Family Tree and Mis-tree: the madman

The stories that slowly unfold of family happenings and revealed secrets and mysteries behind stories. They all unfold like leaves on an autumn tree until one day the tree stands bare and stark against the sky. No more leaves to conceal the limbs of stories formed on the way.

There is the story behind the madman on the road. We just saw him 2 days before Christmas. He was walking down the road that passes in front of our house. Every time I see him I recognize him. His hair is unkempt and dirty. He is always shirtless, barefoot, wearing old slacks from who knows where. Often he is stone drunk and this time he was shouting or singing something I didn’t recognize, while staggering down the road.

I remember when I first saw him, soon after getting married to Stephen. I was visiting family with a niece. He was sitting along the same road near a fire he had presumably built. Wild look in his eyes, he was poking the fire with a long stick. The niece and I walked past him averting our eyes, intent on not becoming the object of a madman’s interest. The niece whispers to me, “that is a madman.” I could tell from the tenor of her voice that she knew who he was but she said no more.

Six years later, we see the same madman on the road. My husband tells me the story of his brother. He grew up in the deep village, with 5 other siblings. My husband was the eldest. This brother of his was the youngest. His father had obtained a piece of land in the deep village where he put his second wife, my husband’s mother. He built a small basic house for his second wife and children because the first wife who lived in Mukono with her children was intolerable to live with. It is rumored that the first wife nearly killed my mother-in-law. So, my husband’s father found a way to sort out the problem. He stayed in Mukono working on various business pursuits during the week and on the weekend he spent his time in the deep village with his second wife.

Earlier in life, I never understood the sense of having multiple wives. Emotionally and spiritually, I would never have coped up with such an arrangement very well. But as I have come to live and absorb village life in the heart of Africa, I see the sense (even necessity) of multiple wives. First, the amount of work that is involved in maintaining even my 2 acres of property we own, is so great that one woman is hardly able to accomplish it. With modernization, the husband must engage in commerce in the larger sphere so that his family remains economically viable. Meanwhile the wife/wives stay home and raise children and take care of all the washing, food, livestock, clothing and gardening needs. The whole of the old testament scriptures tells the tales of families with this family structure. Survival of the species necessitated it. So I live and observe the complexities of a time that is dialed back centuries as God gives me a picture window through which to view stories of the old testament. There is Rachel and Leah, Moses’s wife or wives, Zippora and or the Cushite woman, Ruth and Naomi. I wonder at the experiences of these women.

With respect to what happens when a husband and a wife are separated through this or that circumstance. Stephen’s mother worked and took care of her children during the week on untamed land that resembled a jungle. She also found ways to sell items to make money here and there. There was a local shop that she sold cakes at which she made from home. The owner of that shop was a prominent Muslim man who took an interest in Stephen’s mother. She became pregnant by the Muslim man and this child was born. Nobody knows why Mama Harrieo, Stephen’s mother, participated in this extramarital relationship but my suspicions leap to the commerce relationship that initiated the interaction. I am left to wonder at why and how things developed.

A baby boy was born. He grew up to be a very bright young man. He was brighter and smarter than anyone else in the father’s family. Then he became mad. The mother and other family members searched and spent money to get help for him but after exhausting themselves from the effort to no avail, they simply allowed the man to choose his own path. The man isn’t even referenced as a brother in most cases. He is forgotten from the every-day conversation. I didn’t even know he existed up to 5 years into my marriage to his brother. So, this nameless madman walks the road from Kalagi to Mukono and so he is and remains to this day.

Published by sengendoabigail

Instructional designer, educator, mother, wife, Jane of all trades.

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