Jack, just like his father, would appear very strong, but deep inside his heart was a gaping wound. He missed his mother’s company and vibrance that was no longer there. He hated being the laughing stock. He had less friends, the stigma was real. His father was struggling financially, running up and down to clear debts incurred by his wife. At one point, he had had to part with 5000 shillings to bail Mama Jack out of police cell after she and others had been arrested over drunkenness and rowdy behaviour.
Jack’s mother grew weaker and thinner by day. She rarely ate enough. Her eyes were always swollen and bloodshot, her lips red. She had two missing front teeth, thanks to blows received during their usual drunken fights. She no longer loved to shower and do make up. Her hair was another big mess. The teacher’s wife was in a pit of self-destruction. Baba Jack’s colleagues often advised him to file for divorce.
One evening, Jack’s paternal grandmother arrived from upcountry. The children were so happy to see her that for the first time they cried together as they hugged her. It was clear they had all been hiding pain within them. Jack saw his father wipe a tear quickly.
That evening, the children were sent to bed earlier than usual. Jack’s Dad and Grandma needed to discuss a very important matter. The girls went to their bedroom and soon fell asleep, but Jack chose to eavesdrop on the conversation. He was sure it was pertaining to his mother, and truly it was. ” So, mom,” Baba Jack began, ” will you take the girls with you to ushago (upcountry)? ” ” No son. It’s your responsibility to bring them up, just as I brought you up. My work is done, do yours.” ” Mom, the children are suffering. I need to protect them from…” “From their mom? From this shame? Son, some things can change, some can’t. Your wife is their mother, that can’t change. They already know she drinks and it hurts. That can’t change, what they know. But one thing can change. Their mom can change. She can quit drinking.” ” But mother, we are tired! I am tired! I want her gone!” ” Good. You want her gone. Gone where? WHERE WILL SHE GO?”
” Mother, I don’t know. ”
” To the streets? Her parents are dead. Her brother sold his inheritance and drunk himself to death. Mama Rose has nothing else but you and the children. ”
” Mother, you don’t know how I feel. You don’t know my life. ”
“Baba Jack, you don’t know how your wife feels. You don’t know her life.”
After a moment of silence, Jack’s Grandma spoke.
” I know where she’ll go. I’m taking her with me upcountry. I’ll take care of her. If I succeed, God be praised. If I don’t, God will know I tried.”
“Mother you don’t mean it.”
“I do. This is a test, perhaps from God. We must pass the test.”
“A test mother? This is a curse! We had this with Dad. Why undergo the test again?”
” Good question. We must repeat the test because we failed it last time. We failed with your dad, he died like a dog. Your children must see a victorious ending, not a remorseful one.”
By the end of the conversation, an agreement had been reached. Jack almost screamed in applause of his Grandma, then he remembered he was eavesdropping.