It is my mother’s shouting that I miss the most

Left to Right: Mooketsi (younger brother), Tsholanang and Keitumetse Rapoo at home in 2014.                                                                                                        Photo: Provided

This Sunday, May 12, marks the worst day of my year with the celebration of Mothers’ Day.

It is sure to be another day of wishing for things that can never be. Wishing she was around to: shout at me, punish me, make me do chores, or to joke or share a word of encouragement.

None of these things will happen, because, for yet another Mothers’ Day, she won’t be around.

Keitumetse Rapoo passed away on May 4, 2016, two weeks after she inexplicably collapsed in her bedroom. My little brother who was 12, found her.

I was away from home, doing first year at Wits. By the time I got to the hospital in Tlhabane, North West, my mother was in a coma. She never recovered.

The first Mothers’ Day without her came just four days after her death. We were deep into funeral arrangements when a family member casually mentioned that he had forgotten to wish his mother a happy Mothers’ Day. “Oh, it’s Mothers’ Day?” was my elder brother’s surprised reaction.

I just felt numb, because we had been anticipating a miserable Fathers’ Day, as our father had passed away six months before.

The first thing that came to mind was that I was never going to get another chance to make her a Mothers’ Day breakfast in bed. This is something I had failed to do year after year, because she would simply wake up first.

My lasting memory of that first Mothers’ Day is feeling really afraid for the first time. The world became scary. Everything was suddenly too big without my mother.

In my mind, I had always imagined that my mother would die after I had gotten my degree, gotten married and had three children. Any commemoration of her would be of her having lived a full, long life. Instead she died at 51, and to this day I feel cheated out of at least 20 more years with my mother.

I have loved my mother all my life and had never been angry with her.

It is the shouting that I miss the most. What then had seemed like the most painful and annoying 20 to 35 minutes of unnecessary noise in my pre-adult life, replays itself as music to my spirit now.

Family members tell me all the time that I look like her, and take after her in many ways. Which brings to mind a Setswana proverb that says: Kgaka-kgolo ga kena mebala, mebala e dikgakaneng. This loosely means the greatness of adults is seen through their children. This saying makes more sense now than it did in my high school Setswana class.

My mother was a person with a ‘will do’ spirit living in a ‘can’t do’ world. She used to tell us all the time she was tired, but we didn’t really pay attention to that because she willed herself out of bed every morning to do what she needed for her family.

Life was hard after my father’s death. I didn’t notice it then because of her. She fed my crazy imagination with as much enthusiasm as she kept it in check. I can’t even imagine how I can compare to the person who gave me this life.

My earliest memory of Mothers’ Day is my grade R teacher making us create arts and crafts cards for our mothers, listing all the things we loved about them.

I started out with: “I love my mom because she can cook: she makes my favourite food. I like it when she makes me laugh. She always shouts at my brother when he makes me sad.”

As we got older, we graduated to pictures and poems about the undying love of a mom. Until, at 16: “I love you and Happy Mothers’ Day to the greatest mom in the world.”

For years, what I did on the second Sunday of May was a result of what I thought was brain washing. Yet here I am now, wanting a reason to buy a ‘Greatest mom in the World’ cup.

My mother, like most mothers, could do anything. The question then is: why couldn’t she stay alive for me?

So, every Mothers’ Day I take the opportunity to argue with her in my head. No presents, no cards, just posting for the ‘gram and sulking alone in a corner.


FEATURED IMAGE: Keitumetse and Tsholanang Rapoo discuss Tsholanang’s choice in hair colour, December 2014.