I was seventeen when my mother died.
I was ten when she was diagnosed with cancer. I remember the hushed tones following a across the country travel for medical attention and my father suddenly almost always at our house. They had been divorced since I was six. I think they tried to tell us,about this cancer,my sister and I,but at the time I probably had not understood what all of what they said meant. And then she was fine a year later and some normalcy returned to our lives.
My mother was a creative and a social butterfly of note. She hosted little gatherings from time to time with her friends and though she denied it when I used to ask her if she brought people to her house to write about them, I believe she did. She wrote beautiful stories that almost always felt they could walk off of the pages of her journals.
When she was unwell the first time, her friends were always at our house and I think somewhat cushioned the dread of what was happening with her being so unwell. She laughed always, even in pain, her full laughters, and watching her interaction with everyone made me realize how she was such a lucky woman to have all of the people she had in her life.
Aunty K was one of the ones that remained even as people went on to get on with life,which she encouraged and kept saying to them ‘I’m really okay,stop fussing over me already’!
When I was twelve I was shipped off to boarding school. I agreed because mother had said it would be easier on her. She had told me what it means to have cancer and even though she really wanted us to have the little time we had of her life,it was also important that I get some normalcy and missed on bits of her illness. That I didn’t agree with,but she also told me if the worry of me was removed from her many other worries including her health, she would have time and stress free energy to focus on healing. Well, I wanted her healed and so I agreed to go to boarding school the first year of my high school. We agreed on only that first year and I would be home the rest of my high school.
I noticed aunty K the first time I was back home on school break. She came with my mother to pick me up from the airport. She had a huge warm smile and her dress sense struck me, I liked it,a lot! She was differently fashionable and her bald head was so alluring. They looked like twins with my mother with their bald heads. A few years earlier when my mother started chemo when I was still at home a few of her friends had come over when she lost her hair and they had all shaved their heads. My mother was an emotional wreck at their selfless gesture and even though she hated crying, she openly cried that day. It was a few years before and seeing her other friend now with en egg head with her, was sweet. Even though her hair grew back when the cancer was in remission, my mother never chose to grow her hair again,leading to a weekly barber tradition that I enjoyed being a part of.
She was introduced as aunty K. I never bothered with the rest of her name. It made her even cooler. This time I came home the first time I noticed mother wasn’t in her best of health but she was not down. The five weeks sped by and I went back to school and the next time I came back I was picked by aunty K,alone. I was surprised,both pleasantly and worryingly. Why had mother not come?
“Your momma isn’t well,and I know she won’t tell you just how much, but it’s a lot. Take it like a champ,I’m here and feel truly what you feel okay?” That made a lot of sense and eased my anxiety.
She was almost always in bed this time but still chirpy and when I left for the last term of my first year of high school she promised I would find her proper healed. I could not wait to be back home fully.
When I left I said to my sister,older by a few years “She will be fine and at least you have father,grandma and aunty K always around “
My sister looked at me angrily and snapped “she must just go back to where she came from” and I was confused. She was so nice to us and was very helpful with mother but my sister was in one of her moods and I let it slide!
At the end of that year I came to a mother with a lot of life and spring in her step and a lot of aunty K in our house. I wondered if that was what my sister had a problem with but see I had a lot other things going on in my life and my mother was healed and life was good.
Aunty K and mother worked on a few projects together and seeing them work well into the night and on couches across the house never really bothered me. She was always at the house each morning to drop me off at school and really encouraged me to talk about everything I was feeling. I even told her about the boys at my new school and the downright ugly things I thought they were and she indulged me. She promised she could punch them for me if I ever needed her to. I loved our trips to school and having her around. My sister was not impressed.
“Why are you encouraging her?” she asked one day when aunty K and I had had a trampoline jumping date after school on a Friday. “Don’t you see it?”
“Mother is with her!”
“Yes she is!”
“No dummy” I hated it when she called me that “they’re lovers”! It took all of seventy seconds to sink in and when it did I turned around to stare at my sister unbelieving,my jaw past my knees. The tears in my eyes I couldn’t explain but I knew I was not sad “Mother is gay?” I asked
“Yes danmit!” Now I didn’t understand my sister’s anger but I shot up to go to the study room when aunty K had gone to find my mother.
Fb: Tumie Mohoasa