I am sitting at my desk. It’s 2.00am and I am unable to sleep. Although it is silent now, just two hours ago I was screaming down the phone, while the rest of the house was quietly settling into their warm beds for the night. They were smart enough to stay in their rooms and ignore my outbursts. I would have been just like them, if I hadn’t gone against my first instinct. I decided to answer a message without properly thinking it through, and now I am sleepless sitting at my desk with my laptop writing this.
I am trying to figure out where I got it in my mind to help people fix things. Where did I get the idea to sacrifice for those that are close to me. I am trying to think back to that particular moment where it was ingrained in me to help. Most likely it was my mum…. possibly my Dad…. but mostly I think it was my mother. No wait…my father too. My mother would fix things for us. My father would fix things for others. She would help us. He would help others. She would sacrifice for us. He would sacrifice for us, but also for others. Between them both, I learnt that my parents were always helping others. Always, there was some relative or family friend who needed antiretrovirals drugs, or who’s child needed school fees. I remember the young ladies who came to stay with us while studying a vocational course, but somehow got pregnant instead and were sent back. Always, my parents were helping. I remember I would always get into trouble if I appeared ungrateful. To this day I still suffer random pangs of guilt for moments where I forgot to say thank you, where I may not have shown sufficient appreciation. The moments are lost. The people are gone from my life, but the lesson is too deeply embed that the guilt lingers.
I feel myself settling into adulthood, everyday. And with that comes painful pinches of wisdom every now and then. One of them is removing myself from drama. A lesson I learnt from my father. Sometimes to see issues clearly I must dig up all my emotions one by one and send them off . I tell them to come back two or three hours later. Then I take a deep breath and figure out the first step
When does the line of parent and child change? When does a child become an adult? When can a person start to do things on their own? They say our generation will be worse off then their parents. Or is that we are already worse off? They say that our generation has been taught that it is special, and that is why we will fail. We don’t know how to work hard for anything. How long are we allowed to expect our parents to drop everything when we need help? I thought at some point it becomes a choice for us to do things on their own. Some people start fending for themselves in high school. And just how much can one relay on their family to fix things and how much should we be willing drop everything to fix things? If you can see that your helping is unwanted or causing too much drama should you just stop? But my mother would fix things so I learnt to fix things
When I left to go the Canada at sixteen years of age, all I knew was my parents and my siblings. That’s all I knew. Them and school are all that my life evolved around. Whatever I needed, I asked for it and it would happen. All I had to do was wait. “ Mummy, the teacher says we need this…..” And somehow my parents would fix it. “Dad, everybody has this, May I get one too?” Of course after school we would make our way to the shop, and if it wasn’t expensive I would get it. I never had to save money to get something. I would ask for it and wait till there was money. So it really was shock when I got to Canada and had to gradually make decisions on my own. I think I spent $200 during one supermarket trip and all I had to show for it was a life size teddy bear. At sixteen I really wasn’t ready, but I had stubbornly insisted to my mother that I was. Thank God I was blessed with a great homestay family. They were such a much needed blessing but that is another story for another time.
Late at night as I sit and type this, One moment sticks out for me. I hadn’t seen my mother or any of my family members for one whole year. As most students abroad , you get by with just phone conversations, because sacrifices are being made daily for you to be there, so you mustn’t be ungrateful. At 17 years old I had decided to apply for a UK visa on my own and messed up the whole process, so I was unable to go see my mother for the holidays. I was very upset. But my mother did what she does best, she fixed it. She applied for a Canadian visa and came to see me. I was so overjoyed when she told me on the phone. It was late in the evening, I was speaking to her on brand new silver cheap mobile phone, preparing for my first summer in Edmonton, in a new apartment with my roommate. Completely, unready to be living on my own, but some great life experiences and lessons ahead of me.
The day came to pick Mum up from the airport and show her my ‘ grown up’ life in Canada. I made my way to the airport and waited at 'arrivals'. Out she came through the door, trolley in front of her, she was already twisting her head from side to side eagerly looking for my familiar face among the small crowd. But something in her appearance shocked me. For the first time, I realized my mother was getting older. As we walked towards each other, I noticed more grey hairs than the last time I saw her, a slight hunch in her back. I don't think I would have noticed these changes with having spent so much time apart. Yet my mother’s eyes were so concerned and fixed on me. She gave me a big motherly hug. The kind you sink into and remember that you are taken care of. Then she procedded with her motherly interrogations…. Where did I live? Was I eating? How was school?. When i look back I think that is when my change started, because although we acted as though we always had, I had seen some human fragility in my mother. I recognized it was selfish to make her take on so much.
So our relationship shifted, ever so subtly, because my mum was no longer invincible in my eyes. I let her continue to fix things. Even when I was worried it was too much, I learnt that parents need to feel like they can fix things for you. Though I have been trying to learn how to fix things myself ever since. I have failed many times along the way learning my lessons as they come. Since her death, l fix things for myself and I fix things for others. But sometimes you just can’t fix everything. Sometimes you have to let some people trudge through their own mess and figure their own way out because if you fix it for them, they will walk right back into the mess because they never acknowledged what got them there in first place and they never had to figure their own way out.
So here I am late at night. I was about to sleep but can’t sleep. I’m telling the many thoughts bouncing around in my head to stop. Stop looking for a solution! We are not going to fix this. We always fix things. But we are not helping because the situation does not improve. No more BandAid. We have used the last one. This time we are done fixing things.