“You are my mother.”
By Bard Child
My bones creek, by back aches and I can no longer walk. Every day I sit in bed cared by my husband and my little brother. Now my beautiful and strong husband, Maka, has left to join the ancestors and Amana is also very ill and resting beside me. Now it's my children who care for me.
Elang my oldest comes by with fresh milk and butter from his herd, he helps me get up and change my clothes. Sakari his wife helps as well and my grandchildren sit beside my bed and say.
“Nana! Nana! Tell us a story about the fortress!” I smile and recall the grand city of ice that I use to live, I tell them about their grandfather and how he was a hard working fisherman. I tell them about how Amana fought in the war and how he was a brave and fearless hunter. Enthralled by my stories, I dwell in those memories, letting the warm nostalgia wash over me like a fine bath. Finally my children and grandchildren go home, they tell me that Qaniit will come for the night. Leaving me with Amana who gets up to make food, I think about my youngest. Eyes grown soft and full of regret. After all the years I spent, I too have abandoned him. Amana hears me cry.
“Hanai?” His voice soft and gravely, like ice breaking in the sea. He hobbles over on his driftwood cane and sits beside me. “Hanai, are you in pain? Do you need any medicine, should I get a healer?” I shook my head, and waved his words aside. No herbs, no massage, no medicine. Just regret, a pain in which nothing assuages it. His dark eyes plead to me, asking why I was weeping. I confessed to Amana, I told him why I had a look of guilt and longing.
“I abandoned him, I threw him away, just as his father told me I would, after fifteen years or raising him. I shoved him aside too.” Amana squeezed my hand and shook his head.
“Hanai, we've gone over this. You couldn't raise him like this, Maka couldn't care for you and Tikaani. It was the right decision, Tikaani is an adult, and how Rahmet and the shamans of the south are his providers. You have read the letters that Rahmet wrote, Tikaani can read now and write, is working hard. You haven't abandoned him, you just let him grown up.” I knew he was right but still, I wish I had the courage to tell him, that I saw him as my son, and I should have been the one to tell him that I couldn't take him home. I wish I could comfort him and heal his confusion and feelings of abandonment. I wish I could apologize to him.
“Rahmet? What are you doing here!? I thought-” My heart jumped, as he tried to look behind him. My son smiled and walked over to embrace me. Suede covered hands, studded with beads and amulets. His eyes like mist, foggy and intangible. I knew that Rahmet was going blind. Yet he told me that the spirits will see for him and he was not afraid. I admired his courage, it was trait all shamans had. I look at the door again waiting for someone. Rahmet took my hand as Amana laid sleeping beside me.
“I know you are waiting for him, you haven't seen him in twenty years. I brought him with me. I told him to wait outside in case you were asleep.” I gave him a sharp look and a smirk.
“When am I ever asleep?” I said to him, amused. Rahmet motioned at the door way and in a firm voice he said.
“You have permission.” I held my breath. As the sound of oiled boots step into the threshold. I sat up as a man, not a boy entered my room. Good, gods, he has grown so much. Tikaani, was no longer this gangly coltish looking boy with long hair and deep but always lost eyes. He didn't look at me but at Rahmet waiting for his next cue.
“Tikaani. Do you remember Auntie? She is sitting here, why don't you greet her.” Tikaani definitely had a man's face, but his eyes were permanently young. I didn't speak to him, he was still processing the hut I lived in. Amana woke up and looked at Tikaani with a bewildered face.
“Oh good ancestors, is this a dream?” He said blinking sitting up to examine Tikaani, as if he he really was some sort of apparition. Tikaani looked over to Amana and then to me. I watched the realization bleed into his expression. He smiled and crossed the distance between us to hug me.
“Auntie.” He said in a robust voice, truly a man voice. I remember when his was still breaking. I sat back and gazed up at him. He does look a lot like Tigtuk, he has his face and smile, but his eyes were definitely my sister's. He grew a goatee and his hair was still long and fine but braided with bone beads and metal clasps. His ears were pierced and sported facial tattoos of a shaman, he filled into his long sleek adult body. I smiled proudly, Tikaani was handsome and strong, but the smile faded when I remember that Tikaani would probably stay a bachelor. Part pf me wanted my youngest to have children, maybe a daughter with the same ever-young eyes, but the gods would probably not allow it. Tikaani wasn't meant to be father.
“Auntie, I am sorry. I am sorry I have not visited you. I have been very very busy, Rahmet works me hard.” he said, I could hear the apologetic tone in voice. I couldn't suppress a chuckle. He still apologized for things had no control over. Tikaani always apologizes. Amana grabbed Tikaani's arm in greeting and smiled up at him.
“How is our shaman? Have you been listening to your teachers?” Amana asked, Rahmet repeated the question to Tikaani, as his eyes turned to the window. I waited, Amana waited and then Tikaani answered.
