It’s 30 minutes to midnight. Saturday night. I just stumbled in from the bar. I’m not high. OK, I’m high. But just a bit. I’m eating a banana. For some reason, I love eating bananas after drinking. I swear in another life I was called Mogusu. Outside, the sky is angry and bruised with rain coming down in long thin curtains. Four years ago yesterday, my mom died. I thought about her the whole drive home. I’m now staring at a picture of her that my small sister shared on Whatsapp a few days earlier. The last picture that was taken of her. She’s sandwiched between two aunts. She looks gaunt and tired; death circles over her like a vulture. Her eyes are half closed. Towards the end, sometimes she’d close her eyes to fend off the dizziness. And nausea. And death.
In a few minutes it will be Mother’s Day. I don’t derive any joy from this day. The only comfort I take from this day is that my children have their mother to celebrate. Grief doesn’t really go away, it just takes a backseat. I recall how when I interviewed Don Bosire he mentioned a presentation done by Joseph Kongoro, at Engage. Kangoro described the grief of losing his mother as, “…her departure was this hole that I walk around during the day and I fall into at night.” I loved that soundbite. So apt. It’s one of those beautiful sentences that I carry in my head. I could be standing at the bank counter and I’m thinking, this teller doesn’t have a clue that I’m carrying this wonderful sentence in my head! It’s like a lovely little secret.
I want to sit down and write my mother a letter to mark her fourth anniversary. I’m hoping that if by any chance there is internet in heaven or wherever it is people’s mothers go when they die, she will get this. Some angel will print it out for her and take it to her where she is seated on a wicker chair staring at deer on a lawn. Wait, what’s the policy on printing stuff out in heaven? Do they want to save trees there as well? I doubt.
I hope she reads this and chuckles then sighs and says to herself, “Biko will never grow up.”
You should see Kim. Shame you never met him. He’s got your father’s eyes, his mother’s smile and my forehead. He’s a wonderful boy. Wonderful because he doesn’t have food allergies. He eats everything. Do you know how easy that makes life in case one day there is a famine? We can feed him a bird. He’s two now. I still kiss him on the lips. I will stop when he stops. Tamms is fine. A bit moody sometimes, but fine. She’s in class three. The other day over lunch she told me, “Class three is so hard!” I wanted to say, “Oh really? Have you tried getting into a relationship with Zuku?”
We had a memorial for you over the Easter holidays where we put up a big tent and felled a goat and someone rolled 100 chapos, and almost all your siblings came over. Melvine cried. I knew she would cry. Auntie Queen stood up to give a speech but she choked. She couldn’t speak. Her voice started trembling and she stopped. The tent became deathly quiet, willing her to move past the wave of emotion. She couldn’t, so she started singing this sad gospel song and people joined her. I almost cried, so I stared at my shoes. I know you miss her, you all were a bunch of grade-one gossipers.
Julius is obsessed about your grave. He wants to build a shelter for it, so that if it rains your dress remains dry. *Roll eyes* When we were in shags he would wake up in the morning and wash it in his sleeping shorts. It broke my heart to see him do that; toothbrush stuck in his mouth, scrubbing, blinking hard, trying not to weep. Do you know what verse is inscribed on your grave? I know it off the top of my head: Philippians 2: 12-13: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for God works in you according to his good purpose.” Julius picked that verse. I think he suffers more than he lets on.
The other day while I was in the office, June sent us a picture of you. I opened the image and there you were in the coffin, looking different, lying there with your eyelids swollen. Who sends a picture of a dead person, even if it’s your mother? Nkt. I was irritated. I left my desk, went and sat on the bathroom seat and fought back tears. You have made me so weak. You have made me so vulnerable. You have exposed the underbelly of my emotions in ways that I didn’t imagine could be possible. Sometimes I see a woman wearing shoes that remind me of the ones you used to wear and feel shattered by grief all over again. You turned me into sap.
Julius got a baby girl. Named after you, which wasn’t in doubt. How about that? He goes for a long swim at Nyayo stadium’s pool every Saturday. Julius, not the baby. You know who else should join him? June. She’s the same size you were before you got sick. And you were big, donge? She got a new job and takes care of Shan impressively. Single-parenthood agrees with her. It’s made her stronger. I’m proud of her, you would be too. I heard from a little birdie that her ex-husband was in the country recently. Nobody tells me anything around here, I just plug in the grapevine wherever I can. I told her, “June, if you go back to that guy you are on your own.” Jesus would have said the same thing, right?
Jim finally brought a girl home. A Kikuyu girl. I repeat, Jim brought a Kikuyu girl home. Haha. Are you laughing, mom? Are you asking yourself “What is it with these boys and Kikuyu girls?” She’s called Ciru. She came with her cousin to shags, safety in numbers. Two means there is a chance of one of them escaping and telling the story of what happened in Nyanza. She was surprised not to see nightrunners when she came to shags. I am too. Haha. I think we should start a museum of nightrunners in Kendu Bay for people from other counties to come see.
Daddy is a shell. You know how he is, he acts like he’s all male and debonair but your departure has spun him around and around. He’s still spinning, like a kite in a storm. I’m going to tell you something, but try and not get emotional about it, sawa? At some point we got a new mother. Of course you are prettier than her. And certainly much funnier. I met her a few times. She was bubbly and friendly and was dying for acceptance, but I felt like we would be betraying you. So I was little cold to her, though I shouldn’t have been. But then they broke up. It didn’t work out. That right there is irony; daddy, at 68, breaking up with chicks. If he had an FB account he would be updating his profile: Simon is now single. Haha. Simon is now in a relationship. Simon wants to be friends with you. Poke Simon. It’s hysterical.
