An Unwanted Miracle

 

unwanted miracle

After she heard the prognosis, Mirembe obsessed over death, kindling a comfortable friendship. Each day, life bled out of her and the sterile white room adorned with monitors, pumps, and tubes became her new home. The secret she had kept for twenty-five years bounced in her chest and flirted with her tongue like fireflies in flight.

Mirembe wanted to share her secret before her speech slurred and she no longer recognized the people who came and went, like the nurse who lifted her and turned her from side to side. Tattoos of hideous things peeked from underneath his short sleeve, but she was too tired to care. Another nurse scurried around the room, busy with everything but eye contact as if she was afraid of catching death.

One afternoon Mirembe looked at the nurse and opened her mouth. She searched her head for his name while her heart worked twice as hard to quiet her panic. He quizzed his brow when she clutched his arm with weak strength.

“Dementia,” she blurted.

He nodded, but she knew he did not understand. It was time. “Any day now,” the doctor had said.

That evening, Ntare took her hand, smoothing his thumb over her veins. His touch was gentle for one so big. Husband and only child hushed her when she coughed and tried to begin.

Mugisha said, “Easy mum. Easy.”

When Mirembe looked at her son, her resolve fled. Would she not break his heart? Was the secret not the reason success had eluded him, causing him to flit from thing to thing like one who had no centre? His parent’s money meant he could continue to search for himself ad infinitum. Yes, it was her duty to bring closure.

And Ntare, her partner, lover, companion, and friend, what would it do to him? Ntare who had never doubted his place in the world, carved on the globe with his sure hands. No, she had forgiven him for past indiscretions. She was not seeking revenge.

Mirembe had read that when people are dying, dying being a present continuous activity, they have a compulsion to tell all. She concluded that in death, absolution is final; secrets lie stripped of power. Secrets are useless in the place where the dead go. They only retain value on earth.

“Ntare, you know that I love you?”

He answered with his eyes, his thumb still caressing her veins.

“Mugisha—”

“Easy mum, easy.”

Although Mirembe had acted this script out before, she could not find her voice. She flitted from topic to topic like fireflies in flight—morality, justice, forgiveness, impulses, wrong decisions, redemption. Dying conferred privileges. They let her hold the mic without betraying their impatience. When she could not arrive at her centre in spite of her rigmarole, she let the words escape in a whisper.

“Ntare, Mugisha is not your son. Mugisha, Ntare is not your father.”

What followed transpired quickly. Mirembe watched them, Ntare, Mugisha, and herself with detachment. Mugisha’s insistent, “Then who? Who mum?” brought her back. But her answer seemed to come from a distant place.

“Didn’t really know him . . . Germany. One evening . . .  long a . . .”

Frustration, anger, disbelief, and hate, bristled and circled the room like aeroplanes stacked in a holding pattern. However, dying put her in cruise control shielding her from all of them. Her eyelids began to close and she refused to fight.

Mirembe awoke with life creeping in her bones and looked around. “Am I in Heaven?”

The white wall, monitors, pumps, and tubes replied.

“It’s a miracle!” the doctor later proclaimed.

One by one, sometimes in twos, and other times in threes, doctors came to examine her. Once a large sea of white came. One peered over her charts, while the others took notes.

She tried to make the days go slowly by calling attention to pain in different parts of her body.

“Psychosomatic,” the doctor waved away her concerns as he surveyed another batch of test results.

The days kept racing. The nurse now wanted to hold her gaze, but Mirembe had forgotten her name and the nurse with tattooed arms had stopped coming. Maybe the novelty of her miracle wore off or they needed the room, one morning too soon, they shooed her warmly into the angry arms of Ntare and Mugisha.

Mirembe sat in the living room in the home they had built, kneading her fingers in her palm. Could one secret mixed into the foundation fracture concrete? Oh, death was so far away.

“Mum, I can’t believe you lied to me. You’re just a bloody hypocrite!”

“Where are you going?” Mirembe asked.

“I don’t know!” Mugisha brushed past Ntare to the front door and then out into the hot afternoon, leaving the door wide open.

“Ntare . . . Ntare, please go after him. Don’t let him go.”

Ntare did not move. “You should have left things the way they were.” His eyes were cold.

Then Ntare turned and was gone. He did not hear Mirembe say, “Wait.” He did not hear her say, “I love you.”

