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BN Prose: Karma is a Mother by Myne Whitman

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I have not seen my mother for a very long time. I last saw her when I was in Junior Secondary School at fourteen years old. It is almost a lifetime away yet the events of that day are so clear in my mind that it seems like only yesterday. Another thing that has not diminished with time is the hurt and pain that followed that last meeting.

We were having an Economics lesson with Mr. Ogbonna, the only young male teacher in the all-girls school. Midway through the lesson, a senior student walked into the class and asked to speak with the teacher.

“Belle, you have a visitor at the principal’s office.”

A visitor ke? It was still Wednesday and visiting Sunday wasn’t till the following week anyway. Not that I was expecting anybody to come. My parents were too busy quarrelling with each other to remember me most of the time.

When I saw my mother seated in the school reception chatting amiably with one of the vice principals, my face brightened in a hesitant smile. It had been over two months since I saw her last.

“Good afternoon Ma,” I greeted responding awkwardly with one arm to her tight embrace. We were not very close and things had got worse when the quarrels began. I replied in the affirmative as she asked about my welfare and how I was getting on with my studies. The walk to where her car was parked took just a couple of minutes. There was a strange man in the car reading a newspaper but she didn’t introduce him. Still he was too well dressed to be her driver.

“How come you were able to come and visit?” I asked.

She usually found it difficult to take time off work and sometimes worked weekends as well. Maybe that was to be expected of a bank manager but I had always suspected that she worked such long hours to reduce the amount of time she spent at home. Especially when my dad was there, but that also meant we got to spend less time together than I would have liked. With me in the boarding house and seeing little of her during the holidays, we had drifted apart. Still I really loved her.

“Belle, I have something important to tell you. Your father doesn’t know I’m here, he wouldn’t have agreed for me to come if he knew. So I think it is best this way.”

I remained quiet but my thoughts roiled. When was the last time they had both agreed on something? And what was it she had to say?

“I can’t live with your father anymore Belle.” She spit it out, her face tight. “It is just not working out. If I remain in that house, one of us might end up committing murder.”

I looked into her eyes and tried to make sense of what she was saying. When I fully realized how serious she was I blurted, “You’re not leaving, are you?”

She nodded curtly, turned away from me.

Tears pricked my eyes and I grabbed her arm. “But you’re my mother and father, parents live together. I know father can be annoying sometimes but you have to stay. You have to stay for my sake.”

“It’s not as easy as that my child. I really have to go.”

“But mother I need you. I want you to stay please?” I was begging now. I wouldn’t think of the bumpy times brought on by my teenage angst and insecurity in my parent’s marriage.

“Belle I’m sorry, truly I am. When I married your father, I didn’t know it would end like this.” She had faced me again, took my face in her palms.

“But it doesn’t have to! Who will be my mother when you go?” I interrupted as the tears began streaming down my face. I rebuffed her efforts to hug me or wipe my face with a hanky.

“One day when you’re grown up you’ll understand Belle. I’m leaving for America next month and will be settling there.”

My tears almost dried at that. “You’re going to live in another country?” I shook my head in disbelief. “That means I’ll never see you again!”

She did her best to reassure me, “You’ll certainly see me. I can pay for you to pay us visit at least once a year. You remember how you enjoyed the trip to see Auntie Rose when you were ten. We’ll have so much fun exploring my new place.” She stopped and stole a look at the man in the car who I noticed was looking at us now. “Obike will be with us.”

“Who is he?” I asked belligerently even though I already had an idea.

“He will be your new dad and we’ll be together when you visit…”

That was the first time I experienced heartbreak. The tears were pouring in torrents now, going into my mouth and down my chin. Pain wrapped cold tendrils around my chest and I struggled to breathe. My head moved from side to side.

“Belle…please…You’ll see…”

I cut her off mid speech with a scream. That was the only way to get past the lump in my throat. “I don’t want a new dad; I don’t want to visit you anywhere! I want our family to remain as it is now.”

“You’ll like him when…” She tried again to hold me but I shoved her off harshly.

“Never!” I wasn’t going to plead any more. The curses that followed were bitter. She was married to my father. She was my mother and had the duty to remain with me till I was grown up. “If you leave me, I would never forgive you or speak with you ever again. And divorce is a sin; God would certainly punish you if you leave us…”

“Belle stop it, you cannot say such things…”

“Then stay and make me stop!” She moved closer and I backed off. “Don’t touch me! I hate you and I hate him!”

I ran off blindly and though we spoke a couple more times, that was the last I saw of her.

My father became even more morose after she left and started drinking at a point. I was angry at him for allowing or making my mother desert me and took it out on him and the lots of women who filed in and out of our lives. None lasted more than a year. We only made our peace several years ago after I graduated from University and started work in his legal chambers. I am happy we did because he died last year leaving me an orphan. Almost.

