The Iron Lady
| This is the 577th story of Our Life Logs® |
After my father passed in the early 90s, my mother became a single parent of eight children. My mother was a nurse and the pay was not enough to take care of all of us in Nairobi, Kenya, so she began working two jobs. My late father valued discipline and respect and no one ever crossed him as the head of the house. My mother, on the other hand, was loving and caring and saw that each one of us was satisfied with being a member of the family and that my father’s presence was not missed. Truly, she had to fight for us to be a family.
At the time, I was the youngest, just five years old, and the majority of my siblings were teenagers who could not understand the strain of parenthood. My sisters were mostly not home since they were in high school and my brothers were also not the type to take care of a little boy. My siblings teased me all day long and call me her weak egg. They must have been teenagers who also sought the attention that was all given to the fragile soul. I, being the youngest and most sensitive, seemed to notice that my mother always especially looked out for me.
My memory as a child is not that good, but I have some cherished ones too valuable to forget. I remember my mother barely being home, but always coming back late in the evening with her nurse uniform. The white reflection of the evening sun dawned her always clean look. I remember the days she used to come back home with bags of goodies. A set of yams, onions, tomatoes, and occasionally, a banana for me.
I now understand that shifts for nurses ended at 4 PM, but since she needed to pass by the market to sell a few items to make a little money, she came home at 7 PM. She was not only a business person but an investor as well who bought shares, did some farming, and invested in real estate as well. She took out loans to sustain the above projects and sold some of the parcels of land my father left. Because of this, she was very busy outside the house. I had always waited on her to come back home because she was the only one who understood me. She used to parent with authority, and I now see, with so much love. Her instructions were simple, “Work hard and make sure you always take care of yourself.”
My first day at school was terrible because I had to learn how to be a tiny adult from day one. I had to be the one who was to be taken to an affordable government school. Since my siblings were at a crucial point in their educational life, she could not afford to transfer them to different schools with manageable expenses, lest she risked them not having a better foundation. I noticed this as a young boy and it became my only ambition to find a place to belong.
I struggled to fit in school. Many of the other kids noticed that I was the only one who wasn’t taken to school by a parent. At that point in my life, I also did not understand why my father could not come back. The other students were too young to understand my hardships and I was too young to know how to feel connected. I often felt like an outsider looking in. I knew I had to get the best education and, since I could not afford to have most of it, hard work was the only solace. I strived to improve my grades and relationships in school.
Of course, I had to grow to accept my reality and understand that my mother was my everything. After long days at school, she would come home late, of course, and wrap me up in her arms. I would listen to tell tales of young boys who grew up to conquer the world.
In my middle childhood years, we discovered I was asthmatic. I had to spend most of my childhood in the hospital and under her care. But while I was hurting, she cared for me. Eventually, she began hurting too, and grew very ill. She hid her pain when with us, and especially when tending to me. I was sick and bedridden, but I see that she looked depressed, tired, and overwhelmed.
It wasn’t too long before my mother had to reach out for help. My elder sister had to take care of affairs at home. After all, she had become old enough to get a small clerical job to help with the groceries.
My mother grew very weak before she was reinvigorated with new health. Her tenacity in her fight gave me the hope and courage to apply her steel-grade strength to my own life.
Humility, resilience, determination, hard work, and faith have been the virtues of my mother that I have relied on the most. They got me through high school and carried me through my graduation. I qualified for the best university in my country’s admission.
After graduation, I struggled to look for work with my degree in design. In my country, and especially back then, most companies were not hiring graduates in design. The few startups that did either paid little or required extra qualifications that needed some funding that I lacked. The market was again competitive and I had to fight against the normal expectations of the realities in life. “What would my mother do?” This has been the question that I mostly ask myself when I am experiencing a difficult challenge.
Over time, I learned to see the good with the bad in my mother. From what I remember, my mother was the single-most selfless person I know. My siblings and I never went a day without eating. We never went a day without feeling loved. My mother pushed through the exhaustion of her circumstance in order to give her children the best possible start to their futures.
I can see now that my mother always had a way to get things done—but she accomplished most of her objectives by herself. I understand now how much easier it would have been for all of us if she had the right support systems. Our family was divided in subtle ways that I wish not to replicate. I would like to establish as many connections as I can so I can get to know a lot of people who I can call family. Apart from setting up my own, I believe that we need a wide network to help each other in times of need that may not be predicted. Even now, I want to belong—and make others feel like they belong too.
I am gradually learning, reflecting, and getting inspiration from the Iron Lady. I have discovered that the only way to improve is through taking risks, working hard, and staying the cause as I avoid any distractions as much as possible. When the path to make it becomes challenging, I do not give up but continue looking for the best way out. I discovered writing, sought help from my networks, and learned how to become a good and story teller. I am not perfect, but I am growing everyday. It seems that all my mother’s tales of young boys who grew to conquer the world are becoming true.
This is the story of Michael Amimo
Michael was only five years old when his father passed away, leaving Michael’s mother alone to take care of her eight children. It was through the enormous sacrifice and strength of his mother that Michael was able to thrive as an adult. She is, forever, his “Iron Lady.”
This story first touched our hearts on March 15, 2020
Writer: Michael Amimo | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker