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The East African : Mar 1st 2015
The EastAfrican MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 28 - MARCH 6, 2015 sho≥t sto≥y IX G≥eat uncle Joseph’s love sto≥y BY ANTHONY WANG’ONDU age of 94. As I sat through his funeral service, I was struck by one outstanding theme in all the eulogies given — love. Joseph loved his wife dearly, he loved his T extended family and he loved the people in his community. My internal voice, cynical as ever, was asking “What did all these people mean when they say ‘he loved?’ What did love have to do with what my great uncle did or how he lived?” Joseph’s early life was not particularly successful. In fact, none of the eulogies mentioned his education or his career — the staple at most Kenyan funerals. He dropped out of school early and he could barely read or write. He tried his hand at a number of jobs around the village without much success. Even my great grandfather, Hamisi, the ultimate optimist, began to despair, thinking Joseph would never move hree weeks ago, we buried my great uncle Joseph on his farm in Ol Kalou, near the Aberdares Mountain ranges. He had lived to the ripe old out of his compound. When he turned 28, great uncle Joseph met Hanna, a wild, hauntingly beautiful, highly opinionated 18-year-old. She was immediately enamoured with him, while he was enchanted by her independent and irrepressible spirit. Their courtship, conducted openly, amused the villagers as they walked together while talking intently. Courtship, in rural Kenya, in the 1940s, was rigid and as per custom they were soon married. Joseph and Hanna, fired up by the ro- mance and energy of young love, decided it was time to leave the village and seek their fortunes elsewhere. Joseph had heard many stories about the green and bountiful land across the Aberdares. They packed their possessions and after a few days of walking over the mountains, they arrived in Nyahururu — a little town in Nyandarua. It was a beautiful place with green hills and well watered valleys, a far cry from the dry and crowded plains they had left behind in Nyeri. Joseph immediately started looking for work while Hanna set up their home. Life was good. But soon, the vagaries of life set in. His employer, Bhachu the tailor, treated him atrociously and he would work for long hours for little, often delayed pay. Their antagonistic relationship was not sustainable and Joseph soon lost his job. He drifted through a number of menial jobs, eventually ending up looking after sheep on a government-owned farm. Hanna was also not happy. She was homesick and lonely. She hated the weather and her efforts to become a mother were fruitless. She became sharp-tongued and harsh to those around her, and was often snippy and spiteful to Joseph. Their relationship was hanging on a thread. Then Joseph got a lucky break. The gov- ernment decided to wind up the company he worked for and allocate the land to its workers. Hanna and Joseph settled down in their 10-acre land and farmed for a living. It seemed that lady luck was finally smiling on them. Farming was hard, backbreaking work but they were determined to better their lives. After a few months, they got involved with a newly-established local church. They were part of the team that built the little church, and this brought them much Hanna was also not happy. She was homesick and lonely. She hated the weather and her efforts to become a mother were fruitless. She became sharp-tongued and harsh to those around her, and was often snippy and spiteful to Joseph. Their relationship was hanging on a thread. satisfaction. They enjoyed mentoring the younger members of the congregation. They even opened their home to all who needed a meal and a place to stay. As time went on, they grew closer, their hearts knit in common purpose, and, according to those who know these things, they grew more in love. There was a spring in Joseph’s step and the smile on Hanna’s face reminded one of her faded beauty. When Hanna turned 70, her health began to fail as the cold mountain weather took its toll. Joseph diligently nursed her through her final years. They spent long hours together, reminiscing of the years gone by, the early carefree days in the village, the bad times in the tailor shop and of their service to the church. When she finally passed on, something in him died as well. After hearing great uncle Joseph’s love story I gained a better understanding about this thing called love. Leo Tolstoy said that there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.
Feb 23rd 2015
Mar 9th 2015