She picked up her phone.

“Dr Phil? Yes—yes, it’s me. Please tell me, I mean explain it to me again, why did I not die?”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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Portraits of Motherhood [4]

Motherhood4

A Question From My Daughter

After a day that threatened to break my distress-tolerance scale, I could not refrain from disintegrating in front of my five-year-old daughter. We were sitting in our kitchen and I was looking at her through eyes red and swollen, from crying.

“Mama who is your mommy?” she asked while typing gibberish comprising emoticons, punctuation marks, and jumbled-up letters on my phone. “I want to tell her you are sad.”

I giggled as though she had just pounced on me with one of her random tickles. I was pleased that she was brave enough to ask things I never dared to ask when I was a child.

“Your grandmother . . .  the one we visited recently . . .  where we slept over, is my mother,” I stuttered.

“Oh,” she replied.

I expected more questions but she seemed satisfied with my answer.  I, however, felt discontented. My answer contained only one half of the truth. How could I explain that I have two mothers or that it was possible to have two mothers?

Would she understand if I told her that I had been brought up as my grandmother’s sister’s child because my grandmother’s daughter, my mother, had given birth to me at a young age? And that the woman she called grandmother was really my mother’s maternal aunt?

In 1981, if you were twenty, schooling, and living with your parents or grandparents, as was the case in many black homes in South Africa, you were a child. Children did not raise children. They went to school. How could I tell her the truth—that sometimes mommies gave their babies away through a process called adoption? Would she not think that perhaps I too might give her to another mommy forever?

I decided to keep the answers in my things-to-tell-my-daughter-in-future file. I remembered that I was once a child who needed answers about the people who made up my family.

Unathi Kapa shares her thoughts on identity, culture, belonging, and purpose on unathikay

 

An Extra Mouth to Feed

In the shower, steam shrouds me but does not insulate me. I am thinking about money. I worry about my lack of it.

Once, when I manufactured a few minutes to play with him in the park, he threw the ball to me, an easy pass that I should not have missed.

“Mom you’re not looking!”

He was right, again. I am rarely present; I am in our future worrying.

“I’m sorry. Let’s play again.”

I threw the ball so it spun in an arc that began its descent farther away from where he stood. He was already moving back, calculating the trajectory of the ball. Before delight widened his eyes, weariness had narrowed them. How easily children forgive and forget.

Kalanne said that ever since she got a nanny, she was a better mother. By way of illustration, she said when Sowari spilled his milk, instead of screaming, “What’s wrong with you! Why are you so clumsy?” she now said, “Aw, darling be careful. Don’t worry Tari will clean up.”

I think that if I had money, I would be a better mother. I would not shout as I had done over the loss of his monthly bus pass, berating him with words from a tornado inside me.

I sigh and adjust the shower settings so hot water stings me like needles. When I leave my frugal pleasure-penance behind and open the door, he is there.

Steam rushes to embrace him, but it does not insulate him either.

“Mom, I’m sorry. Don’t send me to my dad. When I grow up I will buy you a car.”

Dangerous thoughts had been circling my mind. How wonderful to be free again. How much easier life without an extra mouth to feed.

I pull him close and wrap him in a fierce hug. My tears mingle with water droplets and disappear into his hair.

If the love of money is the main root of all evil, the lack of it is the secondary root.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

The Empty Crib

We do not interrupt the drive home from the hospital with small talk. When we pull up in front of our house, the neighbours spring out from theirs. Their merriment uncoils in laughing smiles, waving arms, and dancing legs.

The confusion begins the moment I step out of the car. Their eyes travel from my empty arms to my ‘flat’ stomach and from my flat stomach to my empty arms, until someone blurts, “Where is the baby?”

We had not discussed how we would answer their questions. I go inside, while he stays behind to explain.

Death is a thief. It also stole my sleep. The sedatives they force me to drink, freeze in my digestive tract. I walk from room to room weeping for a daughter I never held. It is a long time before my legs give way and I lie on the carpet in the room with yellow walls and the empty white crib.

In the days following, they tell me I am lucky to be alive. I do not feel lucky; I feel empty. They tell me I am young; I can have other children. But, I wanted this one. Oh God, how I wanted this one.

