An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
THE LEVEL of love and care we give to our children are the same we will receive from them when we are sick or get old. If we give them the best according to what we have, we will get the same measure and even more from them.
Yesterday the news of the demise of Tabie reached me, and memories of human tragedy rekindled. He had been referred to Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital in Kundiawa from Goroka Base Hospital.
Tabie was in his early sixties and some months ago was admitted to my ward for treatment of acute arthritis in both his legs.
Although he was able to walk with the support of crutches, he didn’t have the strength to help himself with other chores.
My daughter Charlene (now doing Grade 11 at Gumine Secondary) helped him to fetch drinking water and to get his morning tea and dinner from the mess. She even did the laundry for him.
As days passed into weeks, we realised that none of his relatives was coming to look after him. He lacked toiletry, so we helped him. We provided him with fruit and extra meals. Whatever we had we shared with him.
At time Charlene would ask about his relatives and if they might come and look after him. Tabie said he didn’t know.
“Do you have children?” she asked.
“Yes Bubu, I have many children. They are all grown-up and married. Two of them are in Port Moresby. One is teaching at Kilakila Secondary School and the other is operating a taxi service”, Tabie replied proudly.
“Then why will none of them come to visit you? You need a guardian to look after you, bathe you, wash your clothes and get your meals from the mess. You are not strong enough to help yourself”.
“Bubu, you are right. I don’t know why they are not coming,” he said with a tone of regret.
“Do they know you are here? Do you have their phone numbers?”
“They know I am here, Bubu. But I don’t know why they are not coming. I don’t have their phone numbers”.
“It’s alright,” Charlene assured him. “I will look after you and my dad.”
Tabie stayed in this hospital for almost three months until being transferred back to Goroka. He was living with his latest wife, a widow, when he passed away a week ago.
Throughout his three months at Sir Joseph Nombri Hospital, only three visitors came and visited him and they were not family members. They were wantoks from the village (hauslain) who brought with them some food.
The first who came were a couple. Charlene asked them why Tabie’s children were not coming to look after him.
The man hesitantly said he didn’t know. The wife facing Charlene, with the back of her head to Tabie, twisted her nose.
I couldn’t work out what the facial gesture meant.
Charlene, being an intuitive girl, grabbed the woman’s hand and said, “Let’s go and chew betel nut”, and they went out.
About half an hour later they came back, their lips red with buai spittle.
When the couple left, Charlene bombarded Tabie with questions about the number of wives and children he had with each wife and how he parented the children. She had already learnt a lot about Tabie’s life from the woman.
The truth finally surfaced.
Tabie had been a handsome man in his young days and married one woman after the other. After the birth of his second child, he deserted the mother and the children and married a new wife.
As soon as the new wife had a child, he left them and married another one and went on like that … a hit and run type.
He had nine children from his many wives.
He didn’t look after any of his children. He didn’t promote and support their physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development including formal education of all of his children … the usual parenting process from infancy to adulthood.
All the children were raised by their maternal grandparents or other people who put them through school and paid their school fees.
Biological fatherly love was something that all Tabie’s children missed most in their lives.
Tabie didn’t realise he wouldn’t be forever young, handsome and energetic. There would come a time when he would get old and or sick and depend on his children for care and support.
When he got old and became ill, the children totally despised and neglected him.
When Charlene learned of his promiscuous past and the neglect of his children, she stopped helping him. Tabie found life so hard, he was transferred back to Goroka.
Currently at Sir Joseph Nombri we have a patient paralysed by TB of the spine. He is in his fifties and was living a promiscuous life with no or little concern for his children.
His children would come and go. They didn’t give a damn about his excrement and urine.
Many times he would yell and cry for help and the children would tell him to die. They told him straight that he never cared for them. They grew up in their mother’s hands. Other guardians had pity on him and were helping him.
There are instances where children inflicted severe bodily harm on their biological mother or father because of parenting negligence.
There are many Papua New Guineans like Tabie who follow the flesh without worrying about the consequences of their actions and end up paying the ultimate price.
Our children are precious gifts from God and assets and heirs. They are the ones we would fall on in old age and in the time of sickness and other calamities.
It is inhumane and insane for people to not take care of their own children unless for medical, economic or other legitimate reasons.