The door to her bedroom was wide open, which was unusual for her to leave it like that. The door faced the kitchen where I had sat on a stool, quietly having my lunch so that I could rush back to school for my afternoon classes.
I was in the eighth and final year of my primary education, and there were only two weeks remaining so that I could seat for the national examinations. This was the only opportunity for me to bring back joy to my mother’s life and I did not want to disappoint. While tidying up the kitchen, my mind could not stop wondering why mum was taking so long in her bedroom, and of course, she was supposed to be at work at that particular time. My instincts were telling me that something was wrong and I had to find out.
I slowly walked to the door and knocked. There was no answer. I pushed the door open and greeted her, but she neither replied nor glanced at me. She had concentrated on reading some documents. Her bed was filled with files and papers, and the big black briefcase that she always kept her important documents was wide open. I softly cleared my throat to get her attention. She only glanced at me. The pain in her eyes could not be described. I knew there was something wrong. “Go back to school.” She said while picking another file from her bed.
I realised that the file contained the title deed to my father’s land and his death certificate. At that point I knew there was a problem back at our rural home, and that my stubborn uncle was at it again, trying to grab our land and property.
This had started way back in 1999, when I was only 5 years. The tragic news of my dad’s death had finally reached us. I remember my mum weeping so bitterly and holding me close to her chest. My elder brother Walter, who was then, 10 years, was also crying. I knew there was a problem but I could not contemplate. I only wiped my mother’s tears and asked her not to cry. It was the first time that I had seen her crying, and all along I knew that adults never cried. From that day, I tried to make my mum happy so that she could never, ever cry again. But this was not to be so, because we had passed through a lot of heart breaks and hardship that made both of us to cry and later stand up on our own and refuse to give up.
After my dad’s burial, I realised that I could never see him again. All was left of him were the sweet memories of time we spent together, especially when my mum was away on work related issues. He was the most caring and kind man that I had ever known. It had downed on me that he was gone forever and I could only see him through memories and this picture that he had taken a week before his untimely death.
Days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, and most of our relatives went away. Life went back to normal, and my mum took the responsibility of being both a father and mother to us. She performed it very well as there was no day that we lacked anything. She was this strong woman that could never be shaken by anything. Our school tuition fee was always paid right on time. She had a good heart because she also took in some of our relatives and educated them. Although we had a two bedroom house, we all lived comfortably like one big family.
However things started to go wrong six months after my father’s burial, not because my mum could no longer take care of us, but because one of my late father’s brother, and my uncle, started to demand for my late father’s property and land. At fast my mum thought he was only bluffing. But when he became persistent and insisted that he had a right to have what my father left behind, so that he could ‘take care of his children,’ my mum became worried. He used to come around in our homestead and demand that my mum gives him my father’s money.
At that time, my mother had started following up on my father’s benefits and the money he had left in the bank. She had gotten access to some accounts of my dad but other properties that he had acquired had to be accounted for before she could get them. All this time, we never knew that my uncle was skimming a plan of how he could grab our land and take possession of it. He had actually changed. Whenever we went to our rural home, he would tell us to get out of the the homestead because my father was never given land. He had taken possession of our land. It got to the point that we could not go to our rural home, because my uncle would chase us out of our homestead. From that day, we would not go to our home for about two years. That was the time I saw my mum cry for a long time in her life.
My mum took it seriously and decided to protect us from him and also protect our inheritance. I remember the day she sat us down and explained to us that whatever happens, she will fight for our birth right. My mother decided to look for my father’s title deed. She had not seen in my father’s documents. She went to the land registry with the death certificate and applied for it. She also went to court with her marriage certificate and declared that she was the next of kin to my father’s property and no other circumstances should someone claim for it. In case of her death, my mum had declared that her four children will inherit her property.
With that, my mother thought that she had solved her problems with my uncle. But this was not to be so. My uncle was greedy and thirsty for our land, and he could stop at nothing until he got what he wanted. I believe it was only my mum’s prayers and her dedication to God that only protected us. My uncle kept on frustrating us. He would stop work in our farm or even beat up the workers that mum had employed. He actually scared the workers and every one and he also made everyone to believe that our land was his. All the time that happened, my mum would go home and face out with him. However all this was sought out as a family issue and I think he took advantage of that to keep on frustrating us.
The day I found my mum looking at the title deed was the peak of all the trouble that came with my uncle. The previous week, mum had gone home and prepared the land for planting. She had ensured that the land had been ploughed and planted with maize and beans. After a few days, my uncle actually brought in a tractor which again ploughed our land, destroying the planted crops. The saddest part of it was that he did not dig his ‘shamba’ which was filled with bush, but actually crossed the fence to our land. This was shocking and insane to everyone. I remember my mother crying so much that she could hardly sleep. She had decided to sue my uncle, but other family members convinced her not to, because he was my father’s brother. She finally agreed but reported my uncle to the government administrator of our location, who was the chief. A seating was set for the case to be heard before family and other elders.
My uncle was not sorry for what he had done. But what my mum did not know was that my uncle had paid off some of the elders who were there to support him, and that did not ogre well with my mother. But well, God has a mysterious way of showing his authority. When my uncle was still talking and throwing abusive words at my mum. A strong wind actually came from nowhere and knocked my uncle down. He fell to the ground and lost consciousness. He could not talk for some time. When he regained his conscious, he did not talk to anyone but walked away to his house. This became the last time he frustrated my mum or called us squatters in our fathers land.
My mother continued to take care of us and our education. Years have gone by since that incident, and my mother has struggled to see me through my university education. Although she did not earn much, she always tried to ensure I got what I deserved and I now have my future. She is my rock because she never gave up when everyone thought she was defeated.
To me, she is still the one I look up to. During my lowest moments, I will pick up the phone just to hear her voice which will give me some hope. Even if I don’t tell her what’s happening in my life, she always knows and I feel strong and encouraged. She is the one I love most. Thank you mum for everything.