Me, My Mom And The Secret We Are Dying To Keep From My Father- Woman Narrates
I was a little girl, ten or eleven when my mother took me to her hometown. It’s a little village somewhere in the central region. When we were in a car going, she talked about how wonderful the village was and how she wished I would grow in the village instead of the city. And how she wished I would grow around the people who truly loved me. I was a girl. I didn’t know so much of what goes on in the world so I didn’t understand a lot of things that she was saying. We got to the village and I remember asking her, “Is that the wonderful place you were talking about?” I didn’t find anything I could lay my hands on and call beautiful. Well, there were nice people but the place itself wasn’t nice. Maybe it was the city in me that overshadowed the beauty of all the natural things I saw around there.
A night before we left the village, my mom took me to meet someone she called a friend. It was late in the night. We met the friend somewhere around a community park. I didn’t see his face clearly because the place was poorly lit but the little I saw of him, he looked a little bit older than my mom. He had grey hair and a gray beard. My mom said, “Me dzi abofra no aba” (I’ve brought the child.) The man looked down on me and said, “Is that her? She had grown so fast. She’s almost catching up with you in height.” He held me by the arm and said, “Be a good girl ok. Your mother is a good woman so live your life as she did.” When we left, I still felt the grip of his hand on my arm. He had a very hard palm—it looked like his palms have seen a lot of rough days and weather.
On the way going I asked who he was and my mother said, “When I was in this village and life got hard, he was the one who took care of me and extended the same kind of help to my parents. He was very good to me, that’s why I came to visit him. We went home, slept, and woke up in the morning but I still could feel his grip on my arms. That should be around 1996 or 1997. I don’t remember exactly the year but it should be around those years because I was ten or eleven then.
We left the village and traveled back home. Life happened. I grew up, completed the university, and had a job that took me away from my parents. I even forgot about the grip of the man. Time has a way of erasing footprints off the sand and also erasing the memory of every grip we once felt on our arms. We move on to become greater or pretend to be greater than who we used to be.
A couple of years ago, the voice of my mom came through the phone asking when I was going to visit them. I said, “But I was there recently? Do I have to come there again this soon?” She said, “You’re our only child. If you don’t come, nobody comes around. Try to visit us as often as you can.” My dad took the phone and said, “Don’t mind your mom. Live your life. We can always manage.” It was around September when that call came. I thought of visiting them during Christmas but a day or two later, my mom called again; “There’s a funeral at the village next month. I want to attend with you so get ready.” I protested, “But mom what has the funeral got to do with me? I don’t even know the deceased. I don’t know anyone in the village. Why should I bother?” She said calmly, “You might not know anyone but they know you. It doesn’t take anything away from you if you pay them a visit.”
I asked, “Is dad going too?” She said, “No he’s not. He’s just like you. You two don’t like going back to where things started.”
In October, I went to see them and later traveled with my mom to the village. It was a Friday night when we got there. The funeral looked like a fanfare. The deceased was a rich man who died in the city but was bought home to be buried. We attended the funeral, shook hands with a lot of people I may never meet again in my life though mom had a story to tell about them. All the hands I shook had the same thing to say, “Is that your daughter? Oh wow, she’s already a woman. Look at how tall she had grown.” Maybe they thought I was a mushroom. Either than that, I don’t know why my growth surprised them. A woman could be walking a thousand miles away from us but my mother would magically summon that woman and introduce me to her.
My mom: “Look at this girl, do you know her?”
Stranger: “No I don’t. Maybe you should help me remember. Give me a clue.
My mom: “Who does she resemble? She doesn’t look like anybody you know?”
Stranger: Pauses for a while. Look down and then up into the skies—“Oh wow, your daughter? No, tell me she’s not the one.”
Me speaking in my head; “There they go again. Give it to me. I’ve grown tall. I’m now a woman. What else?”
In the evening before we left the village my mom asked me, “Do you remember the man we met the last time we came here? The man with grey.” I jogged through my memory aisle and retrieved the file I’d labeled, “The last time I was in the Village” and went through it. I said, “The man with the grip? Yeah, I remember him. Is he still alive?” She retorted, “You want him dead? Yes, he’s alive but very sick. We’ll visit him this evening.”
We went to visit. He lived in a house that looked lonely. We met another old man there who told us the man was sleeping. My mother insisted that we needed to see him. The old man went inside and came back again. He said, “You can go inside. We went in. My mom called his name and he opened his eyes. She greeted and introduced herself but the man lied still. He couldn’t talk. There was movement in his body but words didn’t come out. My mom did all the talking. Telling him she had come to the village for the funeral and she had come with me to visit him. The man said no word. We stood there for a while and left. On our way going home, my mom was very quiet. Even when I asked her a question, she only nodded.