In the beginning, I held a vigil for her every year, so she would know that even if everyone else forgot, I would not. Then one year I looked at the calendar and realized that while I was driving my son to football practice and watching my daughter pirouette in ballet class, her birthday had passed. I had not known that pain could fade into oblivion.

Now I understand what they told me many years ago: I will go to her, but she will not return to me.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Can a woman forget her baby?
Can she forget the child who came from her body?
Even if she can forget her children, I cannot forget you.
I drew a picture of you on my hand. You are always before my eyes.
Isaiah 49:15-16

 

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Before I Die

life is not too short

I log into Facebook and read about a friend’s death.

The post on my newsfeed is hesitant and the questions that follow cry for answers. The news is inconclusive. Why tag a dead person in a post I wonder as I go over to his timeline. More questions greet me.

What am I hearing?

Someone tell me it’s not true o?

Is he really dead?

I just saw him two weeks ago. What happened?

Is this a joke?

On and on, the first reaction to death pours in. If the dead could talk, what would he say?

I spend the evening watching grief on social media. Words multiply quickly with high-speed connection. Small details here, small details there. An illness. A brief illness. A girlfriend. A babe. A teaching hospital. A brother. A mother. Two sisters. An engagement ring. Suddenly. Last night.

Hours later, denial gives way to acceptance on his timeline.

RIP

RIP

RIP

RIP

Although RIP carries as much eloquence as HBD, I do not conclude that grief on social media is impersonal, but rather reflective of the times. We wail in brief because something else on our newsfeed catches our eye. Our grief bears the mark of post-modern efficiency. It is not today that we shortened okay to kk.

His family posts a eulogy with a photo of him much later. Comments follow. I let my cursor play over the comment box. I type, you will be missed, and then delete. It is not good to lie to the dead. I join others for whom silence is fitting. We like the photo like signatures in a condolence register.

I don’t cry because I had not known him well enough for his death to unlock the door behind which my tears hide. We had drifted apart over the years as old friends do. He’d found me on Linkedin and we’d shared a couple of brief conversations about where we were in life and where we hoped to be. I do not remember what he said. I do not remember what I said. I must have told him about my blog; it is what I always do.

That is not to say his death means nothing to me. It does, but in a general way that makes me look inwards. Nothing like another’s death to bring your life into sharp focus.

Around midnight, I fall asleep. When I fully awake, I drink tea and scan blogs. Death is everywhere, disguised as poetry, woven into prose. I stumble on Robin’s post, Motivational and Elevating, as I try to air my mind. All these things: watching grief on social media, thinking about my life, and reading Robin’s blog, are connected and I think there’s a lesson for me. Robin leads me to Candy Chang.

 After losing someone she loved, artist Candy Chang painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled the sentence, “Before I die I want to _____.” Within a day of the wall’s completion, it was covered in colorful chalk dreams as neighbors stopped and reflected on their lives. Photographs of the wall spread online and since the original wall in 2011, more than four hundred Before I Die walls have been created in over 60 countries and over 25 languages by passionate people all over the world.  

before i die Candy Chang 1

before i die Candy Chang

before i die Candy Chang3

Thinking about mortality brings no fear. I feel confident about that place we must all go, but I don’t want to go just yet. Inspired by Candy Chang, I scribble and marvel that my long- and short-term goals colour my paper with broad strokes. Perhaps now I will live more intentionally. Perhaps now I will be who I am.  I don’t want to settle for something less because I tired of waiting for something more.

Some of the things I want to do before I die belong in my diary. Some I can share here.

Before I die, I want to . . .

  • Travel just because; feel warm sand massage my feet, see mountains I dare not climb, and drink tea from antique Arabian teapots
  • Light as many candles as I can. I lose nothing by lighting other candles for together we brighten the room
  • Let the people I love know that I love them. I do not want them to waste even a day questioning my love
  • Make more money so I can buy a Bentley and give to causes dear to me
  • Read the books and watch the films, that I should have already cancelled from my to-do list

before i die

What about you?

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

Photo credits

  1. http://pixabay.com/en/sit-grandstand-theater-139664/
  2. http://beforeidie.cc/site/press/before-i-die-savannah-by-trevor-coe/
  3. http://candychang.com/before-i-die-the-book/
  4. http://beforeidie.cc/site/press/07-chang_before_i_die/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.