A tribute to my grieving, powerful mother

Zvinorwadza vasara.” (“It hurts those left behind.”) – Gogo Kamba

The car my father’s body was found in sits in our driveway right now. Mukoma has been washing it once a week or so. I haven’t asked why, I just assume it makes him feel better, like he’s preserving dad’s memory or something.

I remember too much from the five-day long funeral. There was so much noise all the time. Varoora gossiping about people’s husbands at the fire, vakuwasha pitching tents and drinking beer in the garden, cars driving in and out, trucks dropping off food and firewood, phones ringing constantly, people wailing as they walked into the house…It was overwhelming for the most part.

But Amos Midzi has had enough airplay to last a lifetime. On to the black woman that speaks to my soul.

My mother sat in a corner in the lounge, next to her mother and sister and cousins. Occasionally I went to sit with her, squeezing myself past the Zanu people who thought they had a right to sit close to her. I watched her everyday. I made sure she ate, made sure she was surrounded by the right people, made sure I was in every side-meeting she was called to, checked on her when she was sleeping, and tried desperately not to cry in front of her. She never cracked. I lost it a few times and shouted at a few zanu people and reporters, but she stayed calm. Her character was consistent. There was a sadness in her eyes that resurfaces some days, but not once has she crumbled into the mess I find myself in at least once a week.

My mother is a black, Zimbabwean woman with a smile that blinds the wicked and a heart the size of Kanye West’s ego. Her love is fierce, her anger damning, and her strength humbling. We’ve never been close, mama and I. She’s always been a little less affectionate than me, and I’ve always been a little more reserved than her. Nonetheless we’ve always looked out for each other. She grew up in a rural area with a strict, religious mother and an equally strict, patriarchal father. She met my father in a Zanu office, where she used to work just before and after 1980. In 1982, she married him, and in eight years, had three children. She followed my father to both his diplomatic postings as an Ambassador – Cuba and the US. She was the perfect diplomat’s wife. She cooked a mean lunch and has the most amazing sets of china and silverware. Her decor, hostess skills and style meant she made my dad look good at the numerous events they hosted and were invited to. At least that’s how the world saw her. But I know her better.

Being a politician’s wife can’t be easy. She sacrificed so much for him to pursue his dreams. She supported him, even when he wasn’t always around for her. She raised us all with the fear of black mothers, and the love of a thousand gods. She dealt with our mood swings and her having to be the ‘bad cop’ while my dad was the angel who swooped in with presents from far away lands. She built a career in a country that, for decades, saw women as nothing more but mothers and wives. She pursued her passions and followed her dreams. She defied the odds against her.

My mother has lived through different phases in the world, and she’s conquered them all. She’s conquered racism in colonial Rhodesia, she’s conquered patriarchy both abroad and at home, she’s conquered the voices in her head that told her she couldn’t make it, she’s conquered motherhood, she’s conquered hatred and she will conquer grief. She is my inspiration, my muse. She marches past the haters and takes on the world, strapping womanism around her waist, holding on to black Jesus’ hand,  and laughing in the face of those who have hurt her.

There’s something to be said about black mother’s grief. It’s lined with a hardness that only a lifetime of oppression and misogyny can give you. It’s cradled in a love for her children that brings us all to our knees. It’s a grief that tears through her soul but never resurfaces for too long – lest she be taken advantage of. My mother’s grief is steeped in anger, but also in clarity. The womanist that she is, she can’t help pushing me hard and making sure I reach my full potential, never letting the “man’s world” get the best of me. Her grief is my grief, her sadness my sadness, her joy my joy. Her grief shows her humanity, but it also reveals the god in her.

She’s sitting in the lounge now, headscarf on, blanket over her knees, falling asleep. God, she’s everything.