Gogo

100_1941

A profound sense of elation came over me lately.  Perhaps, the successful wedding of a friend in which I was one of the groomsmen was its source. Then again, perhaps another source, closer to home was the chief import of this elation-the meeting of my Gogo (Kalenjin for grandmother) whom I had not seen for over a year and a half.

She had just undergone surgery of the pelvic bone and was recuperating at her daughter’s home (read my mother). Her medication was quite heavy and from time to time made her lose her appetite. This combined with the choosy eating habits of the elderly, made Gogo very peevish during mealtimes. It was on such an occasion that I arrived home only to be implored to pass by her room and beg her to eat something. My entry was not greeted with a celebratory ululation as it was when I was much younger. In fact, I had to introduce myself two or three times before she could finally recognise me. I would have been an insolent fool if I had taken offence. Due to old age, she experienced some episodes of memory lapses.   I sat down next to her and held the plate of food in my hand. My mother and cousin were there too. We took turns beseeching her to take a bite. It was quite a scene. You see, Gogo is the kind of lady who does not like being pestered. Up until recently, she insisted on doing her own chores. Whenever someone offered a helping hand, it was received reluctantly as she loathed appearing as a bother. Finally, when we realised that our combined efforts were not bearing fruit, we laid down our ambitions and waited for an opportune time to pick them up again.

Meanwhile, I took a long hard look at Gogo. The sands of time were taking a toll on her. Her hair was now all white with a few tufts of grey here and there. The skin at the corner of her eyes folded in and a few teeth on her lower jaw were missing. The lines on her brow appeared deep and her eyes in their sockets sunk deeper still. Nonetheless, the jovial glow about her remained unfazed and could be perceived in her eyes. She still maintained her chuckle that my mother seems to have inherited. There was one thing more. I thought she bore an uncanny resemblance to Madiba, that Icon of humanity. Perhaps the line between genders gets blurred along the extreme ends of time. As my gaze remained fixed on Gogo, my mother spoke. It was more of a whisper that seemed to have been murmured more to her than to the rest of us in the room. “Gogo is in her sunset years”, she said. It dawned on me that she truly was. A deluge of memories flooded my mind.

Chief among them were the days of my childhood spent upcountry at Gogo’s. Never had I felt so free. There were no curfews, no one chasing me down the estate to come in the house for my evening bath. After harvest, my cousins and I hunted rats in the maize fields armed with nothing but makeshift bows and arrows and a curiosity akin to boys in their childhood. In spite of this freedom, we knew Gogo was not one to be messed around with. All she needed to do was call out and we would be at her bidding in a flash. Besides, it was a joy to obey grandma. It still is. She is not one who lords her authority over the hapless. As mother, cousin and I left Gogo to catch some rest, I was mighty glad that she was spending her sunset years with us rather than some obscure “home” for the elderly -God knows where.