Through My Mother’s Eyes: Part 2

It is next week. I am slightly nervous but determined. I have given Dr. Amankwah a brief memory that is recurring in my mind, and now my eyes are closed, focusing on her voice that sounds distant.

I am lying in the beige sleep chair hooked to a machine to monitor my heart rate while she conducts the hypnotherapy. 

“Just focus on the sound of my voice, Daniel. You’re safe. Nobody can harm you. How do you feel, Daniel?”

“I feel good.”

“Good. You’re ten years old, Daniel. It’s a Saturday afternoon, and you’re in the house alone with your mother.”


“Can you find her? Where is she?”

“In the kitchen. She’s always in the kitchen.”

I’m going through the house looking for my mother. I know she’s in the kitchen. She spends a lot of time there cooking for us and Papa’s friends on Saturdays.

She had prepared Fufu and groundnut soup today. Papa’s friends had come to eat and Papa left with them to the bar to have men’s talk. I wish Papa would take me. I can’t wait to be a man so that I can go with them.

The house is the same, always so pristine and clean without a speck of dust to be found. I find Mama in the kitchen where I knew she would be.

She is at the double sink, hurriedly washing dishes from the food she had prepared earlier.

“Mama, please hurry! If you’re not done before he comes he won’t take me out to the stadium to watch the match! Accra Hearts of Oak is playing with Kumasi Asante Kotoko!”

“I’m sorry, dear. I’m trying to be fast,” she replies in a wobbly voice. “I promise that I’m doing this the fastest I can.”

She turns around momentarily while she speaks, and what I see makes me pause. The scene is a familiar memory, but something is…different. Why does she look so stressed and on the verge of tears? And she looked…old. Was she supposed to look this harried? This was years ago. Why does she almost look older than she does now?

Something is wrong with this memory. This isn’t how I remember it.

As I watch her quickly wash the dishes faster than anyone should have to, I see when the tip of the knife slices her finger in her haste. I see her stifle the cry of pain and bring her finger to her lips.

“What is it, Mama?” ten-year-old me asks. She forces a smile and turns around to reassure him. “Nothing, dear. Don’t worry about it.”

Ten-year-old me doesn’t see anything amiss. “Then why did you stop? He’s almost here!”

She looks out the window at my observation, watching as he strides toward the house. He is an imposing figure, my father. Six feet and 3 inches tall. As a child, he was like a giant, and he was everything I wanted to be when I grew up.

“I’m sorry, Danny. I’m almost finished.” 

He moves closer and watches as she scrambles to finish it, wincing a couple of times. Her finger is hurting, but she continues to wash and rinse until the last plate is done.

“Don’t call me Danny. Papa says it sounds like a girl’s name and I am a man,” the boy admonishes absentmindedly while she wipes the marble countertop.

She pauses for a second to give him a soft smile. “Can it be our secret, hmmm? I won’t call you Danny when your Papa is around.”

He frowns as he thinks about it. To be honest, the young boy didn’t mind the pet name. It kind of made him feel special like when she calls him Dear. But Papa didn’t like it, and if Mama didn’t call him a girl’s name maybe he would spend more time with him. The boy doesn’t think Papa likes girls much. He always says Mama was lucky she got it right the first time and he came as a boy.

“No. Papa will be mad,” he tells her just as the front door opens. Now, I see the flash of hurt and defeat on her face as the boy rushes out to meet his father in excitement.

The man barely steps fully into the house before the boy informs him happily, “Mama cleaned the house and finished the dishes on time! Papa, please, can we go now?”

He looks stunned and raises his brows. “Did she?” Mama approaches us hesitantly. “Welcome back, Kwasi.”

“Daniel says you managed to be useful this time?”

I frown as I watch the scene. Why does Papa sound like that? It makes me feel weird. This isn’t how I remember this memory happening.

“I cleaned up everything and finished all the dishes. You can come and see it. Please,” Mama pleads.

Again, she sounds weird. Fearful. And she is carefully cradling her injured finger. I see his eyes move to the finger, which is beginning to bleed into her palm.

“You shouldn’t be so stupid all the time, Abena. Get something on your hand before you stain my expensive carpet.”