OK, please don’t poke Simon.
But you should see him, he’s miserable. He’s lost some weight. Listens to Radio Citizen and Ramogi on his verandah. He tends to the boma obsessively. The boma is immaculate. He has little to no friends. All the friends he had were your friends, and now that you are gone, hardly anyone comes to visit him. He stays in that boma alone, reading his Bible. He still shouts while talking on the phone. One day someone with more guts than any of us will tell him that it’s OK to speak normally on phone, the other person will still be able to hear him. Hehe.
He still irons his pants with a sharp line running down the middle. He still shaves clean. He is ageing well, though. And he tries as the only parent. He tries to undo the patriarchal distance he created as a father. He tries to talk to us but he’s still caught between the proud man he is and the reality that faces him. But he tries and we try as well. Everybody is trying to help him try. But he’s lonely, and one day he will need to have someone in that house to offer him companionship. And when that happens, please be cool about it. Don’t be showing up in that lady’s dreams pushing him off cliffs. Hehe. Because you know you are Jane. You are irreplaceable.
For what it’s worth, your pictures are still up on the wall. Your hens died though. They were eaten. But there are new hens. The pen that you built still stands. I hate to disappoint you but my shamba hasn’t been swept down by raging floods. I still run.
Grandkids are well. Tony finished uni without being caught up in weed or making a girl pregnant. We rejoice. You should see him now; tall, with stones for biceps and a deep voice. In a few years I will start looking like his son. Candy joined uni, studying some crazy stuff like Financial Economics. Smart kid. I understand that she now has a boyfriend. Makes the mom sick. Haha. When I want to piss her off I ask her, “Melly, how is Candy’s boyfriend?” and I swear she wants to run and throw up in a sink. She will get used to it. Oh, she will. A slamming door took off half of Shan’s toe, but it’s grown back. It’s amazing how kids are, you lose a toe and another grows! And it’s not even sorcery. Garvin is turning into a computer whiz at 8-years and Kayla can still jump through a window. In her skirt.
Hang on, let me go pee. I will be right back.
Your father died. We got him a very nice coffin. Did I tell you that I hated your coffin? It was this loud golden colour. Gaudy like hell. No pun. Even a pimp wouldn’t have been buried in that coffin, Mommy. Your sisters picked it. I won’t say who, I might get summoned. Hehe. It was too loud a coffin to bury a lovely lady like you. Your dad’s coffin was the real deal though, it was all brass and shit. Sorry, it was brass and all. Befitting a distinguished gentleman like Jackshon. Now you have both of your parents there with you. I bet you are all having a laugh. Do you also see Baba Omosh, and is his sense of humour still intact? What about John Kings? Do you guys like have a place you all go for barbeques on Sundays and talk about the living?
Politics. Hmm. There is a guy called Donald Trump, he’s an ass. Museveni went back. There is Magufuli in TZ, he’s different. I’m listening to this oldie called “Sad Eyes,” by Robert John, a song released 1979 when I was only two and Julius was a newborn. You must know it. Google it. Wait, can you Google where you are? Are you all given tablets? See what I did there? Tablets?
Writing is going great. Last week I shipped in this new IKEA writing desk. You should see it, it’s a piece of work.The grains on it are so smooth. If you ironed a ball of clouds, that’s how the surface feels like. Sometimes when I come back home, I run my hands on the surface and mumble, “There, there, I’m home now…I’m home. Give me a minute I get off this clothes, then I will be with you.” No, seriously that desk excites me, makes me feel like a boy with a new toy. I’m writing from it now, can you tell? Oh, and the blog is going great too. [Hey, Gang, say hello to my mom.]
I think you know what’s been going on in my life. A lot is changing. Sometimes I wish you were here to tell me what to do. You had answers…even if some of them were the wrong answers. Hehe. Now I have nothing. I make decisions and stumble blindly through them hoping I don’t knock my head. I’m hanging on tight, hoping that I’m on the right path. That I’m doing the right thing. I could use your help here. I could use your firm voice of reason. Burn a bush, mom. Burn a bush. Luckily, I have this guy called Pastor Gowi Odera. I think you asked Angel Gabriel to send him. He’s my flapping sail in the gusting winds. My wind catcher. His dad also passed on not too long ago, look for him up there. From what he says of him he sounds like a decent chap. Tell him his son is my pillar of reason now, and a pretty decent fellow.
You left us holding a bowl of emptiness. You have devastated us. You have brought us heartache that won’t heal. You have crushed us. You have taken the joy out of many things in our lives and fractured our innocence of the world. We continue pretending that it’s fine but it’s not. It’s gotten much better, yes, but some days it’s unbearable. Like today. I hope you are fine up there, mom. And that they serve you tea the way you liked it – all the damn it. I hope you are happy and that you are free and relieved of disease that wrecked you for years.
By the way, have you met Angel Gabriel? How is he in person? Is it true that he supports Manchester United? In my head, he strikes me like a Man U fan. I don’t watch soccer but if I did, I wouldn’t support Man U. They are too loud and entitled. And they write long emotional comments.
It’s coming to 2am now, I need to write something else and then sleep. It’s still raining outside. It’s Mother’s Day. You have your mother up there, but we are missing our mother down here. And we miss you. All the time. Happy Mother’s Day, Jane.
Let me eat a banana and sleep.
Ps. This article had a small misrepresentation that happened during edits. I have never interviewed or met Kongoro but I interviewed Don Bosire who quoted Kongoro about the loss of his mom. I have since rectified that.