She grew up in a little farmhouse. They were surrounded by a good number of rice plantations and as a result, different birds of air would frequently perch in their compound. It wasn’t a perfect life but she was happy, at least in the early stages. Her earliest memories of her father is that of a tall man who seemed invincible. She remembers him as the brave guy who could kill snakes with precisioned and well-thought out strikes on their slithering heads. He was a civil servant in a low ranking government job that he loved so much. Their family, somehow, never lacked for anything though. Her father managed to buy them food, clothe them, pay their school fees, purchase novels and still save some extra cash for the rainy days despite the little income. And someone would dare say that only Spiderman and Superman are the real heroes of the world? Maybe only in Hollywood.
Her memory is still filled with a medley of scenarios in which her father came over to pick her from school. She’d run quickly into his arms and sing to him the good songs that they learnt in school. His warm smile has never left her mind. She felt the love that other kids could only dream of. They compensated for the lack of riches with strong familial bonds and affections.
One loose Tuesday afternoon, her mum did the picking from school. In her sweet innocent little voice, she asked “Where’s daddy?”
Poor little girl was used to being received by her dad after long school days of learning children stuff. She could not fail to register her disappointment. It’s not like she never loved her mom. She did but there was just some extra-special connection to her father.
Her mother went silent and that worried her. Things seemed out of place. As little as she was, the sharp feminine instincts within her could decipher changes in attitudes, tones and unnecessary reluctances. Her mother started saying something but hesitated.
“Sweetheart, your father is ill”, replied her mother.
“Is that why he never picked me up today?” she prodded in a curious tone.
“Yes” her mum said.
Later on that day, she discovered that her father was actually very sick and that her mother had downplayed the situation. He had been admitted to a nearby referral hospital and was in the care of her two uncles. That night she stayed awake waiting for him to come back home but he never showed up. The house felt a little less jovial without him. It was dull and a sad void filled it. Her father’s jokes were conspicuously missing. His deep voice that often issued soft commands suddenly became something she longed so much for. She could not sleep well. Her mother tucked her in bed and tried to calm her fears but that only fuelled her anxiety. She was exasperated at the whole situation and couldn’t hide it any longer.
Her mother tried to sing her a song but it was of no help. She even brought her favorite short story, The Ugly Duckling, which proved to be of no significance at that moment. It made things worse that she was only used to her dad’s story-telling. Meanwhile, her elder brother slept soundly in the next room. He snored as usual and seemed not be bothered by anything that happened beyond the walls of his bedroom.
She finally got to sleep in the wee hours of the morning after her anxiety eased to normal levels that day. When she woke up the next morning, a crowd was gathering by the front door. New and strange faces were all over. She asked a lady who was standing nearby where her mother was. Someone tried to whisk her away but she flailed her arms and legs fervently in resistance. She demanded answers and a stranger wasn’t going to boss her inside their home. When all the attention was finally on her, the mum approached slowly and took her inside. Her brother was also called in. She noticed her mum’s bloodshot eyes and immediately knew that she had been crying. Things would never be the same again.
Her father had passed on in the hospital at dawn that day. A clot in the brain had killed him. She was too young to understand what a clot was but she thought of it as some huge monster that had the power of grown-up dragon. Despite her young age, she was deeply aware that death was a terrible thing. She just did not know the toll that it took on people. She wasn’t aware of the huge burden that it brought upon decent people. Neither did she know about its finality. So she hovered around those days being sad but with some little hope that her father may one day come back home to them. Especially for her sake.
She banked on that little ray of hope. She sat by the verandah, on numerous occasions many days after the burial, with the hope that he would one day walk through the gates and toast her around in the air just like the good old days. In school, she spent days in the waiting area anticipating for him to come pick her up. She got disappointed each time when he never showed. The little hope shrank and shrank. She grew weary of waiting. Her soul crashed little by little until she finally reached a breaking point. She’d cry in classes and refuse food from all corners.
As she grew older, she thought about it less. She became more conscious of how the world operated and trudged along with a big void that had settled in her. The pain was there but its constancy had reduced. On the days when it came back in its full rawness, she broke down at whatever private place she could find. It could be in a public washroom or at her mum’s office.
She often wondered how the world could move on so swiftly while she had demons fighting to take control over her. Didn’t anyone or anything care? Why did the Sun keep rising every single day as if she was okay? Why did the full moon shine brightly at the end of every month while she experienced so much darkness within? Were the trees incapable of noticing the gory emotions that swirled within her? And what about the people around her? Couldn’t they tell that she had molten grief inside her which felt hotter than a furnace? The older she grew, the more she got confronted by existential questions to which she had no answers. She concluded that something must have been fundamentally wrong with her since her brother seemed to be growing up fine without major worries.
On her thirty-second birthday, she got a distressing call from her brother telling her to rush home. She took the first cab she could lay her eyes on and gave the bald driver directions on where to take her. Three hours later, she stood transfixed outside their compound. She saw a small crowd of people by the gate and a familiar feeling of helplessness immediately took over her.
Over the years, her mum had taught her not to overthink but to instead approach issues with logic and from a factual perspective. With her parental guidance and insights, she had been courageous enough to sometimes discard her overthinking instincts and to be rational about issues. As she stood there, however, she felt overpowered with dark thoughts and imaginations that she couldn’t get rid of. So she walked passed her brother straight into the house where another small group of people sat by the entrance. She entered the house then moved to her parents’ bedroom.
The only mum she had ever known through the tough times and the good times hang from the roof. She was shoeless and in a white dress that was princess-like. A green rope tightly groped her neck. A note or something like a white piece of paper seemed to be enclosed in her soft tiny hands. A suicide note. How could she? For what reason?
She wailed. For days. Death was having its day in her family for the second time. All the strenuous efforts at self-improvement and healing that she had taken in attempt to get over her father withered away like autumn leaves. Could this have been a premeditated script from the heavens? Was some dark angel pulling up these dark strings that manifested in her life? Or was this just some brutality of chance? Nothing made sense. But what makes sense in this life? She cursed her mum for quitting on her. She was angry at her. Why would she do what she did? It defeated logic that she encouraged and helped her with efforts at healing only to commit suicide when her presence was needed most.
It took a debilitating effort to arise from that dark abyss of grief that she had plunged into. The sadness nearly ruined her. She hit the very bottom of the seabed but still somehow managed to rise up with a resolve to fight for life.
She later met a man. A good man. A man with a perfect set of teeth and broad shoulders that are only common among world heavyweight champions. His name is Jim. Jim has made her smile again, on many occasions. Jim is good for her. Jim is not only software engineer but also a heart engineer. He engineered her heart with a great deal of compassion.
But the grim reaper is still stalking her. At this very moment, Jim lies in an ICU bed at the Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu. He is battling a severe respiratory disease that sprang out of nowhere. He uses a ventilator to breathe. His body looks pale and he rarely makes basic movements. She’s in despair. Sometimes, she feels the urge to cry but there are no more tears left in her. She feels like a small boat in a stormy sea. But she has hope. She hopes to dock safely at a happy harbor. Her life has been a long empty stretch of road.