Her lips wobble, but with a glance at the boy, she forces another of those fake smiles I noticed earlier and rushes off, apologising meekly.

Ten-year-old me doesn’t notice anything wrong. He slips his hand into his father’s to drag him to the kitchen to check for himself. Mama has managed to clean up the house and the kitchen and wash all the dishes in the one hour it took him to go out to the bar with his friends.

Papa always promises the boy that if his Mama finishes her chores on time, he will take him out to the stadium to watch matches. Mama rarely finished on time so Papa didn’t take him often.

Sometimes, he was kind enough to take him anyway even though Papa said Mama didn’t care enough to put in enough effort for him.

Papa walks around the house, inspecting everywhere. Satisfied, he goes to the kitchen. He strides around the kitchen, inspecting the brown tiled floor, the marble countertops, and then finally, the washed dishes. Mama rushes in while he is checking the dishes. Her finger is wrapped in plaster now. She wrings her hands nervously, awaiting the verdict just as anxiously as the boy.

Papa checks every pot and plate with the keen eye of an inspector. After he has checked the last plate, he turns to look at Mama, and then at me. “It looks like your Mama decided not to be lazy today and earn her keep in my house.”

Mama swallows hard but doesn’t speak. Ten-year-old me feels weird about that statement, but not enough to make any difference. If Papa said that, he must be right.

He puts his heavy hand on the boy’s shoulder to steer him out of the kitchen when his eyes suddenly zero in on something.

Lying on the kitchen island, tucked between the fruit basket and a roll of tissue is the half bar of a small Cadbury milk chocolate I dropped while Mama was cleaning and forgot to pick it up.

Mama’s eyes widen in apprehension as Papa slowly walks to the island to pick up the half bar of chocolate. “What is this, Abena?”

Did he sound almost…gleeful?

Mama’s eyes darted to mine before facing Papa again. She hadn’t known that the chocolate was there. I left it there after she wiped the island and forgot to pick it up again.

“I-I’m sorry, Kwasi.”

Papa folds his large arms. “What exactly are you sorry for, Abena?”

Mama’s lips wobble but she doesn’t speak. Papa advances on her slowly. With each step he takes toward her, she takes one back, until her back hits the kitchen wall.

She stares fearfully at him, lips wobbling. Papa grips both of her arms so hard that I hear a slight crunch while she winces in pain.

Why hadn’t I remembered this part either?

“I asked you a question, woman. What are you sorry for?”

“I- I’m s-sorry a-about the ch-chocolate.”

“Is that all you’re sorry for?” his grip tightens on her small arms.

Mama closes her eyes in pain. “I’m also s-sorry for not c-cleaning properly.”

He releases her arm. “Good. At least you aren’t completely dumb.”

She leans heavily against the counter, panting in pain.

This isn’t how I have always remembered this scene. What is going on?

Papa turns to 10-year-old me with a sad expression that as an adult, I can now see to be false. “I’m so sorry, Daniel. Your mother doesn’t care about you. She couldn’t get this one thing right on such a big day.”

Mama gasps and starts begging. “Please, Kwasi. He has been looking forward to this so much. I’ll do anything. Please.”

My heart is beating wildly. What is this? What are these memories? This isn’t what I remembered. This isn’t the father I remembered.

But it is him all right. More memories begin to resurface, and situations 10-year-old me didn’t understand take on a sinister look. And then I realise why they are different from my young memories. This time, I am reliving the moments through my mother’s eyes. And I finally see everything she has endured and understand her reasons for leaving when she did.

“Daniel? It’s okay. You can come back now. You’re no longer ten years old. You’re twenty-eight now. You’re in -”

The voice is drawing me back to the present. It pulled me away from the horrible memories I can’t change and into the present, where I can make things right.

The days following the revelations with the therapist are hard. I feel disillusioned, broken, and guilt-ridden.

They have all been right. Everyone saw my mother for the wonderful woman she was. Everyone except me, the one who should have known better. I have punished her for years because of the distorted memories of a manipulative and abusive tyrant. The hypnosis opened a Pandora’s box to other memories I had forgotten. I remember more incidents now. I remember how she was always bruised and hurt. But even through her pain, she always took care of me. And how did I repay her? With years of resentment and hatred. I don’t deserve her forgiveness, but she deserves to know that her son doesn’t hate her. Not anymore. 

