Contributed by Alexandra Yeboah
The last time I heard her laugh, was the day she made a remark about my smile. I didn’t readily embrace her compliment then, as it felt strange for her to be commenting on my “white teeth,” in such a somber moment.
Shortly after, I reached for her hand, and thought of how fragile it felt, like crumpled-up tissue paper. As we sat together, nurses bustled around us and a series of eerie sounds familiar to the nursing home setting tainted the still air.
When I noticed her lips opening and closing, I leaned in closer to her wheelchair to catch her words. Sadly, I still failed to understand, so I turned to my mother – who was sitting behind me – for help. “Mom?” I addressed her with a question on my face, suddenly uncertain. But the woman I knew as my mother, was nowhere to be seen. In her place, was a reticent, wearied daughter, witnessing everything she never hoped to see – The slow demise of her only mother, the one who had loved her first.
Here was the woman who had sacrificed everything for her Jamaican daughter, by sending her off to Canada to make a better life for herself. To give her all of what she never had. With quiet strength sat my grandmother, the women who had never failed to call our home every week, even when her calls were never returned. This regal figure had never turned down the opportunity to babysit her favourite Canadian-born granddaughters, when asked. For free. Nothing could beat the smell of her lump-free cornmeal porridge and the old-school Gospel hits that powered through her one-bedroom apartment, on Saturday mornings. If you tried to turn down a meal or two in the effort to be polite, she would quickly scold you: “Eat, and get some fat on those bones of yours.”
She gave when my mother couldn’t, and loved us hard, more than we would ever understand. Moments later, her hand is still tightly clasped in mine, as I find myself lost in my memories.
Alexandra’s piece was written during a workshop hosted by the Writers Collective of Canada, a charitable organization that inspires exploratory writing in community to empower every voice, celebrate every story, and change the world. To learn more and sign up for a writing workshop, visit www.wcc-cec.org.