“Yes. Obedient. I listen to my elders. I have to, the work of a shaman is dangerous soul-tearing work that will eat you alive.” I bit my lip and then busted out laughing at the parroted line.
“You have a strong soul, Tikaani,” I reached over and touched his chest, I could feel his heart under his tunic shirt. He stripped off his coat when he came in. “I can feel it beating inside, you have a very strong and determined soul. You will be a great shaman like your cousin.” Tikaani overlapped my hand with his. I could see his eyes reading my face and letting the words steep into him like a tea. He tried to smile but inside he just squeezed my hand.
“Thank you. Thank you for still seeing me as a human being.”
Amana took Tikaani to the hut and had him organize shelves and make supper. Amana even when ill still could carefully instruct and teach Tikaani. Tikaani followed Amana's instructions his eyes soft and seeking. Rahmet was smoking his bone pipe and smiled gently.
“Tell me what has been going on with Tikaani, I am assuming he still half-functional even at this age.” Rahmet blinked and sighed.
“I don't like that term 'half-functional' what is functionality? Really mother? Tikaani can dress, feed and bathe himself. He shaves once a week, he can use the toilet unassisted, he is literate. I say he is decent, he might need my guidance and the elders until he too is old, but the lodge agreed that Tikaani has a strong connection to the spirits, we think some of his outbursts and behaviors is proof of that. He will always be depended on someone, but in grand scheme mother, isn't everyone?” Rahmet was right about the last part. We are all depended on someone in some manner, I chuckled as Tikaani stirred the cast iron pot over the fire, watching the serious look on his face. Rahmet exhaled a cloud of smoke and put the stem back in his mouth. His eyes serious and thoughtful as Tikaani with guidance ladled the shellfish broth into bowls.
“He still rocks back and forth when he is alone and talked to himself, he prefers to write on paper than actually speak. He says words don't feel real. Tikaani has a schedule that he follows, but recently he has been wanting to see you, so we traveled north to visit you. I felt it was time.” I sat up and took a bowl from Tikaani and sipped the broth as Tikaani took a corner and sat and rocked his fingers wiggling as he fixates on a window. I smiled and sipped my dinner.
“It's indeed time. I love watching him move like that. It's beautiful, always in constant motion. At one point I found it bothersome I tried to make him stop it, but every time I did he would do something else repetitive, and then Maka said something interesting. Does not the waves lap the shores in the same fashion, never changing? Does not the birds fly the same direction every season? What is wrong with repetition? As long as he isn't hurting others or himself, just let him be as the waves, always moving. The look of surprise on my sons face made me giggle, he seemed a bit baffled.
“Father actually said that? I always though he wasn't fond of Tikaani's dancing?” I laughed again, so that is what Rahmet calls it? I put the empty bowl on the table and Tikaani took it to the kitchen.
“In bed, while everyone was asleep, I believe it was more troublesome to stop something that wasn't doing any harm. I see know that Tikaani uses to keep him mind in motion too. It how he thinks, I wish someone can see his repetitive beauty, like the waves that rush in and rush out. I wanted him to find love, to find companionship with a woman. Rahmet seemed to read my mind and slouched in his seat. His eyes turned to Tikaani washing some clay pots.
“He doesn't have any interest in women, I mean, well in some respects he does, but tells me is scared of them. He prefers the company of men actually. He rather have their affections than that of women. He has no interest in children at all, he dislikes babies and toddlers, he will play with older children but he will turn around if a little one approaches them. So wishing that he will bear you grand nieces and nephews is a tad futile.” I frowned and sighed longingly, Qaniit finally found another gentleman to wed but she won't bear any children, Rahmet's choice is to be celibate, and Tikaani, too doesn't want a family, but I knew it must be that way. Tikaani wasn't meant to parent. I watched as Tikaani stacked the pots in nice, neat rows making sure everything was in it's place. I hope Tikaani has found his place in this world. I hope he has found his happiness.
As the cool fire of the fat-lamps burned and Rahmet was with Amana, I sat alone with my nephew. Tikaani rocked back and forth his eyes always at the window. He chuckled and reached out to stroke his face.
“I remember when I nursed you and you wouldn't look at me, but the window. I also remember the years you were silent and observant. Rahmet was more of your bully than friend. I could you remember all those details before you spoke your first words? I remember that day so clearly, 'more rice' you said, you were almost six, after years of helping you use words you finally figured out how to speak, but you still couldn't communicate like us. Do you really hate speaking Tikaani? How would rather have our conversation?” Tikaani paused and then pulled away from my touch and walked around before taking a piece of chalk and a slate stone from the fire. He sat down and showed me the slate and chalk. “That will work then, Do you understand what I am saying Tikaani?” He looked at the wall and then at me for a moment before scribbling sloppy characters on the slate.
“I hear everything.” The slate read before he wiped it clear and tapped his palm on his knee, still holding the chalk in his free left hand.