Yes my mother is still alive though we haven’t spoken in almost two decades. I don’t know her or care for her. She means nothing to me after she chose another way of life over me. I heard through the family grapevine that she married Obike after they moved and as time went on, had two more children. She sent a few letters over the years but I never read them, always tore them as soon as I received them. Whatever she had to tell me, I did not want to hear.  I never wanted to see her again.

These thoughts ran through my head as I stared without emotion at the pattern of the carpet between my sandaled feet. Why am I thinking about these things you ask? Why now? You see, it was so much simpler to avoid thoughts of her and hate her when she lived in the United States. But now, my mother is back in the country. She is right here before me and keeps talking to the top of my head. She has terminal cancer. She only has a few weeks at the most to live. She has come to make peace.

I finally look up at her face. It is thinner than I remember, pale and shrunken. I do not hate her like I wish. Karma has played a very sick joke on me.

Photo credit: moxywomen.com

27 Comments

  1. adenike

    July 26, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Pretty touching i must say. Parents can be quite selfish at times (they child(ren) is secondary;it’s all about their comfort first (but do i blame them). I’m in my mid-twenties and i met my father for the very first time 2yrs ago;i couldn’t even talk to him like he was my father (cos i never had that figure in my life). He thought i was rude but that was just it. Good job Bella/Myne Whitman. Please how do i get a copy?
    “I do not hate her like i wish”…….Lol

  2. adenike

    July 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

    *their child(ren) is secondary*

  3. omogekofo

    July 26, 2010 at 10:31 am

    nice one….
    this is true life story of some people….
    to some its their fathers….
    sobs….
    will i ever forgive him…..
    hmmm

  4. nkem

    July 26, 2010 at 10:32 am

    I really don’t understand how karma played a bad joke on the daughter… I didn’t get it.

  5. nkem

    July 26, 2010 at 10:43 am

    If either of my parents did that, I would wish them all the luck in the world. God forbid our children suffer for the sins of our parents and we don’t think about it, until its too late. Selfish selfish selfish. I feel sorry for belle because of her mental status once she is married with children. We see wht r mothers have gone thru at the hands of polygmous homes and we swear up and down that we will never treat our spouses the way our parents treated eachother but look at it today. No difference. When are we going to make that permanent change? For the sake of God.

  6. mariaah

    July 26, 2010 at 10:58 am

    ooohh myne whitman..nice one, couldn’t take my eyes off!!

  7. ibinike

    July 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I read it in one piece, then went bad and read through slowly. Nice one Myne. I love it absolutely!

  8. Doll

    July 26, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Myne….you killed this as usual….captivating up till the end…but i dont understand the karma part…is she faced with a similar decision too…? to divorce her husband?

  9. teebee

    July 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    forgive and move on…life is too short to be filled with grudges.You made the best out of yourself ..dont stain the rest with pain of an unsettled past.My Dad walked out on my mum when i was 10yrs old leaving my mother to fend for 4 of us alone.She managed to get us all through school.I am married with three kids now…I am an accountant ,my sister is a lawyer : she has two kids too, our only brother works with one of the banks, our youngest is in third year at university….life goes on

  10. ibinike

    July 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    oops, went *back*

  11. Myne Whitman

    July 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the comments. The Karma reference is from the curses she rained on her mother when she left. She realized too late that she still loved her mother. As children we may not know the power of our words but it may come back to bite us in the back.

    Omogekofo, Love is always going to be stronger than hate in the end. Now is the time to forgive your dad.

    Teebee, God bless you and your family. Life goes on indeed.

  12. henry c.onyema

    July 26, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    a roaring read. but, girl, better let go, though it is not easy. tell me, do divorcees re realise what they do to realise what they do to their kids?

  13. henry c.onyema

    July 26, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    a good yarn. divorce is one hell of a road without an end. God help us

  14. Hausa Babe

    July 26, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    just have to say this: I LOVE U MYNE WHITMAN, u are such an inspirational writer. Heart to Mend was an absolute hit, whens the next book coming out?

  15. Anngo

    July 26, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    nice write-up, well spoken some of us go thru this experiences on a daily basics n it jst feels gud to see one puttin it into words n a gud write-up like this.

  16. Nneka

    July 26, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I enjoyed reading this Myne. Karma surely comes in various forms….sometimes in form of a ‘loved’ one.

