I was born out of wedlock. I got to know this at age ten. Despite the fact that I didn’t resemble any one of my family members, I wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t said to my face. You’d have thought I wouldn’t understand what such a big word meant at such a young age but i was forced to.
My step siblings were what you would call a nightmare. They made sure to rub it in. The eldest one, Jack, he was a little bit nice to me. Whenever he saw me watching them play he would invite me to play amidst his siblings protests. My step father never said it to my face but I would hear him argue with my mother about it and threaten to chase her away.
Mother; she was a pretty soul. She’d always said I resembled my father. She’d nick named me ‘ajuoga’ which meant Doctor. She would always remind me that I wasn’t like any of my siblings. Each morning before I left for school she would give me a few coins for a snack. She made me repeat this words every morning, ‘You are Kind. You are Smart. You are Important.’
A year later mother passed on from a pneumonia attack. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was right beside her bed when she breathed her last. Her final words to me, “Ajuoga, you have your father’s heart. You are kind my son. May the Lord keep you.”
I sat there with my hand still in mother’s hand until my step father got back. He called out my name but I didn’t move. My shirt was already wet. I had been crying for more than two hours. I heard my step father call someone to come pick up the ‘body’. Barely a few hours after my mother died and he was already referring to her as a ‘body’. It made me wonder if he really loved her.
They took the ‘body’ and promised that they would take care of the ‘body’. “Miriam,” I shouted at the men in white coats. They looked at me like I was speaking Greek. “Her name is Miriam. She’s my mother,” i explained. They nodded and smiled at me as they left with mother at the back of their truck.
Friends, family, neighbors, strangers all came to the home to give their condolences. I always watched them from the corner of mother’s room. It didn’t matter to me because they didn’t know mother, not even those who wept. They were all pretenders. The worst part was they didn’t bother to check on the ten year old boy who had watched life fade away from his mother’s eyes.
On the eve of mother’s burial I was seated at my favorite spot in the home, farthest right corner just next to the kitchen. It was where mother would sing me all the songs my father sang to her when she was pregnant with me. No one cared to dress me up. I wasn’t recognized as one of the children. It seemed like I’d ceased to exist when mother passed on.
From where I sat I could see the only person who had loved me with no bounds in a coffin unable to smile at me like she’d always done.
From where I sat I could see the bed, in my mother’s house, on which she died in.
From where I sat I could hear Jack read the eulogy without my being included as the out-of-wedlock-child of Miriam.
From where I sat my world seemed to crash around me and I was fighting for my life.
But also, from where I sat I could see a man who was staring at me with a smile plastered on his visage. Immediately our eyes met I felt some peace and calm. He gestured for me to go to where he was and I did.
He pulled me into an embrace with tears quickly filling his eyes. He begun humming a song, that mother had termed as sorrowful, into my ear then he said, “My condolences my son, your mother was a pretty soul.”
From where I sat that day fifteen years ago, I met the only other person, apart from my mother, who loved me with no boundaries…