Missing Link

Let me tell you a thing I know. Of blood; and the bonds that bind us. Of time; and what it ultimately undoes. Let me tell you. Of family; of people we don’t choose. But with days, come to pray that we never get to lose. How are we anchored?  Is there more to connection than a double-helix strand. In the liquid pulsing through the veins in my hand. Apples from the same… But what is a family tree without its stem; without the bark that carried it when it finally branches out? Into fruits bearing nothing but the same name? If not a solid foundation, what cements us? What holds up our entangled roots.

I’ve seen families drift apart, like a castaway’s raft, in the calm after. And it begins like the best of all stories. When a boy meets a girl.

Boy sees Girl. Boy naïve, who wears his heart up his sleeve, walks up to Girl. Girl smiles. Boy says you have a beautiful smile. And Girl can’t stop smiling. And just like that, they’re married. Old-school. But probably not like that. Probably, I should’ve led with that these were simpler times. Or that boy was twice girl’s age. And that girl was under-age. But then you’re so judgmental.

This happens somewhere on the other side of earth, where the world still had some worth. Boy and girl move to their own little place. It takes work but they make it work; a foundation set in stone, they turn those walls into a home. Build their own family. Expanding that house with every new addition. And soon boy and girl have a litter of boys and girls of their own. 10. And it’s not always beautiful. Mostly a lot of work. But they make it through the coldest days, creating the warmest memories.

The kids grow up one by one. And one by one they start moving out. One became a teacher, then a headmaster. They offered him his own place, and he took it. One got into advertising and got the opportunity to head out and make beautiful campaigns throughout the continent. And he took it. The ladies found husbands in other cities and so began their stories. And the few who remained would become the future custodians to a family home.

Now this family home wasn’t buzzing with the same energy it had from the beginning. For a moment, there was quiet. Then grandkids happened. And once again, the home echoed of cries, then joy and laughter of the little ones. For the holidays, they’d all come together as a family, with their kids. After that, they’d still come over on weekends to see their parents. And life was good. Boy and girl had started something beautiful. And then Boy dies.

After the burial and the rituals, Girl isn’t exactly the same. And the kids visit even more frequently to be a source of comfort to their mother. That’s what happens when you create a loving environment. The advertiser even moves back to be close to her. And slowly, Girl learns to live with her grief. The teacher starts his own school. With the proceeds from that, pimps the family home into this magnificent castle. Girl didn’t say it, but he’d always been her favorite. And 5 years later, he meets with an accident and dies.

It takes a lot out of you, to lose a child, but life must go on. Girl now has this huge family beside her. With the grandkids now growing up and moving out of their parent’s homes. The girls have jobs now. A new wave of happiness illuminates into Girl’s life. The family looks to her for every decision and she’s the glue that holds everyone together. She lives another 12 years, and she dies.

And then there was silence.

Life gets busy and the family home becomes a ruin. The eldest remaining kid, the advertiser, now campaigns for excuses to bring the family together. For a while, he fails and it seems impossible. Until he’s afflicted with a fatal disease. And in the moments when the disease was wearing him out, he finally succeeds. With his family all around him, he dies.

What happens when the one who used to try is no longer there?

Now when I say, I’ve seen families drift apart, it’s often for the same reason. We see one person as the connecting piece. Attention’s sweet center. Only to come to lose them and no one sees the point of trying anymore. We get busy. Subconsciously, we’re guilty of that. We somehow assume that the blood veining through us is the only thing that matters, thicker than water after all, to only see the distance when it’s time to look up.

Keeping ties takes effort and constant checking ins. You don’t get a pass for family. What bonded you from the beginning is that effort. To show up. Without fail. Time and time again. Actually being in the same room. Before the ego convinced you that you’ll burden your poor siblings by your visit.

I see that quite a lot. Bridges burning in silent fires. And somehow, we all think that there’ll be time to fix them. Underestimating what time can erase. Filling future encounters with “huyu ni anti yake babake cousin yako.”

Watoto wa siku hizi hawajui watu.

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Connection, Death, Family, Growing up, home, Relationships, Roots, time


Hassan Kassim

Hassan Kassim is a Mombasa-based Creative non-fiction writer, recently longlisted for the Toyin Falola prize, blogger and translator of Kiswahili work. A beneficiary of the Penpen program by African Writers Development Trust(AWDT) commissioned by Culture at Work Africa and the European Union(E.U), and holds his Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Management. Hassan writes about the ill-documented Communities of Coastal Kenya. His work has appeared in Writers Space Africa; his 2 non-fiction stories published in the anthology 'Twaweza,' a collaborative effort of 12 African writers on the African identity and set to appear in the forthcoming anthology for the Toyin Falola prize.

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