BY OUR CORRESPONDENT
Tomorrow, social media feeds will be filled with photos and gushing captions as people celebrate their mothers and the amazing matriarchs in their lives. They’ll praise and give thanks to them as we mark another Mother’s Day. We’ll be blessed with some sweet baby pictures and everyone will be fighting out as they claim their mother is the best. Alongside my mother, I also choose to recognise my grandmother and the role she has played in my life.
A memory with my grandmother I hold close to my heart takes me back to when I was about eight years old. My mother, sister and I had come to Nigeria to spend our usual six weeks in the summer. I had cut my finger and it was bleeding profusely. I’d been up to no good and hurt myself. My grandmother didn’t ask questions and just filled a bowl with water, cleaned the wound, helped me stop the bleeding, and then wrapped my finger up in a bandage. Only seeing her for a few weeks at a time each year means that the memories are slightly hazy and not as sharp as the ones I have as I grew up. But this small yet significant moment in our relationship, and probably the earliest memory I have of her, has always stood out to me.
My grandma, who I’m named after, was widowed before she was 30. My grandfather suddenly passed away and she was left with six children to look after. For many women in her situation, they probably would have found themselves married the following year due to the limitations set on women by our society. However, my grandma is not your typical woman. She went on to raise her six kids as a single mother without the help of anyone, particularly without the help of any man.
She worked as a nurse, before going on to complete a diploma, something very much unheard of about women back in those days. She soon began to work as a civil servant, supporting herself and her six children, sending them to good schools and building several homes from scratch all with her own money along the way. As time went on, she was able to send some of her children to England to boarding school. At the time, this was something that was for the elite; for the children of diplomats and rich businessmen, and wasn’t something that a woman would typically achieve, and definitely not alone.
Four out of six of her children, including my mother, ended up settling in the UK, completing their studies, building their careers, getting married and raising their children here. If it weren’t for her sheer determination and hard work in trying to provide the very best for her kids, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here where I am today, nor would my sisters and cousins, with my achievements under my belt.
Sadly, almost 10 years ago my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a form of dementia which is a syndrome that affects how the brain functions. Alzheimer’s affects memory and other mental abilities and unfortunately, there’s no cure. It’s a progressive disease which means it only gets worse as time goes on. When I was first told my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, I just thought that she would experience some memory loss and that she would just forget things now and again. But I was not fully aware of the severity of the illness.
The once strong woman now needs full-time care and attention. Her memory is gone, she doesn’t recognise any of her family and I can’t remember when she last called me by name. While it’s been challenging to watch this independent, gracious, caring and extremely generous woman lose her abilities over the years, I am grateful for the fact that she is still here with us today, that she has been able to witness the lives and accomplishments of her grandchildren who have so much to be grateful to her for.
My grandmother remains a constant reminder of the generations before my parents. We each stem from a long line of individuals and with each generation, customs and various pearls of wisdom are passed onto the next. As for what I’ve learnt from my grandmother. She’s taught me how to be resilient, independent and continuously inspires me with her strength.