I know them pretty well. I know them like the back of my own hand. You wouldn’t believe what they’ve gone through to be where they’re today.
The first woman in this well thought list is the woman who gave birth to me, mama. The second woman is non other than my sister-in-law, my elder brother’s wife, Nafoyo — we all call her by her clan name.
These two outstanding women deserve much more than just a blog post on my twisted blog, unfortunately that’s all I can do for them at the moment. They’ve raised me and my siblings to who we are today, and what they’ve had to endure just to do that, is what makes them special and exceptional. I was meant to write this post during the last Mothers Day, but couldn’t due to unavoidable circumstances — actually I found out late that it was Mothers Day.
If I didn’t have to work and make some money, I would spend all my time just listening to her old stories of her home country and life during Idi Amin era.
Born and raised in West Nile — the reason I keep mentioning this region in most of my twisted poems — around Gulu area. She later on went to a missionary school in Arua, Western Uganda, where she lived with her aunt, a nun and a teacher. I only met her once in my life. Passed on recently and I mentioned it in A tear in the dark.
She was brilliant, topped her class — according to her aunt — and everyone thought she had a promising future, and then dad, a young promising doctor showed up, and a 16-year-old girl was in love. She got pregnant with my brother and ran away to Kenya with him (dad).
In a new country, with at least two popular languages — Swahili and my native Luhya — to learn if you want to adapt to the Kenyan life. It was hard for mama, at first, since she wasn’t born a Bantu like us — she was a River Lake Nilot — but she was a fast learner, and thank God already was prolific in the English language which was a common trade language across the East Africa. And she was soon acquainted with the Luo people who spoke her language, and some of them spoke our local dialects very well.
After a few years she had gotten accustomed to the Kenyan life, conversed well in our languages and familiar with our ways. She had also started a nursing course, but that was before she started popping out some of us and it wasn’t long before she gave up on all of it to handle family matters. But already had acquired enough skills to care for her family and friends, and some neighbors as well. I can tell you as far as I can recall, it has always been her taking care of me and my siblings each time any of us got sick. You would only be referred to a hospital if it was serious, beyond her specialty. Soon her name started spreading and she was soon a personal doctor of sorts to a number of well respected individuals in our community.
Soon after, dad took off for another nurse, leaving mama with all the responsibilities. It was tough! She had to make hard decisions. Playing both parental roles is no easy job as some of you already know, especially for a woman with a dozen kids and no steady income.
All in all, mama managed to raise us, I would say, upright! We are doing okay, and one of this days we will be alright. And wish you saw how desperately dad is trying to get back to us, using the family land as bait, like we care. For more about mama, my family and land issues, kindly read A Blog and a Dream.
As I had already told you at the beginning, Nafoyo is my sister in-law, my elder brother Ben’s wife. She is like our second mother and we love her so much.
Nafoyo is a fellow Luhya but of the Bafoyo clan of the Bamarachi subtribe of the larger Luhya tribe. Theirs borders ours — Bakhayo tribe — and so we interact a lot. Her tribe neighbour’s the Luo of Nyanza, hence their Nilotic characters. Their men didn’t do circumcision like us, and most of them fluently speak Dholuo.
I remember the day she was brought home, long time ago, can’t recall the exact date since I was just a kid. She wasn’t that pretty but she had fine features, and above all, a beautiful heart. And looking back now, I can tell why mama chose her for my brother — oh I didn’t tell you.
Nafoyo was not my brother’s choice. She was brought home to my brother as a wife by mother and her close cronies after a careful selection exercise (not Mswati style). I don’t know why mama decided to go that way, choosing a wife for my brother instead of letting Ben marry one of the many girls he always brought home. Of course Ben wasn’t amused. He made a fuss about it but later on decided to accept her. Maybe he saw some reason in what mama was trying to do. Like the rest of us, Ben always respected mama.
Soon after, Nafoyo bore my brother three wonderful children, the eldest is in her final year in highschool.
Nafoyo is a niece to a woman who was and still is a close friend and confidant of my mother. And I think it’s partly the reason mama thought she was the right woman for my brother. A hardworking and kindhearted woman from a well-known and respected family is all mama wanted for a daughter-in-law.
Just like my mama, Nafoyo has gone through her share of suffering and struggle. Marrying into a poor home is not easy, but thank God she herself was from a humble home, hence understood our situation and helped mama the best way she could in managing it. She tirelessly worked alongside mama in building her home and helping her (mama) raise us. Toiling from dawn to dusk to put food on the table. And mama never worried about us whenever she was away — on church functions, sometimes attending weddings and funerals and other functions — because she knew she had left a copy of herself behind.
Nafoyo loved us (still does) and we loved and respected her back. Equally disciplined us just like mother would, whenever we made a mistake. Up to date mama knows that even if the inevitable comes, let’s say she dies, we will be in safe hands.
Of course it wasn’t always easy on her side, having to live with the fact that her husband didn’t love her that much and only saw her as the mother of his children and nothing beyond that, and was always chasing other women in the city.
She could have left, like most women of today, but she didn’t and instead chose to remain for her kids and for us. We knew Ben wasn’t always kind to her and we made sure we were, and as we grew up, protected her. My other older siblings always talked sense to my brother and he listened.
And even as I’m writing this she’s still there, back at home, alongside mama, making sure our home is prospering. My other sister-in-law, Chris’s wife has gone through her tutoring and she has now become my third mother, always asking of my welfare back in the city. The last time she called me on my phone was asking if I had finished my final exams. Amina, that’s her name, is a smart woman with a flourishing business, one she started together with her husband from scratch.
This two — I mean three women make our home a home, and they’ve played a big role in who we are today. I love them so much and pray to God I will be with them for a long time to come.
The story of the two strongest women in my world. We all have stories to tell, it might not be that important to others but to you it is, don’t shy away from sharing it. That’s my story! I wish knew yours!