Apples & Trees

Sometimes I feel I didn’t do right by you, from the way you treat this little boy. I wasn’t exactly the most available parent, I know. I was always too busy trying to keep food on the table. And, whenever I felt guilty about not being around, I’d pay for a weekend somewhere out of Accra, where we could spend time together. You call them fun memories now. But I remember carrying work with me every time, and you still not getting enough attention. Sometimes we’d have parties for you, and even for your friends. Or I’d surprise you with meaningless gifts. And I thought that made me a decent parent. I regret it. I don’t think I did right by you.

Come and see your son, he’s hurt! I tell you frantically over the phone. You laugh. It’s that little laugh you always laugh when you want to tell me I’m being the dramatic, Fante woman who raised you.

Calm down Mama, he’s a boy. That’s what they do when they are growing up. They fall off things. He’ll be fine. I can’t leave work just to come and see a little sore on his knee. I’ll see him this weekend, if God wills it.

“If God wills it”, is code for “If I’m not too busy”, and you always are. Just like I was. You also love to spoil him with gifts. In fact the thing that hurt him today was the new bicycle you bought for him. Maybe his wouldn’t have fallen, and his knee wouldn’t have been hurt if you had bought a bicycle his size. I remember telling you the bicycle was a little too big. And you dismissed it by saying you’d learned how to ride on Bilal’s buzanga, which was about three times the size of this one.

Your problem is that you’re always dismissive of the little boy. He’s just a kid. He’ll grow out of it. That’s what little boys do. This is exactly what I did when you were younger. I don’t know all the things you went through because I was dismissive too. Bilal looked after the house and looked after you but, though I trusted him, he wasn’t your mother. My mother tried but she couldn’t keep up with you, at her age. And then the stroke she had later left her incapable of doing much else except drool and smile on only one side of her face.

I dab some rubbing alcohol on your little boy’s sores. Is daddy coming? He asks me, with an expectant look on his face. I glance at the other scars on his leg and remember that every time he’s ever had a wound, he’s asked this same question. Every single time, with the same look.

Daddy’s busy sending the whole government to court, I tell him. But grandma’s here.

I put a little plaster on his sore, and he dashes outside the house to play again. From the window of the kitchen, I watch. He’s completely abandoned the bicycle. He’s trying to teach my dog how to sit, with tricks from a movie we watched together. My dog watches him lazily. He knew how to sit before this one was even born.

I laugh at how my chest swells with pride. I spoil him, I know. And it’s for one very obvious reason.

I’m much older now that my mother was when I sent you off to live with her. Yet it’s only now that I am truly experiencing the joy of looking after a child.

I could have done better with you, I know. Apologising now does not change that. So I’m going to do all I can, my uttermost best, with him.

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