In the morning when we were on a bus leaving, she still didn’t say a lot of words to me. We sat next to each other. She looked through the window, staring at moving trees instead of talking to me. When we got home, she went straight to her room and never came out until I went in to say goodbye to her. I took it as sadness for seeing someone who had helped her a lot. When I got home and I called her I said, “Mom, it’s normal for the aged to be in that state. You don’t have to feel bad about it. It’s the requirement of the time he’s in.” She said, “It’s not about him. I have a lot going through my head but don’t worry, I would be fine.
I called to check up on her every morning. She’s fifty-nine years and hypertensive. I didn’t want her to be triggered. Somedays I called dad and asked if she was doing well and he told me she was fine. She called one afternoon and said she wanted to come and stay with me for a while. I said, “Perfect. Come let’s chill.” Two days later, she came with a bag that looked like she wasn’t going back to her husband again. Her mood was cheerful. She talked a lot and laughed a lot. I was happy to see her that way.
One evening, out of nowhere she said, “That man we went to see. That man who couldn’t talk or move his body. The man with grey whose grip you can’t shake off your memory. He’s your real father.” I was putting plantain chips in my mouth when she said it. For several seconds, I held the chip closer to my mouth but couldn’t put it in. I was frozen. I brought my hand back down and asked, “What are you telling me?” She said, “Hmm hmm. You heard me right.” The next question was, “Dad knows about this?” She said, “Which of them are we talking about now? Your real dad or my husband?”
For minutes I was dazed. It felt like a bad dream I was going to wake up from very soon but it wasn’t a dream. Mom was there and I could touch her. There were so many questions running through my mind but I ran to the safest spot that told me my mom was lying. “She’s just joking around. How could that be possible?” But she dipped into the details to tell me how everything happened.
My father (or my fake father) was a young teacher when he found my mother and expressed interest in her. By that time, my mother was already in a relationship with the man who had a grip. They had been in love for about three years and my mother’s parents were aware of it. They benefited immensely from the man with a grip when he was dating my mother but immediately my fake father showed up, they started pushing my mother to him. “I didn’t like him but my parents said it was an opportunity of a lifetime to meet a learned man who will express interest in me. They woke me up from sleep each dawn to advise me to say yes to him so eventually, I did.”
My fake father came to the village once a week because he was teaching in a nearby village. When he came, he came to my mother and did all he could to get her to say yes. A year after the yes, my fake father got married to my mom and took her out of the village. My mom was already pregnant when she was leaving the village and her mother was aware of it but she pressed my mother’s lips and told her to keep it a secret for the rest of her life. “Your (fake) dad doesn’t know about this. I remember when my pregnancy showed, he was so happy he went around telling people the kind of man he was. His friend met him and congratulated him. He took all in and was simply happy to be a father. After you were born, we gave it another try for several years but we didn’t have another child until we resigned to the fact that we wouldn’t have another.”
I said, “Mom so it’s true what you’re telling me?” She said, “What is the sense in taking you to him each time we went to the village if this wasn’t the case?”
For several days I couldn’t eat or think properly. I felt sick in the stomach. I spoke to my (fake) dad and felt like I was putting up a charade that wasn’t right. All of a sudden, I was careful when I was speaking to him. I felt if I said a word wrong, he might know that I wasn’t his daughter. I asked my mother, “So when are you going to tell him the truth?” She said, “Didn’t you hear what my mother told me? She knew it but didn’t even tell her own husband. She died with it. My father died without knowing this. Maybe they met in their graves and talked about it. Maybe not. Me telling you was very wrong but I felt it was right for you to know the truth before your real father dies.”
I didn’t know him. I knew about his grip but that wasn’t enough to make me feel like his daughter. She pushed me to visit him before he dies but I never did until one day he called to tell me he had died. I didn’t attend the funeral. My mom didn’t attend the funeral too. I’ve been haunted since I got to know the truth. My mom and her mom had superpowers to be able to keep it a secret for that long without feeling the hump. My (fake) father is a good man. He went against the odd to send me to the university. He gave me his last and slept hungry. He sold personal belongings to ensure I went to school. One day he told me, “You are the reason I couldn’t build a house for us. Your education was first before anything else. If you see fathers of your friends leaving behind properties for their kids, don’t judge me harshly. I did my best.”
He suffered a stroke early this year. He had Covid and miraculously survived it. I see him and I want to tell him the truth. He looked at me with caring eyes yet I’m keeping something he ought to know from him. Somedays, I want to go closer to his ears and whisper, “Mom lied to you. I’m not your daughter.” But I feel that would be wicked. I feel that would send him to his grave even before his time so, I’m keeping it to my chest just like my mother and her mother kept it from him. I’m inheriting the sins of the women I came after, but I know God will understand. If he dies and goes to asamando and hears about it, I pray he forgives me. It’s a sin I inherited. It didn’t come out of my own doing.