Each day that I make time to go and see my grandmother, I often find myself learning something so profound that makes the visits to the ailing 90 years old woman extremely worthwhile. Take the day before last as an example; she told me about the origin of the tradition that requires any groom marrying into our family to present the parents of his prospective wife with a blanket before betrothal. That story took us back to the time my grandmother got married to my grandfather in 1937.
When the two did their wedding, she was 19 and he was 32. However, they had to overcome many hurdles even before they could walk down the isle. For a start my grandmother had many people – especially her age mates – discouraging her from getting married to him because of the age difference. There was also opposition from her own family since the man was very poor and came from a background of poverty as opposed to her wealthy upbringing. More opposition came because she was a saved Christian and he was not and also due to the fact that he had been in a marriage once before that did not work. But all that did not matter because both of them were determined to live their lives together.
She told me the reasons why she decided to get married to him; because he did not take alcohol, because he was not the kind of man that fooled around with women, because she believed that they could become partners to rise above the challenges of life including poverty, and because she trusted that God had shone her the right man for a husband. With a smile, she told me that my grandfather was smitten by her beauty and the fact that she was what he was looking for in a wife. He was so determined to catch her fancy that he enrolled into school for the first time in his thirties in order to learn how to read and write, just so that he could be in the same school as she was. He also started taking an interest in Christianity and even got saved after they were married.
In order to frustrate their efforts to get married, her family imposed very stringent dowry conditions such that it took many installments and a long time before my grandfather could “afford” to walk away with my grandmother. My grandmother’s family would ask for some seemingly impossible payment after another, and each of these required my grandfather to go and find casual labor in Nairobi until he could earn enough money to pay for what was required. She told me of an occasion where he was asked to bring a sheep for a “get together” slaughter, but it was rejected on the eve of the occasion on account that it wasn’t fat enough. Luckily, his determination had earned him enough goodwill from the village folks and the man with the fattest ram offered it to him for the slaughter.
When he finally met all their conditions, it was time to take him wife. However, her parents said, “It is not fair that you should take away our daughter who used to light the fire to warm our aging bones without giving us a blanket in return.” And so once again the frustrated man had to go to Nairobi to find money for a new blanket. On the day that he bought the blanket, he was in the presence of his bride to be and he said loudly, “I swear that if we ever get daughters, each man that wishes to marry any one of them will have to buy us a blanket!” And so it was that the family tradition was born.
God blessed them with 5 daughters that are all married. Apart from one of my aunties who eloped with her husband all the others had a blanket “paid” for them at the right time. My grandmother explained that one day, my auntie got very sick. He legs were swollen and she could not move for the pain. When my grandmother saw her, something told her that the reason why she was suffering was because of the unpaid blanket. By then, my grandfather had been dead for years. Being a saved Christian, she was at a loss at what to do since she did not want to contradict her faith by talking about superstitions. At the same time, she could not demand for a blanket since my aunty and her husband were very poor then. And so, she decided to call the mother of my auntie’s husband and requested her to convince her son to buy a blanket and present it to his wife’s family as a matter of urgency. Luckily, he obliged even without knowing the reason, and my auntie got better soon after.
That story got me marveling once again about the power of the spoken word. However, what was really my prize from that story is the prayer that my grandmother used to say before she got married. She told me that she would simply pray; “God, choose for me a husband that is suitable for me.” I found myself thinking of all those times that I dictate to God what I want in a situation, and then end the prayer by asking for His will to be done in my life without even considering that which would result from God’s will might not necessarily be the same as what I asked for. I suppose if we were to analyze our prayers and look critically and the requests that we sometimes make, we would realize that the reason why our lives have not turned into catastrophes is because those prayers were not answered at that particular time. I now think that making a prayer for God to choose that which is suitable for us at any moment would not only align us with God’s will, but it would also save us a lot of anguish. For as Mother Teresa rightfully said; “More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.”