She calls every day. Not today. I look at my phone and realize its 4:00 pm. I don’t even have a missed call from her. I have been trying to make a living and make her proud. Not that she isn’t but my financial freedom and success is her peace and joy. I call her and she’s mteja. I try an hour later and she’s still mteja. I wonder which neighbor to call. Then I remember she moved to a new neighborhood. I do not know anyone in her new neighborhood. No one lives with her. Two hours later she is still mteja.
Four hours later when she picks she says she was resting. She is retired but not that old to need a nap in the middle of the day. I prod on, trying to get her talking. She finally says she’s unwell. Everything aches, she feels dizzy, has a high fever and is weak. “Did you go to hospital?” I ask. “No.” “Why?” “Because I had no cash on me. I needed cash to go to hospital.” I am dazed for a moment. “Doctors are on strike at the general hospital and my doctor will treat me only with some cash.” She says. My throat swells and my heart feels like it’s gained two kgs in two seconds. Most private hospitals do not accept NHIF cards for outpatients. I haven’t needed to check that until now. I check my Mpesa and the only thing between me and poverty is Ksh 1.000. That’s a lot. I start budgeting how much I need to send to my mother. I could ask my siblings to send her money but they will send after a day and maybe she doesn’t have a day. I swallow hard and send her Ksh 900. I remember the promise in the bible do not worry about your tomorrow for even the birds of the air eat and drink. But this is the year 2016 and there has never been manna since the days of Moses. I keep wondering how much more she needs because I am certain it’s not enough.
The next morning I call her with a reminder, “Mother please go to hospital.” I want her to see my dreams unfold. I want her to see my little milestones. My big steps. My stupid risks. I want her to never have to worry about me. Highly unlikely but still… She calls in the evening and tells me about the test results and some medicine she was given. “Do not worry I will get to the bank and get some money” she says in that reassuring golden voice I love. “The doctor charged me Ksh 3, 000,” she says. “Are you sure you have it?” I ask. She says to not worry. That she will sort that out at least now she has the energy to run around and a diagnosis. I smile.
A day later and a call later. She tells me she got the medication. I relax a little but I can feel a heartbreak creeping in. It’s from the worry. We have had our ups and downs but I could never have gotten a better mother. I whisper loudly to Sir G. “Hey Sir G, lets agree on one thing, for me to focus on the many things I have at the moment and have some hope you must keep my mother with me. I need her more than you do Sir G.”
It’s alien for me to confess my love to my mother just because, so I call her two minutes after I hang up and tell her goodnight. I do not hang up immediately. I listen to her labored clogged breathing. She says, “Goodnight Kendi”. I want to tell her how I worry about her. The way I have been brought up these three words aren’t things we just use anytime. It’s important I know but instead we exchange awkward lingering stares. Nice texts, well I mostly do the texting and then she calls back. Make breakfasts and nice dinners. Do laundry. Wipe and polish shoes. And we talk daily sometimes several times. We know there is love.
I ask her to do less work. Just because she’s retired and home doesn’t mean she has to fill up every single minute with work. She says okay. But I look at my life and how much I enjoy being busy and I know she’s lying. I hang up and worry a little more. I know worry is like a rocking chair but on this one I will rock on.
Day three and she’s the first person I want to call when I get up but I cannot. Nothing stops me. It’s just scary trying to find out how she is doing. What if she is worse? I don’t want her to feel my worry. It feels like a call of duty at the prison. I let it go and silently remember Sir G promised. It’s the only thing that keeps me going. I remember she prays and then say a little prayer and hope. It’s the only thing I mustn’t let go of. I call her over lunch hour and she sounds happy jovial and there are women chattering in the background. I am instantly relieved and back to the hustle.
It’s time to say, “Mama, I love you”.