Writing this is probably the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in a while. I’ve refrained from sharing this with you guys because I hate all forms of pity and this piece is bound to result in massive doses of that annoying emotion. Whenever I say I’m the only child of my mother people usually say one of two things; “you’re enjoying” or “how does it feel”. Before I go on I’d like to thank Chidinma and Franque for their posts it gave me the courage to write this.
I’m sitting here trying to remember details of their lives but shamefully my mind has only the barest memories of people I used to share a house with. His name was Junior he was my little brother and he liked to bang his head on the wall repeatedly. It was weird at first and people always tried to get him to kick the habit but when we realized he wasn’t hurting himself it became one of those odd family tales you told at the dinner table.
Ewere light skinned, skinny and always with a sweater. The one I didn’t get along with. She was three, four or five years older than me. I guess our rivalry stemmed from the fact that she was my parents’ favorite child. I was the one who was/still is a splitting image of my father but for some reason mum and dad doted on her and well as little as I was I must have somehow sensed it. It didn’t help that everyone fell in love with her instantly while I hovered around unnoticed. I was Ewere’s little sister.
Junior was 1st to pass. I remember all the commotion, my mum’s finger in his mouth, in her one woman battle against the convulsion that had taken hold of his little frame. They rushed him to the hospital that night and I assumed he’d return, after all hospitals made people better. He didn’t. Some random relative told Ewere and I that Junior was dead. My mum cried, Ewere cried, my dad didn’t he had to be a man, his friends said so. I didn’t, I wanted to and I tried to force the tears but nothing came.
I was in primary three, I remember this because I had to switch schools my parents assumed it would be too hard for me. Ewere and I went to the same primary school and she was such a goody two shoes that even though she had moved on to secondary school all the teachers asked about her on a daily basis. The school bus brought me home but for some reason my neighbor’s mum took me over to her house and not mine. She said my mum wasn’t home and I’d wait for her here.
It was strange seeing as my mum or dad was never home when I got back from school and staying home wasn’t an issue because at that time a lot of relatives lived with us. I didn’t think too much of it as my neighbor’s cousins were home for the holidays and we played video games. Sometime later she came to get me and they took me home. The children’s parlor as we called it back then was full of people and my mum cried unabashedly. It was de javu all over again.
My mum broke the news to me herself, news had come from FGGC Shagamu, my elder sister had passed on. Everyone was in tears but they didn’t matter only my mum did, I didn’t cry for Ewere just like I did not cry for Junior. I held my mum and told her to please stop crying, she didn’t and someone eventually spirited me off. My dad cried. Years later he told me he had locked himself in his sitting and cried his heart out.
Just like they did with Junior, they buried Ewere and no one told me where. I wasn’t invited to my sister’s funeral, it wasn’t a big surprise as I also hadn’t attended Junior’s. Someone decided children should not witness such things.
I had an active imagination and for many years I blamed their deaths on witches and wizards. I knew my genotype was AS but I didn’t connect the dots until a genotype lecture in university. I came home at the end of that semester and I asked my mum “were Junior and Ewere sicklers?” she said yes. I had a few more questions to ask her but I never did, it had been ages and yet the look in her eyes when she answered my question revealed a depth of hurt I had never noticed until now.
They say life shapes you and I am a testimony to that. In SS3 a classmate died and I had no tears. Everyone did but I didn’t. Growing up I had seen death up close and personal, my philosophy is people die move on. So I sit here today because I just read Franque’s post and the memories came flooding back, it doesn’t help that Chidinma’s post is also still fresh in my mind. I’m sitting here and the tears come freely. I cry for the little brother I never got to pamper or protect. I cry for the older sister who never thought me to watch out for the bad boys.
I sit here in tears today for my mum and dad who buried two of their three kids. I sit here in tears today for everyone who has ever had to mourn the loss of a dear friend/relative to the sickle cell gene. For the ones amongst us who carry the SS gene I wipe my tears because I understand that pity just won’t do. You are brave without trying, your courage you wear without fuss. I sit here today thankful that the tears have finally come, sad because I do not know their grave sites, angry that I was ever jealous of the affection Ewere got.
I am appalled when people say things like I love him and our genotypes are not important. When my parents got married, the genotype testing wasn’t available to them and I can tell you for a fact that they would’ve walked away if they knew what fate held in store for them. It is your life and yes you are free to do whatever you wish with it, but please consider Junior and Ewere who passed on in excruciating pain. Please consider mum, dad and I who are left to mourn them.
Thank you for reading.