My grandmother calls me Adelle. I keep reminding her that I am Anna, her grand- daughter and not Adelle, her daughter. She has the mind of a chicken though. She always forgets as soon as I remind her. The doctor says she has amnesia, old people’s amnesia. I have decided to stop reminding her. I have also resolved to respond when she calls me Adelle even though I am not Adelle. I forget most of the times though. I am not used to being Adelle.
She loves sitting outside her house in a small mat. During early mornings, she loves to sit directly under the sun. I always place a jug of uji by her side. She turns away every time I hold a cupful of uji before her. So I have to beg and coax her. She agrees and drowns a cupful. She throws away the cup when she is done. This means she doesn’t want more. Then the drugs, it takes hours to get her to swallow only one tablet, every morning; she has to swallow four, two for her hypertension, one for pain, and one for? I can’t remember why she swallows the other one. On some days she will swallow all of them at once, and then vomit all of them. On some other days I have to grind them into powder form and stir them up with a little water before she can swallow. On some other days she will just refuse. So I sit beside her, close to her good ear and shout to her, call her the mother of Adelle, call her a mzungus, then make her swallow her life saving drugs. If I tell her she will die for not swallowing her tablets, her eyes glint. They always look like they are smiling. I know she desires death. So I never tell her about dying
I miss the days that have gone. She recently lost speech. So she gestures all the time.
She has never had a bath and is not planning on having any. When I put water in a basin to wash her feet, she turns the other side. Sometimes she glances at the water then at me, and starts crying. This is how I know she doesn’t want to shower.
I have problems dressing her for doctor appointments. She doesn’t wear panties, she always removes them. She likes her flabby breasts sagging over her chest rather than being held in place by a bra. She has a white camisole that she forever likes wearing. She never removes it from her body. It used to be white, these days it is black.
She says the same thing for a little too long. She pisses on herself and never feels the urge to move away from her urine. I never let visitors into the house on early mornings. I don’t want people talking.
She falls asleep in the middle of conversations and when she wakes up, she calls Adelle. She can no longer recall my name. She insists on calling me Adelle, while she used to say I look like my father, tall, light with a gap between my upper incisors, not like the short plump Adelle.
She used to tell me about Adelle, on these days that have passed. I know she loved my mother, she missed her even. Every day she would talk of a lifeless Adelle, squatted by the kitchen fire. A placenta hanging from between her legs, her eyes wide open. She wanted to push, she would say. At this point her eyes would be moist, her voice distant. This is the point when I would move close to her, and put my hand around her shoulders. Then she would look at me in the eyes and say, but you have her beautiful eyes.
So every day I would take the mirror and look at my mother’s beautiful eyes. Then I would imagine life with her. Maybe it would have been a little different, a little better even. What if she would have lived? Would I be having a father? Would I have lived with grandma all this long?
I remembered the day I grew breasts. How grandma had told me to walk straight, to drop my stoop. But I had feared they would swing, flap on each other. They did, and the boys laughed. But she told me to ignore them. She should have bought me a bra, she didn’t and I understand. On the day when my period came, she should have told me to record the age, exact age when I became a woman, she should have told me to always chart those days. Above all, she should have told me that it would always trickle down, out through my birth canal. She sat me and gave me a lecture about me, about becoming pregnant and about becoming a mother. She was only making sure that I don’t embarrass myself, and her. Or maybe that I didn’t have to die during giving birth like my mother, she was just making sure that I don’t die of postpartum hemorrhage during the process of bringing a life here, like many other young girls.
My grandmother; She tried to raise a child who had killed her own. I can’t complain, I cannot, and it will be disrespectful. And because she was there for me, I will be here for her. I will sit next to her and do the needful. Meanwhile I will think of the little girls who were not as lucky as me, I will think of those who were never told that they cannot play with boys after seeing the color. I will think of teenage mothers, heavily pregnant and the risk of the pregnancy to their own lives. Teenagers shouldn’t become pregnant; they should just sit around wooden tables on evenings and read from the light of the lantern. This is what my mother should have done; she could have been alive right now (maybe).
PS; no woman should ever lose their own life while bringing a life to this world. A mother should give birth and live to nurse the child.
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