I still refer to you as Mummy. I never really accommodated the term Mom and Dad, unless I was speaking about you.
Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and it’s great that we don’t just have a parent’s day, because each parent needs to be celebrated. So Mummy, I finally got around to writing to you. I am writing an open letter to you though, because I have this space in The Daily OBSERVER newspaper in Antigua.
I moved here recently to take up a post to manage a four-year project for the Caribbean HIV AIDS Alliance to prevent HIV on the Island. I will explain a little more about HIV later Mummy, but please don’t be mad at me for not writing earlier. I needed time, and writing for most guys is a bit difficult, even though when we get it right, our writing can be pretty amazing. Anyway, as the elders say, it’s better late than never.
It been over 25 years since I last saw you, and when I did you weren’t in good shape, you were immobile, bed ridden, and fighting a losing battle against a cancer that erupted in your breast like a dormant volcano’s outburst, sudden, no warning, and destructive, your battle with breast cancer shook my life, your younger son, and your husband’s too.
I knew you were sick, but I was not prepared for you to lose your life to cancer, or to anything for that matter. How do you return to school and say you have one parent? That is just strange.
I must have been eight years, and it’s tough facing all those school exams from primary to high school, then A’Levels. You weren’t around to demand immediate University education, or have a sit down to explore my professional career, and I know Daddy would have needed your help.
What about enrolling me into new sports, or music classes? I know you must have had a long list. I got around to tennis, a little basketball, got my Duke of Edinburgh award, I continued scouting, football, wind-ball cricket (too afraid of the actual cork ball), and making Carnival costumes every year with uncle Frankie. Pops encouraged any extra-curricular activities, but your support was needed. The old man was so busy at times he forgot to pick us up from primary school. Dad was busy trying to keep his Hardware business afloat, so we understood the challenges.
For all of his efforts, Daddy couldn’t save Granty’s Hardware from going under. Apparently Daddy’s business partner was a thief.
I miss your cooking. Those Sunday lunches, holiday meals, and the cheese sticks you would bake as incentives for taking a midday nap, all priceless. I still dislike going to bed during daylight, but now I know there is research supporting power naps, you were obviously a wise woman.
I know you would have planned more surprise birthday parties, and you may have prolonged the existence of Santa Claus.
Pops wasn’t very comfortable initiating a conversation about sex, drugs and soca, so my teenage years were spent in a state of angst. I still think I long for insight on the tough issues I face in life, and maybe having you around back then would have laid a foundation for how to address the daily challenges of the adulthood.
Thanks for leaving all those photograph albums. Those photos can take me back, and tell stories about the eight years or so we spent together – stories that must have shaped the man I am today.
I remember the trips vividly. The photo-journals of New York City, Miami, Orlando, Barbados are still intact. Scouting took me to a few more places, and when I started working for the YMCA and the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights my travel experiences really grew. I think you would be happy I enjoyed travelling as much as you did.
The world has changed a lot Mom. People discriminate against others not only based on race and socio-economics, but their sexual orientation as well. You died just about the same time the world first started learning about a new virus called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The virus is spread mainly through unprotected sexual activity with someone who has contracted HIV.
People refuse to accept that HIV is not deadly if those living with it stick to their medical treatment. It’s a shame that the more pressing challenge is the stigma and discrimination faced by those living with the virus. It’s not an easy job, but I like to make changes to the folly that takes place in the world.
I most of all wanted you here, because the realities that came after your death were a little too much for Myles, Dad, or myself. All of a sudden, much like how the cancer entered our lives, the cancer of the challenges of your marriage also came to bare. I am sure Dad would have stuck it out and got better at showing his full commitment to you, and I am sure you felt like leaving but you didn’t.
He speaks fondly of you, and does not have excuses for any hurt he might have caused, and his quest to find the right answers to explain his infidelity is a fitting answer for your sons. It’s the reminder that relationships are just as much hard work as parenting, and we’ve got to always be prepared as a scout to put the time in to make it work.
The short time I spent with you was precious, and I selfishly preferred that than having you live longer for me to feel further pain when you are gone. It’s my strange way of making sense of your death. While I could have wallowed in the feelings of loss, I prefer to live in the ideal memory of the life you chose to live, a life that I continue to wish on myself, a life that has inspired consciously or not who I am to today. Thanks for being present when you were here, and thanks for the motivation to follow my heart.
Love you, Mummy. Happy Mothers Day!