I never met my grandma because my mother never let us; she never let us and she herself never even went to visit grandma nor was she on speaking terms with grandma, till the old woman died. I heard bits and piece of what might have gone down between my grandma and my mother from my aunties and uncles.
It had to do with my grandma leaving my mum and her siblings with her husband and marrying another man.
Mum is the eldest of her siblings and she took it really bad because whereas her siblings seemed to be on good terms with their mum, mum chose not to.
As I grew older, I tried to get my mother’s version but she wouldn’t even allow me say grandma’s name, bring up the issue or discuss it whatsoever.
On the other hand, I couldn’t get any word from my grandma because I was still quite young. I didn’t begin to try to reach out to my grandma until I left the country to study abroad. I was already at the university, I had my independence and could speak to anyone I wanted to without my mother’s interference plus I needed answers to my own nagging pain.
When I tried to reach out to grandma, I discovered she wasn’t keen on technology plus she had become rather senile; so talking on the phone with her was a tad difficult.
Now, in my younger years, when I went on holidays to my aunties and uncles, I got to know that my mum blames her mum for all the atrocities that befell them after she left. Grandma remarried, she became quite wealthy in fact, with many houses and shops to her name but her kids from her first marriage didn’t benefit much from it until their father died.
I had also heard several stories where family members had tried to resolve the issue between my mum and her mother and many times, I heard it just collapsed with both women ending up spewing hurtful words at one another.
At the end of the day, even after my grandma died, my mum never told me exactly what her mother did to hurt her so badly that she vowed ever to speak to her again.
So why am I telling you this?
History has a way of repeating itself, I think.
My mum left my father, however, she didn’t abandon us with my dad, instead, she raised us by herself. Unlike in her own situation, though my father wasn’t present in the house with us, he was responsible for all our upkeep, financially and even at school, everyone knew my dad. I do not blame either of my parents for what happened between them, I think that’s their problem, not mine, however, something happened to me before I left Nigeria. It affected me deeply and it’s the reason why today, my mum and I don’t talk!
Now, you see me looking wild, colourful hair, tattoos and all that; I didn’t just wake up to be like this and this isn’t because I schooled abroad!
I was molested as a child and all I wanted was for my mum to hug me and tell me everything was going to be ok!
Let me explain.
I was still in primary 5 when my dad left. I was 10 years old then; I was a quiet child; I liked to read novels and watch TV; that was my thing. I had two younger ones to care for anytime my mum went out.
Now, we had this neighbour, who was a bachelor awas friendly with my mum; would hang out with us over the weekend and many times when my mum worked late, she would ask him to pop in to check on us; Uncle Sly, we called him and he was a Sly character!
Uncle Sly knew I liked to read, I would sit in a corner and devour volumes and volumes of books and forget myself and my siblings I was meant to watch.
One day, I was on one of those voluminous books that he bought for me to read; my mum had asked me to fry fish and get things ready for her to cook stew. We had run out of vegetable oil and I couldn’t be bothered with going out to buy vegetable oil; my mother always left money for us, just in case we needed to buy something.
That day, palm oil on the fire I dropped the fish even before the oil was hot…you know, as a kid, I was just like… who has time to watch this one, put everything on the fire and come check it later…
My sister that was what I did, then I forgot and buried myself in my novel!
Hot palm oil , fire and fish shooting oil all over the place on a gas burner, unattended…real fire crackers!
There was fire but I didn’t even know, until I saw a huge plume of smoke and heard my siblings shouting, ‘fire, fire…’ We all just ran out of the house.
Uncle Sly came from downstairs and ran into the kitchen to put out the fire! The whole kitchen was black; that the cylinder didn’t explode is a mystery…but I was too young to understand the import of all these at that time.
All I knew was my mother would kill me if she came back home that day! That fear filled me with so much dread, I was crying as if I had been burnt.
But thankfully or not, Uncle Sly came to the rescue; when he put out the fire, he took us to his flat and came back up to clean the kitchen; when he came back, I was still in so much tears and was just praying to die before my mother came back!
Uncle Sly told me not to worry, he said he would tell my mum he sent me on an errand and he forgot the fish on the fire…and that’s what happened. In fact, he helped fix our kitchen; new cooker, new ceiling, new cabinet…I was forever grateful and I became forever indebted to him…that was why when he began to molest me, I felt I was paying for my debt!
I couldn’t tell my mum at first.
If I he did, he would tell on me too.
This continued for a few months, until my father sent me to boarding house and there I became safe. When I came home for holidays, he would start to get fresh with me; I still feared my mother’s wrath, so I kept mute.
Years later, I tried to tell my mum because she had begun to have a relationship with this Uncle; but my mum would brush me aside. All I wanted was for mum to hear me, hug me, even if she didn’t want to stop her relationship with uncle Sly, I wanted her to protect me from him. Instead, my attempts were met with:
“What nonsense are you saying?”
“You are an ungrateful child!”
“Who put this mad idea in your head?”
She never let me finish my story, she never did…with the benefit of hindsight, maybe she knew, and just didn’t want to accept it.
Whenever I came home for holidays, I would avoid Uncle Sly, who despite the fact that he was in my mother’s bed, still wanted to go on molesting me…thankfully, it never happened again but the memories of those few months back then haunted me for years, especially with a mother who preferred not to know.
When I finished secondary school, my father shipped me and my siblings abroad, I went for A’ levels and then university, they finished their secondary school and later Uni.
That’s where I vowed to have nothing to do with my mother again! I hurt so much that she would trivalise my pain; that she would chose her boyfriend over me, that she would even suggest I was responsible for the molestation…
So my mother and I, we don’t speak, we never will!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)