Three years ago my mom left my dad. They went through a protracted divorce process that left everyone involved bitter. My younger brother took my dad’s side. My sister was on my mother’s side. I was on the side of sanity. I was happy for my mother. She stayed in that marriage for far too long. At some point, I asked her, “What are you waiting for? Previously, you were doing it for us. Now, we all understand that this thing is not working. So why don’t you leave?” When she finally decided to leave, I was the one she called. She said, “I’m ready. I’m leaving your dad.” I said, “What can I do to help?” She answered, “Your brother is on your father’s side. I need you to be on my side. I need that energy.” I told her, “This is not about picking sides. It’s about doing what’s right for yourself no matter who is or isn’t on your side.”
The divorce lasted for about three years. Within those years everything the two of them built got destroyed. Families were hurts. Violent words were used against each other. The threat of death came up. Even curses. I’m always of the view that freedom comes at a cost. If it takes war to gain freedom, then why not? By all means, be liberated from whatever sets you on the path of pain. In the end, my mother got her liberation.
My father started abusing my mother when we were young. He’ll drink, come home and cause havoc. One evening he came home drunk. My mother was sleeping. I and my siblings were watching TV. He went straight to the bedroom waking my mom up, asking about his food. My mom called me to heat his food for him. I did. And he served himself. Minutes later, I saw my dad rushing to the bedroom with the soup bowl in his hand. Seconds later, I heard my mother yelling out of pain. “Arrrhhhh!!! I’m burning. I’m burning! Help me.”
We rushed into the bedroom and saw my dad standing there and screaming at my mother; “How dare you leave me a bowl of soup without meat? Am I your servant to eat without meat?” My mother was at a loss. The pain was too much she couldn’t hold herself up or even explain herself to her husband. While in pain and looking for her bearing, my father rushed to her trying to slap her because my mom had insulted him. Thankfully, my mom survived the pain without any physical burns on the skin. It was my brother who ate the meat from the soup. It is that same brother of mine who took the side of my father when they were going through that divorce.
But my mom never for once thought of leaving my dad until one day she got the hint that my dad was dating a lady my mom trained. My mom is a caterer. She trained many women in the community. Other parents brought their daughters to be trained too and that girl was one of the girls. My mother liked her very much because of the relationship my mother had with her parents. But when the time came for her to date my father, the lady didn’t think of that relationship. She went ahead to date my father secretly until a neighbor whispered the news to my mother. That was the last straw. That girl wasn’t the first woman my father had dated outside the marriage. My mom had caught him with different women but she didn’t walk away. This one was hard for her to swallow so she did the honorable thing by leaving.
My mom is forty-nine years old. She married my dad when she was only twenty years. At forty-nine, she felt she had many years of a relationship left in her so she started seeing another man. Maybe she is doing it to prove a point. To prove to my dad that she is capable of getting a better man or at her age, she could get someone who could love her better than my dad did. My dad remarried just a year after the divorce. Maybe, that also served as a push for my mom to get herself a man too. Other than that I didn’t see the need for her to go into another relationship.
When the relationship started, I was the one she spoke to; “Oh he’s a very respectful man. Wait until you meet him. You’ll like him.” I said, “Maa, Are you not beyond a relationship at this age? Do you want more kids? If not why go into a relationship?” She answered, “Even your drunk old dad had found himself a woman. Am I not beautiful enough to have my emotional needs sorted? I’m divorced. I’m not dead yet.”
She came home with the man one afternoon. He looked shy and very composed. He said, “My daughter, good afternoon.” Why is it so easy for people who are not your parents to call you their child? My dad never called me “My daughter” but a man I was meeting for the first time called me his daughter. I responded cheerfully, “Good afternoon, my dad.” He laughed and I laughed back. My mom did the rest of the introduction and we took it from there. My mom looked happy. I was happy for her happiness. A woman who had gone through several years of abuse deserves her smile. Smiles go inches deep but my mom’s went deeper than life.
This man came home twice or more in a week. Some nights, my mom will go to work and not come home at all because people in love are like that. They vanish when the night comes and reappear when the sun rises. She came home with shy smiles. She acted girlishly. I could imagine the depth this man was hitting when he got my mother. I’m twenty-six and single. I couldn’t seem to keep a relationship together but my forty-nine-year-old mom was doing just fine keeping love and shine together. I should be the one to do ‘Salomey’ and bring back the news to my mom. It was rather my mom who went and came back with the news. Sad life. Love should be made illegal. It’s never fair.
All of a sudden the light in my mom went dim. She wasn’t smiling again and she was thinking more than she talked. Something was definitely wrong. When I asked her, she didn’t say more than, “I’m ok, don’t worry.” I knew she wasn’t ok so I pestered her until she opened up, “The man has a wife and four kids. He told me about the kids but didn’t say anything about the wife. He said he was a divorcee. That is true but after the divorce, he got married again. He didn’t talk about that until I found out.”
I was shocked. “So young men and their old counterparts are the same? They still lie about their relationship status even after chalking over fifty years?” But then I remembered that liars also live long. I asked my mom, “So what next for you? Have you told him you’re walking away?” She said, “Yeah, I walked away the very day I found out. I won’t be any man’s second choice after what I’ve been through. I hugged her. I gave her the line she should have given me; “Don’t worry. There’s a better man prepared for you. Just stay calm.”
Days later my mom was happy again. What was causing a stir in her soul? She told me; “We’ve resolved our differences. We are back again?” “As in he had left his wife for you? In this short time?” I asked. She said, “No. It’s a little bit complicated but it’s ok. We’ll be fine.”
“Mom, what’s the complication here? It’s either he had left his wife for you or you’ve accepted to be there regardless.”
“Yeah, that is it. The later. That’s the case.”
“Mom, are you ok? As in you’re ready to become a side chick at forty-nine?”
“That’s why I said it’s a little bit complicated but hey I will be fine.”
Love in young women is the same as love in the aged. Love is not a respecter of age. It plays all ages like football. No respect or whatsoever. How could love turn my mother away from her own virtue? Virtue she had preached all her life?
So I said, “No, you can’t do that. You won’t be any man’s side chick. Noooo that can’t happen.” She said calmly, “It’s happening. He’s a good man. A good married man is still a good man. I’m not competing with his wife. I’m not asking him to leave his wife. I have my turf and I will play within it without any interference.”
But then love has been like a pendulum for my mom, swinging her moods without care. Today she’s fighting with the man because the man didn’t pick her calls. Tomorrow it’s the man’s wife she’s fighting against. The next day, she’ll be fighting against anyone who tries to come between them. There’s not a single day she’s not fighting any of these three categories of people. “You’re always fighting, so how do you get the time to love this man you say you love? Why don’t you walk away? She will fight me too. For a while. I’m her daughter. Her only supporter so she forgives easily.
Her man friend (If there’s a phrase like that) told her he’ll be away throughout the Christmas festivities so he can’t see her. I heard her fighting with him over the phone before she came to narrate the whole story to me. I said, “What did you expect when you signed up for this?” For close to a week now, my mom hadn’t gone to work. She had been rejecting orders, telling customers that she wouldn’t work this Xmas.
My mom is walking at the dark edges of a broken heart. She needs a lifting hand before we starve this Xmas. I want to help her but most importantly, I want her to walk away from this married man. How do I go about it? How do I convince the monkey that toffee is sweeter than a banana? That’s the situation I’m in now. How do you hold the hand of a mother and walk her out of a situation you know is breaking her down?