She walks around mumbling, speaking only what she knows, Dholuo. I sometimes trail behind her, not intentionally, but because even at the ripe old age of 70 she walks with a spring in her step and at a pace I can not keep up with. Her words pour out of her, sometimes they are lively, as if engaged in a debate about the state of the nation. Sometimes, she sounds hollow, as if reciting the words of an old adage. But she talks, to no one in particular, but to someone present, here and now. Someone she knows to listen, and who I imagine responds, completes her sentences even. She is seldom alone, although she is a lonely figure usually.
Today she knocks at my door, her face a beautiful shade of burnt oak. Her wrinkles do not draw uneven, but they blend with her features and work around her eyes, her mouth and some around her button nose. Her head scarf is tied neatly, held by a bow at the back of her head, it matches her dress, she looks like summer. I let her in, and she dives into a tale I cannot comprehend. She shows me a black plastic bag, and holds it up to me. I look inside and find leaves, plenty of them, a kind of wild vegetable only experts can tell apart. I ask her where she found them, she answers me and laughs, putting her hand on her heart and shakes her head.
Her granddaughter comes running, making all sorts of apologies for her grannies intrusion. I am more interested in what the old lady is saying than what the younging is saying, I ask for a translation. “Granny says she picked the vegetables to make dinner for her husband, these are his favorite veggies, she will cook them really nice and add ghee just like he likes them.”
I stare at the both of them, stunned. What husband? Far as I know, I have not seen an old man in these parts in forever. Reading my thoughts, the younging says.
“She has memory loss, sometimes she thinks granddad is still alive, even though he died over 30 years ago.”
Making more apologies, she takes the old lady with her, leading them home where I hope she will be allowed to finish wherever her memory has taken her.
Her words stay with me, like apricity in the winter. Even after 30 years, her memory has held on to what was possibly the best time of her life. She remembers not war, or drought, or the adventures of her youth. All she remembers is her husband, and what he liked, and how he liked it. Wild vegetables fried in ghee, with Ugali I imagine. I am amazed at how she continues to feel his love. Amazed that 30 odd years later, she plays back conversations and hears her loves voice clearly. Amazed that she never walks alone, her husband is always with her. Amazed, that her conviction of his existence is so strong, she will once in a while make him dinner, just the way he liked it. Amazed, a love like this exists.