(Tribute to my mother in her quest to see me get educated against many odds)
The Finest Hours
For so many scores of years long before my birth I became acquainted with the first person who became my friend in blood and deeds till to date, yes great friends but we fought for space and attention of our mother with my elder but twin brother Frank. Seven and a half months later the finest hour of our birth came, and two tiny beings emerged from depths of God’s creation and the luxury of the womb was no more. We were born to face the harsh realities and the sweet music in the long journey of our life.
The marvels of modern medicine were the things that saved us, from a difficult child birth my mother almost lost her life, so I’m told. While she was resting and recuperating after our birth, we were busy crying and wailing for her breasts from the confinements of the incubator. I was the villain that gave my mother the hardest time at birth. Then my relevant others were born later too, my three sisters who came after me and destroyed my right of being the last born. Yes, I love my sisters too.
But again unto this world we were not the only children of our parents. My elder sisters Carol and Dayo were there to brag about their little new kid brothers fresh in the block, and my elder brother Weni was a jovial lad happy to be having brothers for he had been the only son. I am told, it was a fine hour for my elder siblings when mom took us home at the Kaimosi Bible College. Yet, I realize, it was not yet the finest hour.
With care and love she brought us up and taught us all she could. I was the naughty stubborn little adventurous boy who was forever on the wrong side of mom’s unwritten rules at home. From pinching sugar and bullying my younger sisters born after my entrance to the world, my mother would teach me tolerance and humility. She was my first teacher and my sister Hiza became my second teacher. That is how mom introduced me to formal education at my finest childish hour.
Yet again that was not the finest hour. I grew up with my a million naughty escapades and boyish misdemeanor. I once broke cups and plates just to make mom angry when she whipped me. When called to shower we would scamper up an avocado tree where my elder sisters could not capture me, neither could they drag my brother down. From those branches we pelted them with the avocadoes if any were in sight. But slowly I learnt the art of personal hygiene and cleanliness. Tending to dogs at home and undertaking chores under the hawk eyes of my mother. And that was another step in towards the finest hour.
Being a bully and occasionally inviting the wrath of my fellow primary school boys, I would wait for my mother to emerge from the staffroom and pretend to be the good boy who wants to carry her bag. This would ensure I walked close to her on my way home and obstruct the angry intentions of my peers from avenging or revenging my misdeeds on them after school. Gladly, those were some of the fine hours of enjoying mom’s protection, but not yet the finest hour.
My mom would tell on me to my dad, and my dad would give me a few strokes of a cane a bit, shaping the good manners towards the making a fine gentleman. On this I must admit I kept on failing. Because I remember today I would tell a lie, tomorrow steal a coin from mom’s purse and later busy beating and bullying other village boys, keeping a wary eye mom asinishike. This game of cat and mouse made me learn a lot of things from my mother. In those incessant boyish wars with my mom and father I learnt the language of empathy, and the value of education.
And education is the beacon of the finest hour that my mother wanted me to time myself with. To move with ease around the world and treat all with some respect, on that I must admit I sometimes horribly fail. But I always try my best. She taught me the need to accept my limitations. And those are the hardest lessons in timing my movement to the finest hour. When I joined form one, slowly my dad and mother’s words and wisdom starting registering. But the rebellious me occasionally just said they were grown up who ought to mind their business, but yes, they were leading me to the finest hour of perseverance.
I must say many people do not know how broke my dad and mom were when I joined form one. I had wanted to join Lenana School, but I missed the cut off not by points but because my dad was sick at home, in his good days of health he would have gladly foraged a chance for me in the national schools. However, against my wish my mom explained to me, “son, Chavakali is a good school; you have got an admission letter so remember that is where you will go.”
I never objected. But I was sad. Angry that my dad was sick and the help I wanted was not forthcoming. My dad was broke and withering slowly towards his death. I remember he would tell me he wanted to be a pastor just like my grandfather whom I was named after. I understood my predicament, I was angry at my situation, but never was I angry at my mother. Never was I angry at my father. I made a vow; I must get to the university and make them proud. It was a vow that almost slipped through my fingers.
I cannot write everything about my four years in high school. But this is where my creative talent as a writer blossomed, My mother, a mere primary school teacher soon lost her husband, my father, when I was in form one. I remember I reported to form with no box, just a canvas bag that my elder sister used in campus. By day three that bag had been torn by a pen knife and everything stolen. I never went to tell my aunt, for fear that in the end mom would get stressed. Instead, my elder brother ‘pinched’ a few uniforms here and there and sorted me out.
I did my form four and passed well, but not so well if I could have seamlessly settled in school right from form one. I was so close to my father that when he died it took me so long to adjust to life without him. He was my best enemy when I was at my best levels of mischief. And he was my good mentor and friend when we were not ‘cat and mousing’ each other. With that loss, my mother continued a solo struggle of guiding me and my siblings to a better future, towards the finest hour.
When I joined Kenyatta University, I remember we had attended my sisters wedding in Kilifi and we left straight thereafter the wedding to Nairobi with my mother for my admission at Kenyatta University. I remember she took her leso, sat under a tree near the 844 complex and told me, “Si umekuja university, go register you will find me here.” Off I went. I came with a key to the room I had been allocated and asked her to come see it. She said “You have a room, now, I will not come back again to visit you here, I will come for your graduation. Don’t disappoint like your elder brother”
Those words keep ringing in my ear up to date. I must again mention my late friend Shibi, I told him about my mom’s statement and he said to me “Let’s work hard in class, enjoy life in Campus and make our parents proud.” I pray too, God rest Shibi’s soul in peace. It is Shibi who introduced me to Plato’s Republic, and and some great writings of philosophers. These books we read and tried to see, who would retain the most of what we read.
And that was the path to my finest hour as per the unpronounced wishes of my mother. It is here that I started to question, critique and argue. Then from the students I had the privilege of being a thespian. And that is how I met Maurice Amateshe. Later, the circle of friends widened, from Atika Manani to John Ochomo. From Jeff Rogers Wekesa to Fred Obat Ochieng’, Andedo, Amimo, Mbugua, Doreen, Evelyn Mugesani, Daniel Were, KC Joseph, Diana Orry, JP, Dr Hamisi Babusa, Henry Namai, and so many more…
Knowledge was acquired. As a student Kenyatta University allowed to join my lecturers for a drink at Jostem Pub and poke holes into their arguments. Many a time I was thoroughly clobbered and boxed with facts and reasons, and my intellectualism improved. That was the road to the finest hour my mother desired for me. When I went home I no longer blubbered aimless words but trudged on well considered arguments. My mom once told me “I can see, the university is shaping you up.” That was her finest comment to me
I graduated from the university and went into employment. But my mom desired that I pursue a master’s degree, and true to her word, it was my wish too, and that is when she paid my first year post-graduate school fees. I regret I joined Pwani University, I have wasted my time, and she has died without seeing me enroll in a PhD class. But in Pwani I met more friends, Lishenga, Dr Shiundu, Wachira Boneface, Prof Shauri… name them, they contributed in the making of finest hour
Then in my quest for a finer hour my mother dropped her bomb shell, when the misfortune of illness did not give a clue of her possible demise in March this year she once told me, she desires to see my child, and see me enroll for a PhD. That was her finest wishes for my finest hour. Her wishes will come, but on the peril of having been gone before she witnessed the two desires she yearned of me.
For my mother, education was the finest essence in life, for the finest moments in human existence, and more still, the finest embodiment of human quality.
Rest in Peace my mother. I promise to deliver the finest hours in line with her quest for my education, even though she is gone., the dream is valid