Grandmother joined the ancestors on her 96th birthday, 8 months ago. Today as I tried to change my FB cover a photo of hers just shot up and went into the spot. I thought, maybe she wants airtime so I left it alone. I am at the desk this afternoon because I’m thinking of her and my mother and how we now own a house and land in Ghana. I was texting with my mother for about a half hour and she was locked inside grandmother’s house which she left to us. She was uncomfortable because our housekeeper took the weekend off. Usually, this is not a problem, but the tenants who live in the extension also went away to a funeral.
I am the scaredy cat in the family; the mere mention of ghosts can send me into a sleepless night. She, not so much, so when she mentions that she is uncomfortable, I know she’s not just whining. It makes me nervous to have my 72 year old mother in a big bungalow all by herself in Ghana. She said some con artists have come to the gate asking to be let in because they have a message or something to show her. Our walls are high and topped with barbed wire as is typical for most homes in Ghana. She said our gate stands a little lower and doesn’t have the wire over the top so she is afraid that someone could jump over. Knowing my own experience with fear and a wonderfully alive imagination, I can’t help but empathize.
I am struggling with my concern for her in a country where we grew up that is a foreign country to all our American friends. She says her church family in the U.S. keeps asking her to return to the U.S. The reality is she was living alone in the U.S. as well, but I wasn’t as concerned for her safety them, just her comfort as she managed her pension and social security and tried to make ends meet. I am battling my own version of the single story of Africa. Of Accra. Is it any more dangerous than the city I live in now? I have tons of friends who I schooled with as well as some African Americans who have returned to Ghana and are living wonderful, safe, and fulfilled lives. I know I have been in America too long and I am probably more American than Ghanaian in the way I think and process and what I value. But that side aside, what scares me about my mother being home alone?
I think it is the same thing that scares me about moving back home to Ghana. Back home, I am tethered to a family with a long history. I am the eldest grandchild, the first born, and we are landowning people. I think I ran away from these responsibilities for a reason. I am a wanderer and being landowning, oldest child, and the one to whom everyone looks to set the example, it felt like freedom when my mother bought me that original one-way ticket to Ohio on that cold cold January day in 96. It was a release from the burdens of tradition. A release from this is what we do. This is who we are. Add to that, now I have also been out in the U.S. for about 12 years. Can I go home again? Am I any safer here in this crumbling western empire, where a Black woman’s life is worth less than that of the neighboring wall of the room in which she sleeps, than I would be in a country where I spoke the languages and looked like everyone else?
People see you differently when you are landowning, educated, and named. Here, nothing identifies me on the road from the next Black woman and since I don’t sling my labels on me, no one knows me unless I identify myself. So in this anonymity, I rest. That’s why I think people come to this land of immigrants. I think that is what keeps me in the U.S. That, and now Bae. In any case, I am worried for my mother because she is stuck inside her own house because she is currently there alone and worried that some con artist might get her. The reality might be that a con artist might have gotten her here in the U.S. in her little apartment too, but she would not have attracted attention for being a landowner who has been living abroad for 40 years and has now returned. A landowner who has property and therefore by default, money.
When I think of crumbling economies and how poverty makes people desperate and how that plays out, I think, am I buying into the single story? Is that happening here in my current city? Am I just not privy to it because I am not a landowner here? I don’t have answers. I resume texting her to make sure she is ok and to stay connected. She plans to stay up and I know this isn’t good for her, but I am not sure what other advice I can give her from here. I spoke to her about getting a weekend worker but is that sustainable? Does that send a message that she has more money and therefore feels unsafe?
As this land of immigrants has gone from bad to worse, there have been conversations with mom, my uncle, and my sister about returning home. But can I return home fully out and partnered, never mind that I have to convince Bae first. Where do I start to unravel the single story?