Friday, 6 January 2017

I left it too late

I was aimlessly musing through this quiet blog (no particular reason for it, just shifting priorities) after I had some random new comments recently. And a thought struck me.
I happened upon the "Conversation with Maminou" posts, the hopeful intro, the many unpublished and unfinished ones, the couple I did end up publishing, and it made me so incredibly sad.

You see, all that I said and hoped for in the intro was true. Maminou is an amazing font of knowledge, of specific knowledge that I need, as a floundering mother and homemaker who needs to re-invent the wheel every step of the way. It was true that the transmission was lost because my own mother leads a very different life with very different priorities. I was about to spend two weeks with her, just her and my little family and I was hoping to get all the transmission I could.

And I tried.

I asked and I asked.

And Maminou tried to answer. But often she couldn't. Already the first signs of the confusion and memory loss meant having a conversation with her was a halted, circling affair. Often she got worried, taking my questions for demands that she do things for us. It would have been cruel to push too much, when I know for a fact,that for years she had wanted nothing more but to tell us about our ancestors, her life on the farm, everything.

But I had, already, left it too late. And that is a bitter thing.

Now I mostly communicate with her through letters. Letters are forgiving. You can re-read a letter as many times as you like, it doesn't get tired of telling you the same thing, over and over again, because you keep forgetting it, over and over again. Phone calls are difficult. Family gatherings are difficult, because Maminou still wants to organise them, but then she forgets when she was supposed to do it, what she was to bring, or which of her children are hosting. And already, without the holding power of the matriarch, the extended family is disintegrating. Factions among uncles and aunts, one sibling left out, no second chance given because Maminou is no longer able to see it, and tell them to be nice to each other.

This extended family which gave me so much joy growing up is now mostly a source of grief and anger. No-one outside of the family is now holding you to a fair standard of behaviour with your own family, so, unsurpisingly in a fallen world, people behave badly. And blood used to be thicker than water.

I do not want to start mourning Maminou. She is still here, and so long as I write them down for her to peruse at her leisure, she can and wants to hear our news. She is still the Maminou I 've always loved so much. And I know mourning in advance doesn't do any good. When my grandfather died after a long disease which gradually robbed him of all his faculties, we thought the parting would be easy. But it wasn't. Because when he died, he was given back to us as he had been before and we had to grieve all of him anew, as well as our own behaviour for failing to keep on seeing the whole of him until the end.

I do not want to mourn Maminou now, but it is still a bitter, bitter thing that I left too late to really get to know her.

I hope I remember this.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear that you are struggling with this great difficulty. It's hard to lose the people we love, no matter how it happens, and hard to see people we care about drifting apart and away.

    I hope in spite of family difficulties, you are finding some joy in this new year.

  2. I'll pray for your Maminou and your sweet family. You are not the only homemaker reinventing the wheel, trust me!