The year 2015 ended in joy. Ours was a reunion to shame all others. Christmas was a fun affair! Christmas Eve at my mom’s, started in the kitchen, with all the women pitching in…and my mother, your grandma, making her usual classic jokes. The woman who she is named after, completely, is in her house. They are both called Kevina Asio. Momma lived with Grandma Kevina for a while when she was growing up. This lady who raised her to a point, a lady she had not seen in over 25 years was home. I felt like there were a lot of “look-ma-I-made-it” moments. Momma kept referring to Aunt Marj as “Baby Marjo”(there is another Baby Marjo now, and she is not a baby)…saying: “look at you with your own baby!” We did not take many pictures because we figured there would be plenty of time to do that…everyone was home.
There was a lot of dancing on Christmas day and so much food and drink. My aunts were punching my ginger beer with brandy and Sprite. I wanted to post a “my-aunt-is-cooler-than-yours” message but I was too busy enjoying them. There were multiple dance-offs between different generations of women. Only three men were present, Grandpa Obonyo, smiling benignly as his wife danced with her “daughters” to “Sweet Mother”, my cousins, Fernando and Allan who is 5. The other 21+ people were women. Aunt Eliza, in jubilation, remarked that she had booked the venue, my Aunt Angela’s house, for Christmas 2016. She would be back she said, this time maybe even permanently. Doro played…we danced some more, in the middle of the livingroom. Shoki played too…The children did the Nae Nae…and whipped… Allan rolled about on the floor as did Avalon…his sister. Gabbie would not be caught doing this. Anabel demonstrated some tae kwondo, cheered on by Uganda’s only 9th dan Tae Kwondo black belt, Judith, your Aunt. Bena joined. Adelia had now been strapped onto Aunt Marj’s back so she could dance better. It was time to dance to “Sura Yako” and so we did. Aunt Eliza, my Facebook Bestie chastised Fernando…saying he did not know how to take pictures. “Let me show you how it is done.” She took over the camera…that is why she barely appears in the pictures.
In the following days, I juggled work, my other guests, my business and Hope’s (My car) mood swings to go see the aunties. Bestie even said she had ordered Hope some eyelashes…the ones we talked about on Facebook. She said everyone had thought she was being ridiculous.
On Saturday, 1st, a brilliant New year, full of hope rolled out. Aunt Helen was letting us go at it…she knew all the stories. She was sleeping in… Besides, she had to go to work on Monday. And she would not be traveling, to Madi Opei that Saturday. In the livingroom Aunt Carol and I watched Aunt Marj fight to have Adelia wear a ribbon on her head. A ribbon the baby clearly couldn’t be bothered to wear. (Aunt Marj: “She has to wear it for the picture! It goes with the dress! Bena get ready with that camera.” and Bena, pausing her make-belief daughter and mother game with Gabbie, dutifully did)
Later I sat on the bedroom floor with my aunties as they tried to pry details of my love life out of me. This wasn’t the first time. Aunt Carol had started it a few days earlier. We were trying to use our inside voices like Bestie always said, only to have Aunt Marj chime in, “Start from the beginning!!! What did I miss?!” And so I started …and started again when Bestie joined. They had so much advice: on love, on business, on God, on Life and so many cheeky ideas too. That is who they are, persistent, funny, witty and loving…and full of so much laughter. Aunt Eliza, with her no-nonsense, but kind advice and Aunt Marj, ever so hopeful, ever so patient…
To Aunt Eliza’s stun advice to me, Aunt Marj said; “Not everyone can put everything in neat little boxes like you Eliza”…and we laughed. As if to prove us right, Bestie had finished neatly wrapping a present we’d all silently forgotten about.
They would be taken from us the next day, in a car accident. Along with Grandma and Grandpa… The phone call from Yvonne, my cousin, would wring my insides. I would keep asking about the babies…we would stay, glued to our phones all afternoon, dreading and yet also anticipating each phone call from our different locations… we would then stay up all night…waiting for Anabel to wake, for Gabbie to speak, for Aunt Carol to breath better. No one would be answering their own phones for the next few days…if a phone rang, and you were near it..you answered and explained, and comforted…sometimes weeping yourself or trying very hard not to because the children were watching.
This has never happened to me before. I have never lost anyone close to me. I have, but…usually people drift away, emotionally or through distance, before they die…not closer.
In the last week, I have had to hold, Adelia, (that is Aunt Adelia to you) throughout the night, being careful not to make any sudden movements because she would wake and cry. She could not sleep any other way. It could have been from the pain from the injuries she’d suffered but I expect it was also because, I think, in a way, babies know. And when you have an affectionate mother like my Aunt Marj, you do not miss a beat. During the day, I had to listen and try to distract her sister Bena who kept asking for her mommy. Nobody was ready to explain…to give life to those words. My first baby, Anabel, in the meantime, was fighting for her life in the ICU alongside with her sister Gabbie.
My Aunt Helen, Anabel and Gabby’s mom, who is a close confidant and friend, more a sister really, was being strong. She had lost her Pa, ma and two sisters, in one go. Her babies were in the ICU. Her other sister, Aunt Carol was also in a hospital bed, nursing injuries.
I am failing to comprehend a lot. How can so much happiness be severed by so much grief, all at once? They say God’s ways are not our own and these are the words my Aunties are holding onto, and I am glad for the little peace this is bringing. I am also happy that my aunts, prior to their deaths, seemed to be having the time of their lives, in spite of the glitches in their trip back home. I am grateful that grandma and grandpa bowed out together: I have never seen more cuteness in an elderly couple than I did this holiday.
The rug has been ripped out from under our feet. My cousins and aunts and uncles who knew the deceased a lot longer than I did are hurting a lot more than I am. And I am hurting a lot. Hurting for the children who will miss out on the abounding love my aunties and grandparents had to offer. There is beauty in support systems. I know they will not be loved less and the legacy of love their mothers left will carry on, but I am sad. I am sad that you will not get to meet these lovely women and man.
It has not all sunk in yet. Aunt Eliza was looking forward to coming home, to visiting Dar es salaam, her childhood home. Adelia turned one on Friday. We celebrated at the hospital and cut a cake…her mom had been looking forward to her first birthday…looking forward to seeing her walk. Adelia wouldn’t blow the candle, so Anabel, impatient, helped her…we all laughed. They are all better.
On Thursday, there will be a requiem Mass. Funerals are always daunting when one person dies. There will be four coffins in that church. Everything sucks more than a little bit right now.
P.s..I will be writing about the happy times a lot more. I promise, we just never know do we?