Standing in front of the door of her two-bedroom house with trembling fingers, I try to find the courage to knock.

The door opens before courage finds me, a lump forming in my throat when she smiles cautiously at me. Her expression changes when she takes a good look at my ashen face.

“Daniel! Are you okay? Come in.”

She pulls me gently into the house and sits me on her two-seater sofa. “Is something wrong? Please, tell me.”

I notice immediately how clean the living room is. Her house is always so clean. My mother likes modern decor now that she can afford it, and her house is decorated with modern furniture and glassware. I always found it slightly irritating how obsessive she was with a clean space. Realising the reason she cultivated the habit tears a piece of my heart and makes me feel even worse than I am feeling already.

She looks anxious, concerned about why I have come to her house looking bloodless. Seeing her look so worried with the knowledge that I don’t deserve her care finally breaks me. I fall into her arms and begin to weep. “I’m so sorry, Mama. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I- I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

She doesn’t understand why I am weeping in her arms and apologising to her, but she holds me and comforts me while I cry for the first time in fifteen years.

When I am calm, I tell her everything. I tell her how I felt all those years, about the fake kidnapping where I spent time with my father, the lies he fed me, and the revelations at the therapist’s.

She cries with me, holding me in her arms as she finally tells me her side of the story.

“Your father was a very abusive man. There were some signs during our courtship. He would get livid if I challenged something he wanted me to do, and make jokes about how his wife would only live to please him. He would make misogynist remarks here and there. I saw the red flags, but I was so in love that I dismissed all of it. Besides, there were great moments too. He was attentive and sweet most of the time. I told myself that the good was more than the bad, and no man was perfect.

When he asked me to marry him, I didn’t hesitate. Things were okay for two months, and then the verbal abuse began. Within months, insults turned into slaps, and slaps turned into hits and beating. Twice, I gathered the courage and reported to his church — he was a church elder — but both times the church convinced me that it would get better. I had vowed to stay for better and for worse after all, and I couldn’t leave him and allow the devil to win over my marriage. The pastors told me to pray to God to change my husband and to make sure I submitted completely to him as a pious woman to avoid angering him. 

So I endured and prayed. After you were born, he calmed down because you were a boy. He had warned me to abort the child if the scan showed a girl. He informed me that if I birthed a girl, he would kill her.

That was why when I got pregnant with your sister, I fled. I had two children to protect now. I had already failed you. You saw him as a hero, and you wanted to be like him. I didn’t want you to grow up thinking that he is a role model for how a man should be. He beat me so much one day that I needed stitches. It was at the clinic that I found out I was pregnant with a girl. I had already planned to leave, but I was saving money first. When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t risk my children anymore. He could have killed that baby in my womb. So, I took you and fled to my hometown, where your grandma could help me until I delivered. 

After I left, I sent pictures of his abuse that I had documented to our church group page and told them that if he ever came near me or my child again, I would post it on social media and disgrace the church for being complicit in my abuse. An old friend helped me to apply to Women’s Aid, and they helped me report him for abuse. They also helped me set up the kiosk and offered several training programmes and opportunities later which helped me turn my life around for the better.”

I sniff through the tears her story had brought to my eyes, wiping my face with the back of my hand. “I’m so sorry, Mama. I’m sorry I was so blind. Please forgive me.”

She sniffed. “I’m not angry with you, Daniel. I should also have been more communicative and open with you when you got older. In trying to shield you, I blinded you. There were things I should have told you that I didn’t. Things I didn’t think mattered but did. So, I’m sorry too.”

She hugged me again, and we smiled tearfully at each other. “My Daniel. My sweet boy.”

I swallow the lump in my throat. “You can call me Danny, Mama. I always liked that name.”

Her eyes fill again, and she smiles while cradling my face in her hands. “My Danny. I love you so much, Danny. Welcome home.”

Eyes filling, I tell her the words I haven’t told her in twenty years. “I love you too, Mama.”

And I feel lighter, as if a heavy burden has been lifted off my shoulders.

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.