Letter to my Grandma
By HomoSenegalensis. Photo by Siphumeze Khundayi
May 1, 2016
Tonight the voices in my head won’t shut up, so I figured a little tribute to your legacy would be fitting under the circumstances – today marks exactly thirteen years since you left this world. For some strange reason, I have convinced myself that you and I were very close and that we would have been the best of friends if you were still in this world. However, I know this is nothing but my imagination, a mental distortion of distant memories we may or may not have built together. Warm memories of which I am actually very fond, I am not sure why. Sometimes, in an attempt to create this relationship we never really had, I find myself editing and reconstructing the few fragments of memory I desperately hold onto. Why am I always so comforted whenever I think about you? I am not sure. I was named after you and Maman thinks this connects us somehow. Maybe she is right. Maybe she isn’t. It doesn’t really matter.
Sometimes I convince myself that you and I would have shared the strongest of bonds if you were still in this world. That you would have advised me about school, about life, about praying before going to sleep. That if you were still around, you would have been my closest confidant. That you would have been the only one to get through to me. As you may or may not know, I have a lot of trouble opening up to people, even when not doing so will hurt to death. However, I have convinced myself that, with you, it would have been different. That I would have been able to tell you about the demons that have been troubling me for so long. That you would have been able to hear my pain and understand. That somehow, you would have been able to make it all go away: the pain, the fears, the emptiness.
Sometimes, only sometimes, I convince myself I would have been able to tell you about her, to introduce her to you. When the voices in my head miraculously manage to quiet down for a minute, I even imagine the two of you getting along. You and my lover. She makes me happy, you know, very happy. I have been able to make a home out of her soul and the thought of leaving makes me very anxious. In moments like that, I fantasize about finding the courage to tell you about how scared I am. Scared of the love I have grown for her, scared of the hatred the world has built against us. Sometimes, I can even feel you soothing me and telling me that everything will be okay, like back in the day when you would attempt to appease little baby me.
All of this, of course, is silly. Very silly. You and I both know you are not here, and even if you were, I would most likely not open up to you any more than I would to M’man. And about that lover of mine? What lover? You and I both know that is not how things are done. “We simply do not do that here.” Not in this family. Not in this religion. And definitely not with this cultural burden. You and I both know that, as much as a woman’s first husband is her career (well that’s what M’man says anyway), she must nevertheless eventually marry, have children, and the like. What else could a woman’s purpose possibly be?
I am not sure if, from wherever you are, you are proud of the woman I have become, but I surely hope that I am not too big a disappointment. I am sorry I could not fall in love with a man, as I am sure you would have wanted me to. I am sorry I’d rather choose celibacy than an unhappy heterosexual marriage. I am sorry I might never have those children that I, as a woman, am seemingly supposed to have. I am sorry your daughter, my mother, has had to suffer such emotional distress because of me.
No matter what happens, I hope you can remember that I never intended to hurt anyone. I promise.
If this means anything at all, I am graduating from university in a couple of weeks. Do you think that degree can compensate for all the things I will never be? Of course not. Well, for what it is worth, I wish you could be here. I wish there would at least be some pride in your eyes. I wish your face could light up just like M’man’s when she is happy. Oh M’man! What a woman you have raised! Mémé, I bet you would be proud of her too.
Mémé, thank you for all the smart, strong, loving women you have raised. I miss you dearly, and I hope you are resting in peace.