by Natasha Nsemiwe
Three years ago, depression claimed our mother as its host. Neither my siblings nor I recall the precise date she became chronically ill. It was probably as “prophetic” as all the Friday the thirteenths our eyes had permitted us-stereotypical. It wasn’t as petrifying as one would fathom. Nonetheless, even the doctors couldn’t grant us preparation enough for the hurdles that come with nursing an ill parent. Now that I ponder about it entirely, no trying time as this one has ultimately gifted us lessons we thought we had grasped prior to the occurrence.
The thing about depression is it blunts one’s reality. You can’t share your sorrows and joys in its fullness with depressed people. Because it’s a form of death, everyone who’s close to the “deceased” goes through a degree of grief. We don’t necessarily ventilate this out but I am certain my siblings have made peace with this truth. I can see it in how their demeanor makes their hushed thoughts audible. I am skeptical we’ve gone through a phase of denial from the onset.
In the genesis, she was just a diabetic and hypertensive patient. There was nothing novel about it. We had been through such phases countlessly yet for some reason this bout hit harder than expected. Our minds were already tolerant of such seasons. To us, it was something that would soon adhere to our past. Factually speaking, depression was not the preliminary problem. It only manifested after some frequent hospital admissions.
We all tossed with the idea of it being a temporal absence of our leader, support system, disciplinarian and all the things single motherhood stands for. Nevertheless, the predicament has overstayed its welcome.
As nature would have it when long-standing leadership takes absence, chaos breaks loose. Family discords were on the rampage. Financial issues which seem inescapable, especially in Africa, also tried to wreck our family structure. Trivial mistakes shook the foundations of our unity. Being the optimist I am, these things made me see my family members as just humans growing into what fate felt was necessary.
The unfortunate reality about tragedy is life remains nomadic. People come to visit our still sick mother and go back to their lives because it’s just how life has been governed. Last year, my brother and I graduated from tertiary education and the bliss of it all cannot be “parcelled” in words. Nonetheless, the ecstasy has its bounds. Unlike our peers, we cannot bask in the pride of our parents—the men and women who cracked our skin with belts as chastity for failing in school and rewarded us when we scored exceptional grades.
The ones that loved us recklessly. I had to rethink telling our mother when I heard the news of my success because I reckoned the possibility of her not being as content as she could which would also dump the “partial,” yet still worth the happiness that was conceived.
My brother revealed to us that he had an eleven months old daughter. The happiness of that development was short-lived shortly after she succumbed to a severe ailment. We broke the news firstly of her existence to her grandmother, then shortly after, we had to break the latter news when it happened. We are enduring a rollercoaster of emotions.
Some days are easier to do than others. We don’t have a drafted plot of where this journey is taking us. Breaking points were and are still met. We don’t pretend to be an unbreakable cord anymore; we just are and it is these things that have proved that. Sometimes, we dwell on the thought that God is taking a holiday on us. As seemingly unethical as that may sound, it still doesn’t rob him of the reality that he is still in control—even on holiday.
Natasha Nsemiwe writes poetry, essays and short stories, some of which can be found on Spillwords.com. She lives in Zambia where she is currently serving as an assistant project coordinator for Writers Space Africa-Zambia, an organization whose vision is to empower local authors.