Life happens

Well, the last time I blogged, I had a mother. Now, I don’t. But she had nice sisters and they’ve stepped in to cover the gap she left. They’ve done a commendable job, a really brilliant job. But they’ve got their own families and their own worries. Soon, everyone and everything will go back to normal and poof, it will hit us that all we have is just the six siblings and our Dad.

It is strange when I think of him as a widower. He handled the funeral pretty well. He put up a brave face for us. Yet, he’d lost the only person who knew him best. They’d been married for 30 years. Now, don’t even mention the anniversary, because, that, will break the old man’s heart.

Okay, I was actually paralysed from writing. Everytime I’d sit to try and put this down together, first in Mumias and then at my place in Nairobi, my mind would go blank. It has taken me eight hours of flight and about four hours in a foreign country (and I am just on transit) to get the solitude needed for this reflection.

The phonecalls and text messages from my many friends, many of them touching, were actually a barrier to my touching base with mom, wherever she is—some of my friends actually believe she’s somewhere up there watching over the family she left behind.

First, let me just say, I’d like to share the story of her sickness for the three weeks that I spent at home with her before that nasty and teary night of April 24, 2011.

I came from Nairobi, entered the Mumias house at 3pm. Mum was in the bedroom listening to radio while Dad was entertaining a neighbour in the sitting room. When I saw her, my heart sank. She had grown so thin, that it broke my heart. Yet, the tumour eating her was expanding in her abdomen, crashing the internal organs and slowly snuffing life out of her.

But she still managed her one-million-dollar smile. The one that only a mom gives to her children. She seemed to have realized the shock on my face, but she ignored it. I said hi and quickly left for my place. I changed the clothes I was wearing and dressed down for the village –a ‘sweating’ and a t-shirt. Then, I went back to chat with my Dad.

Mom called out my name from the bedroom, so we all left and went to see her. She had insisted on developing some idle plot of land in Mumias. She’d remind me about it every time I went home. So I had made some strides, thanks to my architect friend Sulleh (Imran) and my big brother Jere.

She looked at the house plan, asked her questions, and approved it with a smile. “It looks like you’ve decided to be very serious with the project. That’s a very good thing. Don’t falter,” she told me.

We sat with Dad the rest of the evening.

The next morning, we did some domestic shopping and the stay began. The problem was, every time I looked at mom walking around the compound in what she used to call “it’s now time for road work”, I’d see the struggle in her eyes and the unwavering hope, that, “God’s will, shall be done.”

Then she’d sit down, and Dad would get her some fresh fruit juice straight from the blender. She’d take that, have her dose of the sunshine and then go take an early afternoon lunch, wake up for lunch –which we ate together—and then, she’d go back to her room and continue with recital of the rosary and many other Catholic prayers. Dinner time would come, we’d cook whatever she decided she wanted –she didn’t eat much anyway—and that would be it.

So, one day, the Thursday before the Easter Weekend, she asked for a second massage in the evening. She said the legs were sore at the ankles. I could see they were swollen.

So, I did massage them, but this time, the swelling did not disappear. The legs were so soft. I told her so, but she said, she felt better. I had used very hot water that my hands were nigh-scalded, but she said, she couldn’t feel a thing. When I turned on the heater right next to her legs, she said, she could feel the ‘heat’ but it was really not that hot. Well, it was at MAX and she wasn’t feeling it.

Something was definitely wrong.

That morning, she couldn’t walk and even folding her legs became a problem. The rest are details too gory to recount without re-living the moment…let me continue with the trip. It’s ‘boarding time’ here and I have to go.


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