I will never forget the day she left. I was about five years old. My two brothers and I were outside playing with the other kids on the Estate. She came downstairs, she looked like she had been crying and simply said, “I have to go, your dad has asked me to leave, but I will see you again soon”. Not really understanding what she meant I replied said, “Ok” and went back to playing. The days and months went by but she never returned. The years and seasons changed still she never returned.
You see prior to this, my dad had been away for almost a year undergoing surgery abroad, so I quickly assumed it was the norm for parents to be absent all the time. Shortly after, my dad was posted to work in London. He packed our bags and got us ready to leave. We said good bye to everyone but it seemed weird not to say good bye to our mum. We asked him where she was, and if she was going to come, he said she would join us once we got there. It never really hit me until we got to London that she might never come back. I remember always bugging our dad about her. Where is she? I asked. What is she doing? When is she going to come home? He tried his best to give us answers but the answers were always the same, “She’s in Nigeria, she’s getting some work done and she will be here soon”. After a while he would get upset when we’d ask about her and slowly, we put an end to the inquisitions. But every time the phone rang we would secretly hope it was her. Every time we heard the door bell ring, we wished it was her.
My dad tried his best to take on the role of both parents. He did the basics, the cooking, the cleaning, the discipline, the shopping and everything else that came with it. He tried his best spending quality time with us, but he was never really good at that. We were free with our dad but somewhere deep down we knew there were many questions we couldn’t ask. His work schedule also meant we didn’t really get to see him often.
When we moved back to Nigeria we were sent to a boarding primary school in Kaduna. My brothers were all I had, we had become very close. Our dad tried to come as often as he could from Abuja but the visits were never frequent. We grew to not expect anyone on visiting days. After almost five years of not seeing our mum we became disenchanted and somewhere along the line, we stopped caring. Once in a while one of my brothers would say “I wonder where she is and what she is doing”, but it never really led to much conversation. At this point I had lost hope of ever seeing her again. I became angry, cold and numb. I felt no emotion towards her, and pretty soon toward anything else.
Time passed and we moved to Gabon. After a couple of years my twin brother and I went off to High School in America. My father remarried and had three more children. My step mum was great and tried to fill in the maternal void in our lives but it was never the same; and after she had children of her own nothing was the same.
In 2003 I turned eighteen years old. I had just graduated High School and had moved back to Nigeria. I remember sitting in my uncle’s house and my aunt announcing to me “Your mum is here”. I never really knew what to expect or how to react. I just stood there looking at her, I always imagined I would feel a flood of emotion but I never did. I felt nothing.
She later told me that after they got divorced my father did everything he could to keep her away. And when we were in London, Gabon and America she would write letters through my dad’s office but he would keep them from us. Knowing my dad all this could be true, but it still doesn’t change the way I feel.
Their divorce will always be inconsequential to me. All I know is that I will never know who I would have been if my parents had stayed together, or if my mother was in my life. I have never really been able to love anyone truly. The only true love of my life has been my dad and my brothers. My mother’s absence has affected everything about me. My insecurities, my fears, and my ability to trust anyone. I feel like I am incapable of having a normal relationship because my ‘issues’ won’t let me love or trust anyone. I am afraid to let myself love anyone for fear that they won’t love me back or worst still, they do love me but will one day leave me.
It’s been almost six years since the reunion; we are still working on rebuilding our relationship. I don’t hate her, but I can’t say that I love her either. I am still numb. It will take sometime for me to be able to fully accept her back in my life. I am trying and I pray each day that God will soften my heart and allow me to be able to love her again. I never got the chance to have my mother buy me my first training bra, or tell me what to do during my first menstrual cycle or maybe take me to the salon to braid my hair. There are so many things I wish my mother was around to teach me but the greatest one of all is being able to love. I am still trying to let is all go but sometimes, it doesn’t feel so easy.
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