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I take a walk twice weekly — 90-yr-old ex-health worker

By The Citizen
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Ninety-year-old Titilola Thomas tells Gbenga Adeniji the story of her life

When were you born?
I am Titilola Thomas (nee Fadairo). I was born in Ogun State on June17, 1924. There were few schools at the time I was born; hence it took sometime before I could start school. When I was six years old, my father who was a produce buyer travelled to Idogo after Ilaro in Ogun State. He took his family along and that was where I started school. I later returned to Abeokuta after studying up to Form Three to continue my education. I attended Imo Girls High School in Abeokuta. I later left the school to live with my brother who was then residing in Lagos.

How did you know your birth date?
My father always recorded the date any of his children was born. Though he was a produce buyer, he was nonetheless educated. Once a child was about to start school, he would tell him or her the date of their birth and the day of the week the child was born. That was how I knew my date of birth. He could also read and write. When I was of age, he told me the day I was born.

Why did you go to live with your brother?
I wanted to work after leaving Imo Girls High School. Since my brother was settled in Lagos, I decided to go and live with him. When I got to Lagos, I worked in a firm as a clerk for some years. I also left the place to work at a hospital attached to a health centre in Ereko, Lagos. I was later moved to Mercy Dispensary. It was called Children Hospital. My job involved assisting nurses in making their jobs easy by making available to them everything they needed. We also cleaned the offices and ensured everywhere was tidy. They referred to us as orderlies. It was a good job which allowed me to see the challenges of doctors and nurses in carrying out their jobs. I learnt so much from the place. I also had a good relationship with my fellow workers and bosses. But I must add that there were times when the nurses shouted at us when they needed one thing or the other. I, however, did not allow any that to discourage me. I knew why I was working so hard and I couldn't be discouraged. I always consoled myself with the belief that nothing good comes easy. I eventually left the place in 1986 because I had wished for long to go into private business. I wanted to run my own business in order to have enough time to cater for my family.

What business did you establish?
I started a food business where I sold rice, beans and other edible things. I enjoyed it because it allowed me to focus on so many things and concentrate on my family.

What did you do with your first salary?
It was compulsory that time to give one's first salary to one's parents. I sent my first salary to my parents and they shared it among people who mattered and prayed for me. They, however, gave me the remaining.

Did your children do same to you?
Yes, they did the same. I did not tell them to bring their first salaries to me. They did so of their own volition and I prayed for them.

How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband when I was staying with my brother, William Fadairo.

We lived in the same neighbourhood and it was not hard for me to know his behaviours because I saw him often. When he made his intention known, I did not refuse because I liked him too. He was a gentle and caring husband. He worked with the Post and Telegraph. He was the perfect man for me. Our union was a good one and it produced two children; a female and a male. The female is a businesswoman while the male works with the London Underground Limited in the United Kingdom. It was sad that he died after his retirement from P&T.

What caused his death?
He was sick for some time. We did our best to take care of him but he eventually died on July 5, 1979. Since his death, my two children have been my companion. My husband's death was very painful to me because we were very close. But I reasoned that I should move on and that was just what I did.

What's your experience of the civil war?
It was God that helped us. Though we did not experience it directly, the fact that there was a war going on in some parts of the country was enough fear on its own. We thank God that the country survived that experience. War is not a good thing. We should not pray to experience any war again in this country. It is good for people to live together as one and that is what we should strive for in Nigeria. The civil war was not palatable at all and I am sure that those who witnessed it would agree that it was a sad experience.

What is responsible for your good health?
My attainment of 90 years is by God's grace. It is not because of any special meal or health tips. I don't have any special meal and don't adhere to any health tips. I eat any food so far it is good and well prepared. I also know that most of my dead relations attained good age.

What was your favourite sport as a youth?
I loved athletics. I was an athlete. I partook in relay races and won many prizes during the time I was at Imo Girls School, Abeokuta.

What form of exercise do you do?
I sleep at 9pm and wake up at 4pm to read the Bible and pray. After praying, I will have a bath. I like taking a walk twice weekly. It makes me energetic and strong.

How do you relax?
I like sleeping any time I want to relax. I also like attending church services. You know it pays to be in God's presence.

What is your favourite drink?
I like taking tea. I take it every day.
What kind of training did you give your children?
We trained them to respect elders, exhibit clear-cut integrity and fear of God. Any child that refuses to respect elders is certainly not a good child. We made them to understand that there is no way a child can prosper in life without the fear of God. Besides, they were taught to know the values of honesty and sound integrity. I thank God that they eventually turned out to be good children. They make me proud always and I always count myself lucky that God gave me exceptional children. My son in the UK, Ayo, left everything to come home to celebrate my 90th birthday and his sister also continues to make me happy. I am a blessed woman and mother. I know that it is the good home training they received from infancy that is paying off now. They are also benefitting from it because they allowed themselves to be properly trained. I remember when we used to tell them to study hard so they could make something good out of their lives. There are some children nowadays who refused to be trained. They are regretting it today.

How do you feel at 90?
I feel great. I am so happy but my strength is reducing. It is not as it used to be when I was a youth with a lot of energy to run around. But in all, I am grateful to God because many of the people we grew up together are no more.

What is your advice to youths desirous of having long life?

I think they should watch what they do as youths. This is very important because what they did as youths would manifest in them when they attain adulthood. In our time, things were different. We obeyed elders and listened to them. We were not wise in our eyes or believed we knew everything and that our parents could not advise us. They should be humble and be careful in everything they do.

What is the difference between your time and now?
We dressed modestly during my days. There was no way any child could wear skimpy dresses and leave the house during my time. No parent would allow such dressing. One would even get caned if caught wearing revealing clothes. They watched what we wore and ensured that we dressed well and decently. Things are different now. The youth wear what they want these days without anybody bothering to caution them even though the clothes are an eyesore. It is so bad that when a concerned person cautions them, they say, 'That was during your time. Things have changed now. We are now in modern world.' This is why they get into a lot of troubles. What men smoked and drank during my time cannot be compared to what youths nowadays drink and smoke. Youths now smoke marijuana and consume drinks with much alcoholic content. We didn't do all of these. In fact, everything we did was in moderation; from the food we ate, clothes we wore to things we said. Some parents are too busy to cater for their children thereby exposing them to peer pressure and social influences. However, many parents trained their children, it is the kids who refused to be trained. We should keep praying to God to help us to train our children properly.

How do you cope without your husband?
It has not been easy. I remember him most times but once I am getting disturbed, my children became a solace to me. Punch