One can as much as whiff electricity from our home in Taita. It is too near yet too far. Our next door neighbour has power. Yes and this neighbour is one steep down-hill, a river and another steep up-away. So we resort to generator power which is selfishly rationed for durability.
We took a short trip to visit a close friend of the family…who am I kidding, everyone in Taita is a close friend!
It was a lady who lived close to the next door neighbour and she too had electricity. We found her quietly sipping her tea outside her house. She was expecting us.
“I had to borrow some sugar from a friend on my way back as I forgot to buy my own” she began. Remember how close I mentioned the shops were? She had gone to a clinic for the fifth tetanus jab for a prick she had acquired five years ago. ‘She is too faithful to medication’ I thought to myself. We were welcomed into the house and joined the tea party.
After the usual introductions to the strange faces e.g. yours trul. The lady, went on to tell us of her daily life routine.
Her husband works in Mombasa while she lives in Taita, her nuptial home. All her children live and work in various parts of the country and she is left with one person to take care of.
Her mother in-law.
Every morning, she wakes up, milks and feeds her cows and later makes tea for the old lady. At 10am, when the air outside is fairly warm, she carries her aged mother in-law out of her bedroom and lays her on a bed right next to the fire place. ‘She often complains of too much cold so I put her next to the fire place the whole day.’ She explained. In the kitchen she will dress and change her whenever she soils her clothes. Yes, this lady claims to have been born between 1912 and 1914, but she is too old and weak, everyone believes she is well over 100 years old.
‘She is like a small baby’ she went on, ‘I always mash her food and feed her, while holding her by the shoulder. I bathe her daily and make sure she is dry and comfortable.’ She has lost most of her memory as she always seems to believe that the son works nearby and comes home daily.
‘Don’t you ever need help?’ I asked in awe.
‘I have tried leaving people with her so I can start a better business. Every person I left here complained that it was too much work while others couldn’t stand the foul smell of a soiled grown up, So I decided to do it on my own.’ Her children tried to relocate her to the city to no avail. Her excuse was always the same..that she cannot leave her mother in-law all by herself.
But why bother yourself? Everyone asks her. Mothers and their son’s wives are generally not the best of friends. I too was very curious to find out…well not that I got beef with mine, but to actually dedicate your life to taking care of an old lady and lock out all chances of developing yourself is the most unselfish form of love I have ever witnessed.
‘This woman welcomed me to her house with the whole of her heart,’ she explained. She loved me like her own daughter and made me as comfortable as she could afford. She has a very big heart that does not judge or condemn. She deserves better than I even give her right now, but since I can only manage to sell the milk from my cows, I rely on my children’s financial input to feed both of us. And anyway, it’s much easier this way as customers come to pick the milk themselves. I vowed to take care of her till the Lord decides otherwise.’
We went outside and into the kitchen to see her- the old lady.
She looked wee as she lay helplessly on the bed. I almost saw no legs after her hip bone. They were so skinny and feeble; clearly they could not manage her weight.
Our host bent over to her ear and shouted, ‘Mama, you have visitors!’ in the native language. Apart from being almost blind she could hardly hear a thing! I tried so hard but did not manage to put myself in her position. It was unbelievable. ‘Mama, stretch your hand and greet them!’ the old lady managed a hand stretch which we all grasped and greeted in turns. She smiled and I was touched. ‘Visitors, thank you for visiting,’ she mumbled before her hand fell back on the bed.
We let the old lady rest and went on to see the cows in the shed. We intended to use the long route through the shamba and experience another venture of the hilly suburb. The cows started mooing uncontrollably the moment she shouted for her cat to stop trudging alongside us.’ Are they alright?’ we all were puzzled. ‘Yes, they just think I’ going to give them more rations. They are all familiar with my voice and can tell it’s me from very far.’
The freshian beasts mooed till we got to the shed and then mooed some more when they saw their master.
I went back home intrigued by this lady’s life. It’s not every day that I meet a person with such a big heart, not everyday that I remember the most imperative things in life; but because of this day, I will for ever have off pat that if this lady can still be happy at the service of her old lady, her cat and beasts, so can I with the more that I have. Contentment is all in the heart anyway, right?