that made me ask her last year to resume the trading activities for which she had become known, otherwise, as I put it, “she would become old at too early an age.” She agreed and was about to open a kiosk in front of her home to sell goods, when she fell ill.
When our younger sister lost her husband, I sat very close to Alice at the burial service in Accra, and for the first time in my life, I observed the remarkable resemblance that her face bore to that of my mother. I was not to know that in just over a month, she would be going to join my mother at “Asamando” – the place where we are all supposed to go, when we leave this earth.
Alice was taken ill at home on 17 September 2013. She was taken to the Ridge Hospital, in Accra, where she was admitted. Visiting her at the hospital opened my eyes to the real state of the health service in Ghana. The place was over-crowded. My sister lay on a bed in a corridor, as did other patients. The patients were many and the hospital staff few. I was scared by the situation, and was therefore overjoyed when she was discharged from the hospital after about a fortnight.
But my relief was ill-founded. Whereas I had assumed that she had been discharged because she was on the way to recovery, she probably had been sent home by an over-optimistic hospital staff. I was taken aback when on visiting her at home on her release, she could still not talk to me. But I comforted myself with the knowledge that people who had suffered from a stroke took a long time to regain all their faculties. She was expected to undergo physiotherapy and such things, I knew.
But on 17 October 2013, word reached me that Alice had passed.
She is being buried at Asiakwa on 30th November 2013.
I shall not be there, but my heart will be in the coffin there with my “little sister”.
What can I say? Except “Goodbye, Little Sister!”?
May God receive her with His Mercy and His undying love.
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