Old Stoic Nana, ‘She couldn’t hold it in this time’

Old Stoic Nana, ‘She couldn’t hold it in this time’

It was sad sometimes, how pressured [1]nana would look as she sat by the verandah braving the night cold, it was even more frustrating how we all had to stay wake until this daily ritual of nana was complete. I couldn’t understand much then, all I knew is that nana had to go to the toilet before bed, just like I had to. It kind of made me closer to her, I felt a sort of kin ness to her.

She would sit albeit towards the door, her back turned towards us, as papa spoke of the wealth he had mustered in Nakuru and mum spoke in turn and my sisters until there was a semblance of conversation, a family talk, with everyone participating except me and nana. All of a sudden nana would get up and hurriedly walk out or rather hop out in an agitated fashion.

You see dear reader those were the days we didn’t have toilets in our houses but rather lavatories in our back yards. So to relieve oneself you had to walk out and go to the toilet outside. This I remember in bed wetting bliss since well I was a child and I would have rather soiled myself a million times over than brave the dark night.

Nana’s problem was not one borne of fear though, I later learnt that with age my grandmother’s organs had given out and her bowels weren’t holding up the fort either. With that she had to empty them before the song of slumber danced around her eyes lest she awoke at dawn with the foulness of excrement in her room.

I remember one night though, quite frankly I remember it like it was yesterday, I was awoken by a sudden clutter and clash of dishes, followed by the sound of someone fidgeting with our verandah door, and an unmistakable yelp by our lazy fat cat, Doris, who used to sleep by the welcome mat. Naturally I was scared and desperately worried sick that someone had kidnapped Doris. However, within no time I heard my mum and dad walk out of their rooms, and my sisters too, and weakly I surmised some courage and opened my door.

“Its nana,” I heard mum say, “She couldn’t hold it in this time,” there was a tinge of disgust along mother’s face as she pointed to something strewn along the verandah. My sister looked forlorn, Dad just scratched his head and looked above as if he was looking for a rain god. “Go back to sleep,” mum now said with her eyes directed at me and my sisters. We obeyed and proceeded to our beds, dad walked to their room, without resolve, without a word.

We had mama and nana chatting, old stoic[2] nana decided she would clean the mess, heck, she even laughed about it. Old stoic nana, she couldn’t hold it in this time. In the morning we awoke to the smell of fresh pancakes, nana had stayed up all night, cleaning the house and baking us breakfast. My young mind was exhilarated, there was so many pancakes to go around that for a moment I didn’t notice the forlorn look on nana’s face. Later on I learnt that she was leaving, the embarrassment she felt was too great a burden for her tired soul to carry.

She went to stay by our uncle’s house, in the staff quarters where she could briskly reach the outdoor toilets fast enough and without arousing interest or any qualms. Old stoic nana. My uncle, nana’s favorite died a year later, I was much older now, and the pain of loss hit me like a seizure. He was a nice man. During the funeral just before the priest called nana to ask her to throw a handful of soil into the grave, she dashed away. Everybody thought it was the grief, but I knew better, old stoic nana couldn’t hold it in this time.

She came back a while later, with a new set of clothes, and wished away most of the mourners. She was exceptionally happy to see us, my sisters and I. We had grown so round, she said, old stoic nana.

A year later and her condition was worsening, plus nana kept on having these dreams she said, where uncle was calling her, asking her to turn off the lights because the  ‘electricity company’ would cut their lines. She used to laugh them off though… saying that uncle was stingy even in his demise, then she would laugh loudly and wish it all away, old stoic nana.

It was Suzie who found nana, my uncle’s help, and she screamed her lungs out. A terrible way to react but the only way she could. Nana lay on the floor, just by the door holding the foot of the door, as if in her last moments she was trying to dash out, mama came and tied a scarf around her face and cleaned nana up, and then called the men to carry her out, she would not die in shame, not old stoic nana. Poor old stoic nana, she couldn’t hold it in this time.



[1] Nana; a playful word for referring to one’s grandmother.

[2] Stoic; bearing suffering and pain with resolve and courage, without complaining


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