My mother ran home one evening, shouting on top of her voice, “Pack your things and let’s go. Just pick anything. Any little thing you can lay your hands on. Pack them and let’s go. We don’t have much time.”…CONTINUE READING
I didn’t ask any questions. I just rushed to my room and started packing. She stood in front of my door looking at me and directing me on what to pick and what not to pick. “Put the shoe down. It will slow us down. Hurry up.” It was my favourite shoe. No matter, what it had to come with me so when she entered her room, I took some of my clothes out of the bag and pushed the shoes in.
She entered my room, held my hand and pulled me along. I asked, “What about Kobby? Isn’t he coming with us?” She answered, “Just keep quiet and follow me.”
When we finally stepped out of the gate of the house, my mom looked back one last time and sighed, like the way you would look back at the things you love when it’s time to leave them behind. Her grip on my hand tightened. I saw her clenching her jaw while she held me tightly. She pulled me and said, “Walk very fast.”
I knew who we were running from. We were not running from a house that was in flames. We were running from a home that had been on fire for ages. She was running away from an abusive husband. I was running away from a man who never looked at me once and called me his daughter. I was his step child so he made sure to remind me of that every day. That I was just a stepchild.
George, my stepdad was rich and handsome and was respected in the community where we lived. I was dying to have him as a father. I called him dad but I didn’t bear his name so it was hard. My mom married him when I was only seven years old. I was already carrying the name of my biological father before my mom married him. This man loved my mom so much that he married her within six months of meeting her.
While I was growing from the five-year-old child whose mother he married, George was also busy growing out of love with my mom. It was visible in the way he treated my mom each day. It was visible in the marks he left on the skin of my mom after every fight. I remember seeing him slapping my mom from behind. My mom was carrying my little brother so she couldn’t defend herself. While her head was bowed from the pain of the slap, she was very careful not to allow her son to fall off her arms.
My mom wasn’t a pushover. She fought back. When it turned physical, she matched him boot for boot. She knew her husband so much she could predict when a fight was coming. She would push me into my room and lock the door. I wouldn’t see them fight but the sound of their anger filled my room like a fog in the morning. I could imagine them while they exchanged words. My little brother would cry. It would soften my mom a little bit and George would have his way with the fight.
That day when she rushed in telling me to pack and follow her, I knew what was happening. I knew what we were running from. What I didn’t know was where we were running. But where we were running to didn’t matter, as far as it didn’t have George in the equation. I was sick and tired of the toxicity George brought into our lives.
We ended up in the house of my grandparents. They didn’t have enough rooms in the house so I slept in the hall with my mom that night. Deep in the night, I heard people talking over me. I woke up from sleep but they didn’t know I was awake. I heard my grandfather telling my mom, “You have to go back. He’s your husband. He can’t kill you. Maybe if you stopped challenging him, he would stop laying his hands on you.” My grandma also added her voice. They were both pleading with my mom to go back. I prayed in my heart; “God, you said children should obey their parents in the Lord but clearly, what my grandparents are saying isn’t ‘in the Lord” so please harden my mom’s heart and cause her to ignore their advice.”
The next morning, my mom disappeared. She was gone for eleven days. I know how many days she was gone because each day she wasn’t around, I counted the days. I thought she was going for my brother. I was scared when she wasn’t coming. “Did he kill her? They had a fight and he locked her up?”
That happened often whenever they had a fight. George once locked my mom up for two days and finally, when he opened the door, he told my mom, “If you don’t learn sense, you’ll go back to the prison again.”
On the eleventh day, my mom appeared without my brother. My heart skipped a beat when she told me to pack my things and follow her. “Are we going back,” I asked with a defeated spirit. “Shut up and do what I say,” came the response. Her mom came to the hall to meet her. My mom said, “We have a place now. We’ll go and not come back here again. It looks like you both want us dead before you believe that man is a monster.”
We left and true to her words, we never went back to my grandparents again. We only attended their funerals.
I wasn’t counting the days but one day, my mom came home with my brother in tow. I ran and hugged him, kissing him all over as if he was a new toy. My mom didn’t look back at us. She went straight into her room and I didn’t see her face again until in the evening when he came to give us food. Her eyes were red. She had been crying. She spoke from her nose, like someone suffering from severe catarrh.
We had less to enjoy but life was peaceful and it was the happiest I’d seen my mom. Whenever I talked about my mom to my friends, I painted her a warrior in full armour. I painted her as someone you should never mess with. When guys in my class threatened me, I told them, “Don’t let me report you to my mother.” Her presence in my life was a source of courage and motivation and she reminded me not to accept less from anyone.
When I got married, I pleaded with my mom to come and live with us but she declined. At first, she used my brother as an excuse until he also got married and left home. It was hard getting her to even pay us a visit. My husband went to her one day and pleaded with her to come and live with us but she said no; “Maybe when you start making children, I will come and raise them.”
When we had our first child, she visited briefly and left. We had to accept that nothing would bring this woman into our home so we left her alone.
At first, the sickness looked innocuous, like something that happens to you because you’re old. She was admitted to the hospital. My mom was fifty-six years old and was looking ok. You wouldn’t look at her and think about death. When she was discharged, I convinced her to come home with me and for the first time, she accepted.
The sickness didn’t stop ravaging her body and soul. We visited the hospital at least twice every month with different ailments. One day in a hospital bed, she started talking about strange things. She looked at me and called me Sarah. She asked how my mother was doing and asked me to extend my greetings. I said, “Mom, this is Diana. Who is Sarah?” She looked at me critically, as if trying to remember something. She said, “Oh Diana. How did I forget? Tell your pastor dad that I haven’t been well lately so he should pray for me.”
Her sickness got worse each day, to the point where she didn’t know where she was. My name changed every day. The only name that she constantly remembered was my husband’s name. We would wake up and my husband would tease, “Let’s see who you are today. Let’s go.” I was never Diana again until a few weeks before she passed away.
She was on the sofa watching TV when she suddenly got up and started screaming at me, “Diana, go inside there and hide. He’s coming. He might hit us. Hurry up!”
I sat still looking at her and wondering what new had come over her. She picked up the throw pillow and threw it at me; “Run! Or you want him to kill you?”
She was frantic. She looked out the window every second and screamed at me to run. I started crying. I called my husband and said, “Today she remembered I’m called Diana but she wants us to run because her husband is coming.”
My husband would usually laugh but this time he didn’t. He asked me, “So did you run?” I answered, “When I didn’t, she threw the pillow at me. I wanted to run but to where? I’m in my husband’s house and my husband doesn’t beat me.”
She died a week later. In her hospital bed, she kept telling me to run. When Kobby visited she told him, “Hide her from your dad. Make sure he doesn’t hit her.”
When she died. I was forced to visit my childhood and see everything again. This time, I changed the way I looked at my mother. She wasn’t that strong woman who stood in the face of abuse and fought for herself and the lives of her children. I saw her as a scared woman who forced herself to appear stronger so her daughter would have a lesson to learn—a lesson about courage and how to fight.
Because of that lesson, I didn’t waste time with men who didn’t take me seriously. I met rich men I loved but once they showed a sign of insecurity and anger, I walked away. I was a witness as a thief person. I didn’t want to be the witness who suffered the abuse.
When I wrote my mom’s eulogy, I wrote in the end paragraph, “Because of you, I learned how to run so I could run from whatever tried to steal my joy. Whatever tried to steal my hope of a better tomorrow, I fled from it. Thank you.”
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