Mine Was a Battle from the Start!
Some fifty years ago a nobleman found love with a pretty lady. He was a clergyman and she, a cashier. She happened to be one of his very committed church members. That man was my father. He was respected and loved for his gracious and caring attitude towards all. He was selfless in his service to God and mankind.
Expectedly, Mother did not hesitate when he asked her hand in marriage. It didn’t take long before they got married. It didn’t take long too before I was conceived. Infact, I was a twin. Wow! Two girls for a young couple was indeed a handful- there was so much joy, yet there was apprehension, especially when the due date came, yet the twins did not arrive. But Father prayed fervently until his babies arrived after eleven months of pregnancy.
Unfortunately, my twin sister did not survive due to prolonged labour. So, after the long wait, I was the only survivor. My arrival stirred mixed feelings- tears at the loss of my twin sister but joy that I made it. It was my parent’s first child; so the entire church went agog with jubilation.
But that joy was short-lived. It soon fizzled out with the arrival of another woman in my father’s life and our home. Her coming marked the beginning of an age-long battle and unhealthy rivalry. That same year, another baby girl was born to my father by his new wife. Subsequently, Mother lost her pride of place as the matriarch of the home and was relegated to the background.
Thereafter, Mother had two sons within the space of three years but there was so much unrest at home. My brothers were raised in an atmosphere of hate, especially because they posed as threats, being male children. Mother suffered untold hardship to raise us but she kept hope alive and struggled to remain married. My late Grandma did not help matters. A firm believer in tradition, she warned my mother to do whatever it took to stay in her husband’s house. And so, whatever was happening, Mother had to adhere to the cultural norm; keep mum and bear it.
Mother also did not believe in divorce. She desperately wanted to raise her children with her husband. She didn’t want to be stigmatized for failing in her marriage. Above all, she noticed that behind all the abuse, her man still loved her. So, she kept hoping for a change. With time, Mother came to admit that she had to leave to save her life and that of her three children. So, she secretly packed her things, left with us and rented a room. She had a good job and could cope financially.
But Daddy was sad and would not let go. He found where we were and started visiting us. Before we knew it, Mother got pregnant again and gave Daddy another girl. Shortly after my sister was born, Mother lost her job and started hustling to fend for her four children. She did all kinds of jobs as a single parent. Her primary concern was to give us quality education. There were many days of hunger, tears and uncertainties. Sometimes she cried all night, especially if any of us was sick or needed something at school and she could not afford it.
As the first child, I was her confidant. So, from a tender age, I started bearing the burden with her. The effect of all this was that I lost my self-esteem. But it also made me resolve to succeed in life; to surmount every obstacle and get good education so I could become rich enough to take care of my Mother and compensate her for all her sacrifices. That was my ambition; that was my goal.
Did I achieve my goal? Yes I did! I had my first and second degrees. I had a good job! I got married and started raising a family. I was so glad that I was able to rise above the challenges and limitations imposed on me by my upbringing. Yes, I made Mother proud. I was the first woman to go to the university in our entire family.
This is why I believe that no matter the limitation or intimidation, every girl can and should strive for the best. Through Girls Arise Initiative, I am today mentoring young girls to dare to dream, to aspire, to stand tall and to achieve excellence.
Unfortunately, few years later, Mother took ill! She had surgery, which resulted in some complications that led to her death. That was sixteen years ago. My world came to a standstill. My sun suddenly went dim. I simply lost the courage and strength to go on.
In spite of my pain, I had to be strong for my siblings. I was their mother now and had to look after them. We weathered the storm together and with time, found strength to forge ahead.
My Sweet Mother did not live long enough to see our successes; neither did she wait to eat the fruits of her labour. But I take consolation in that her legacies live on. The values with which she raised us make us outstanding wherever we go.
Even our father, until his death three years ago kept referring to us as worthy sons and daughters. He also asked for our forgiveness and we bonded so well and took care of him till his old age.
What more can I say? To live in the hearts of those that love you is not to die. Mother lives on! She remains my Jewel of Inestimable Value!