Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Remembering my mother’s mum

Published:Sunday | December 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMBaie-Ann Webb

It was about a quarter to seven on December 16, 2015. I was on my way to school to do my final exam after two years of studying, homework, projects, and learning to work with a team. At 45 years old, it was a tedious experience, as I was much older than my classmates and even my teacher. I decided that I would attempt to get an associate degree in business administration. At first, it was just to see if I could do it, as I was never good at taking exams. It was during my journey that I reflected on the life of the woman who gave birth to my mother.

I was in a surprisingly good mood, even though a week before I got the news that my maternal grandmother had died in the hospital for more than a week and no one knew. She had 14 children (only one set of twins) of which she raised none. She suffered from what is called Postpartum Anxiety Disorder. This happens when a woman loves newborn babies, their soft skin, the way they smelt, breastfeeding and their need of her to survive. However, once they are able to move around freely, she loses interest in them.

With this said, my mother's mum started having children at the age of 14. She had eight girls first, then three boys, a set of twins (one was stillborn) and, finally, a little girl.

She would give her young children away to any Tom, Dick or Harry; to anyone who showed the slightest interest in them.

I remember my mom telling me the horrific tale of one of her younger sisters. At the tender age of nine months, and still not able to walk without support, my mother's mum took the child to the market. A woman from the country who sold her produce in the market on the weekends saw my mother's mum with my aunt - her third child - and said: "What a pretty likkle gal, beg yu har nuh?" The following week, she brought the child's few personal belongings: three very torn panties, a nightie, four little dresses and the pink slip she got at the hospital and gave her away. When she got home and the father asked for the child, she told him she left her with her sister who lived in Trelawny, as she could not manage all three of them at the age of 17. It took my aunt 22 years of torture and abuse to reunite with her sisters and brothers and we finally learned the truth about her.

Over the next 38 years, we never had a good relationship, as she was never a grandmother to me. I have never called her Grandma, Mama, Granny, and she has done and said evil things to me my entire life.

In 2006, she was diagnosed with diabetes and was in a coma for three months. Upon leaving the hospital, she was placed under my supervision to monitor her eating habits as she never followed a healthy diet. I would make her healthy foods and tell her to walk a short distance to get it. But she refused to do this. Instead, she told everyone in the neighbourhood that I had not fed her for days.

In March of 2014, she fell and broke her right hip. Even though she was in a public hospital, it cost an arm and a leg for her hip replacement. She was released, only to be brought back to two weeks later because of neglect; the new hip was broken again. This time, her caregiver only dropped her off at the hospital gate and, after being there for several hours, I am told, smelly and dirty, she was admitted again and died in extreme pain after three days.

While sitting on the second bus on my way to do my exams, trying to reread and retain topics that I could not remember, tears streamed down my face and with people staring, I wondered if I would be judged harshly on Judgement Day, remembering my mother's mum.