“Please allow me to prepare supper since you were kind enough to prepare lunch”, she said in a husky voice from the doorway. This really startled Mugabo who was used to silence, any other voice being eerie! Slowly, he rose from the fireplace and took a seat just a stone’s throw away.
The old lady took position at the fireplace and started preparing soup. It was a little confusing for Mugabo that the old woman seemed to know where everything was. Mugabo pushed the thought aside forcing himself to believe that she had already visited the kitchen.
“So mama, why are you moving around alone, you should be in a home being looked after by your children,” he said.
“And you, why are you living alone? You should be having a wife and children,” she responded.
“That’s how my life has been,” Mugabo answered in a firm voice.
“Well, mine has not always been like this. In fact I used to be very happy with a husband, and a very loving son. One fateful day my dear husband past away. He left me alone to look after my son.
My dear son seemed ten years older as he tried his best to make me happy. He was that kind of son who took utmost care not to cause any problems for his weak mother.
He was respectful and carried out even extra duties just to make me happy. For sometime I knew I could survive without my husband with the help of this young man.
I always knew he would grow up to be a very loving and hardworking man. Life never being a very straight line, something else barred me from happiness.
We had just enough land and animals plus a humble house for shelter. Then, out of the blue, one of my brothers-in-law started claiming possession over everything.
He used to pursue me even in public saying I belonged to him! I became very disturbed. I would cry myself to sleep knowing that I might be the cause of all the problems. Looking at my son, I knew I had to do something before hell broke loose.
Finally I decided to go away from all the madness. I knew that if I left my son would have no problem with the property since in our society a male was respected.
I wished I could explain to my son, I wished I could take him along but where exactly was I heading? So one day I picked up some courage and walked away from his life but most painful was that I walked away from my only son. For years I have been tortured by this. But deep within I knew my son would survive.”
With this, the old lady looked up and Mugabo could see in the firelight that she was crying. With the tip of her scarf, the old lady wiped the tears away and started serving their last meal of the day.
Outside, the wind blew and an owl cried out and the sound just seemed to match the confusion and mixed feelings of the two people in the hut beside the fire. In silence, the two retired to bed but sleep failed them.
The next morning when the sun came over the Eastern horizon, Mugabo was wide awake. All night he had turned the old lady’s story over and over again in his mind.
Once in a while he would connect it to his own life story and tears would sting his eyes. When he walked out of the house in the morning, he saw smoke coming out of the kitchen roof just like it used to be when he was young.
The old lady had breakfast ready for him, just what he loved; sweet potatoes and milk. As he ate his breakfast, the old lady stood up and left him alone.
When he was through with his sumptuous meal, he stepped out and sat behind the house to contemplate on the previous day’s story. After a few minutes he returned to the front only to find the old lady missing.
Filled with panic, he started running. He asked whoever he met if they had seen the old lady and all the time the answer was a flat “NO”. Like a God sent angel a little boy pointed towards the forest and without further ado, Mugabo was off like lightning.
He found her seated where she had found him the morning before. Before he could say a thing, the old lady with great difficulty stood up and their eyes interlocked. Without any warning whatsoever, tears freely flowed down Mugabo’s cheeks. The old lady just smiled and took Mugabo’s hands.
“My son, I would have never forgiven myself if I didn’t do this. My heart would never have had any peace because I left you alone! Always know that I love you and inside you have a lot of love bottled up. Get on with your life. You have a lot to offer to the world. Stay well my son,” she whispered, giving Mugabo’s hand a tight squeeze. With that she turned her back on him and started walking away.
“No mother, don’t leave me again!” Mugabo cried out, his whole body willing her to stay. And on she moved, disappearing into the forest.