  17. sandy

    July 26, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    No young girl grows up wishing or desiring to become a divorcee or a single parent. Circumstances can swing beyond control and before you realise it, things have taken a turn for the worse. To the 13th commentator, divorcees do realise the effect of their situation on children but you know, human beings easily complicate issues. I have had an experience. Its just God alone that can soften hardened hearts. Its only Him O. I have seen circumstances lead to a break up that was totally unseen and unnecessary. Good flow of language.Kudos to Myne Whitman

  18. oluwaseun

    July 27, 2010 at 3:40 am

    as much as i know feuding parents should consider their children before getting a divorce, feuding parents should also consider their children before deciding to stick together. i know of children who are better off with their parents apart than together. there is no single day peace reigns in their homes. while it might be easy to say a mother, or father is selfish for wanting a divorce and starting afresh, we forget that happy parents mean happy children. if a divorce would give you happiness and sanity, then get one. There is no point crying into pillows all night and cursing the day you met your partner, you can move on and channel your energy into more positive things. i however do not support parents who abandon their children upon starting a new life.

  19. Obi Wan Kenobi

    July 27, 2010 at 9:06 am

    I love it. While I have no problem with the parents divorce I think her mother was very selfish. I think she should have been more willing to postpone her trip and work her children through the process of accepting the fact that their family had to split. She never had time for her kids and still shows that they are not priority. How do you give a kid one month’s notice that you’ll be gone from their lives? Adults can be very selfish. I feel sorry for Belle cos she’s stuck with coming to terms with her emotions, her need to forgive her parents, love them, move on and embrace happiness in life. Meanwhile, she played no role in putting herself in such a bad situation

  20. imusttalkmyown

    July 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    hmmmmnn…Let me start with the good bits – very easy to read. I liked that it was straight to the point and written in simple English. That being said, it lacked depth (by design perhaps?) and I didn’t get the point…almost like a storyline for a naija film. I’m afraid I did not find it engaging at all.

    A couple of questions: Is this fiction or a true story?

    How come a ‘senior student’ was sent to fetch you? Didn’t they have a class as well? 14 in Junior Secondary School? REALLY??? I don’t know if I’m the only one who thinks that is somewhat too old to be in JS. I was not the most intelligent in sec.sch but at 14, I was in SS3.

    They teach Economics in JS In Nigeria?

    Bottomline: A good story but you failed to do justice to it.

    PS: Sorry, I’m just being honest and not trying to upset anyone.

  21. Lady O

    July 28, 2010 at 2:11 am

    @ imusttalkmyown, like you said you really must not have been the most intelligent student in school. I am almost tempted to say that you could have been one of the dumb ones. How can you say a 14 year old is too old to be in JSS, when students typically enter secondary school at age 12 and graduate by age 17/18.

    imusttalkmyown are you sure you were in SS3 at 14 year old? so you are saying you graduated from secondary school at age 14.

  22. D.O.T.M.H.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    LOL @ imusttalkmyown and Lady O! Good good read. I had to stop and ask myself why tears were weling up in my eyes 🙂 Quite touching… poor child 🙁

  23. D.O.T.M.H.

    July 28, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    *welling* 🙂

  24. Omada

    July 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    @ imusttalkmyown yes they send senior students to fetch juniors, its possible.
    14 in jss is not far fetched…

  25. imusttalkmyown

    July 29, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Lady O, What I never understand is why ppl like you, cannot leave comments without a personal attack …It is clear that you are severely intellectually deficient and seem to have no manners (poor upbringing perhaps?)… I suspect you grew up in the village as I am amazed that you think the average age in JS1 is 12 yrs! Again, maybe in your village school that was the norm…Infact LOL LOL LOL… You must have been a big fool if you were already almost in your teens in JS1….I’m pretty sure of it cos YOU ARE STILL A DUNCE!

    I repeat, 12 is TOO OLD to be in JS1…unless of course, the child started school late or repeated a class or two

    Indeed at finished secondary school a couple months to my 15th birthday. I know that is not the average age of school leaver, but I also know that the average in my class was 10 in JS1 and 16 in SS3.

    You wouldn’t believe me though as it must have been very different @ Agege Grammar School.

    PS: Kindly respond to the article (as I did) in future, rather than ‘heckling’ other contributors…if you have nothing to say, STFU!

  26. besh

    August 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I want to write like this,wonder piece.

    Although parents should consider the children when it comes to divorce, I also think that parents should seek their own happiness, their sadness might on the long run affect the children that they are trying to protect.

    Basic advice
    If you can’t continue with a marriage and your kids are old enough to understand your decision or old enough to take of themselves. I think you should seek your happiness and try as much as possible to help your kids understand your decision

  27. Ibifiri Mobolaji-Kamson

    March 4, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Really will love to write like this… I love the story and as much as I wish her mother didn’t leave her, but this is just how life is. A lot of kids face this everyday..
    Even though it isn’t easy I think the best thing for every one is just to forgive, forget and move on…

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