“Why is it so hard to talk?” He responded again, in small but readable characters.
“I trip and fall, I don't fall when I write. Writing feels real. It feels real, I wonder why words for him on slate feel more real than spoken ones? Maybe it is the fact that the words are more permanent on silk or paper or on slate. He wrote again, ”I know, why I am here. I know it's time. I am scared to loose my mother again. I must walk forward, past only has regrets. I don't want regret.” I bit my lip, I knew what he was implying, I knew every reason why Rahmet brought him here. Tikaani, knew that I was going to die soon, he wanted to say good-bye. I lifted his head to meet my eyes and I spoke to him in clear and honest words.
“I loved you as you were my own son, as if I gave birth to you myself. My sister was a selfish creature, who didn't have the courage to raise as someone as rare as you. You were never meant to be thrown into the ocean to drown, you were meant for good things. I am sorry Tikaani. I am sorry that I was too hurt to care for you and I am glad I have this opportunity to tell you how much I love you.” I split my blood on the ground, I told him what he probably knew.
“Your father never wanted you, neither did your mother. They wanted to drown you as a baby, they believe you were beyond redemption.” Tikaani looked at the slate and then pulled way in sloppy tight, characters, he gave me his reply.
“I knew that my sire didn't want a weak child. I walk forward. I proved him wrong. I have forgiven you long time ago. I walk forward. I became a man because you let me go. I will always love you too, I called you Auntie, because I knew it meant Mother. You are my Mother, never forget that when you join the ancestors, that I am your son, I will honor you.” At that moment I wept, I knew all along that he had forgiven me, Tikaani doesn't hold grudges. He doesn't know how. He dropped his chalk and crawled over to hold me. I held on to him. No regrets. No regrets at all.
(in Tikaani's words)
It felt like dawn never came. I didn't sleep. I never really do sleep, actually, but last night I didn't get any rest. Rahmet saw me still for once in the morning and staring at the still hand that was dangling from Auntie's bed. His face was sad and scared, as he checked her neck with his fingers. He covered is face with his wide hands and he choked back a sob. He was crying too, I didn't want to cry, Auntie told me that strong men don't cry in public. I already had my tears in privet. Amana joined him and held him in his arms. I watched this as an observer not really part of this just watching them as I always do. Then Amana turned to me, I couldn't read his face.
“Tikaani. When did she die?” I didn't know how to respond to that I just rocked and stared at her hand. Rahmet gave Amana a look, the kind of look when I made a mistake.
“Don't ask him that. He has no idea. He was probably awake all night with her.” He said in angry voice. Amana glared at me and in harsh voice as if I was in trouble shouted to me.
'Why are you not grieving!? She was your mother damnit!” I didn't respond to that either. Rahmet's anger surged up like a tide during a storm.
“Stop lashing out at him! He isn't your fucking punching bag! He isn't four anymore when you call him idiot and retarded and shark bait and he wouldn't do a thing. He is grieving! He just as upset as we are...but...he knew. He knew that she was going to die tonight and we weren't ready.” Rahmet took a deep breath and so did Amana. He turned to me and apologized, I knew he was just hurt, like when you found out that a trip you have been planning for months suddenly gets cancelled, and disappointment and heartbreak was there. He didn't want his big sister to leave him to die alone. He probably wanted to die first.
“I will get the healers. To prepare her body, the funeral must be done.” I said, my words hid the frustration and sorrow that I was feeling but could never express.
The day of the funeral was a quiet one. Snow fell with silent diligence, as if the sky was reconizing that today was a somber one. Auntie was buried in a great glacier in a Spirit House, she was wrapped in furs and given food for the Spirit World. Her totem, the bear was laid on top along with four things of ours that she used to remember us, Elang's favorite tunic as a child, Qaniit's hair piece, Rahmet's herb bag and for me, a tiny clay jar with a small scroll, written upon it, were my first words. He watched as they slowly lowered her into the ice. I felt my heart break a little, the finality of it all. Rahmet started to tap his drum and too everyone's surprise. I sang.
Not with words, but with emotions, feelings I could never verbalize. Half-sounds of the oceans and half chants to call upon the spirits of the earth. Perhaps I was crying in public I couldn't tell. I let my body sway and my hands move with the sorrow of my chant. I was praying, maybe I was begging maybe I was laughing all at once. Rahment continued to beat on the drum as I sang my requiem. The family was observant and silent. Faster the words came pelt-melt and driven by the feelings of peace and a turbulent joy. I wanted to show my mother, my Auntie that I did have strong soul. She helped carve it. It was her that made my soul beautiful and I it sang to her.
It was a song of thanks.
Tikaani continues his shamanic work and lives with Rahmet in the south. Never leaving his side is a deaf woman, who was also an apprentice shaman as well. She seems to be different that most women, she didn't claim any gender and preferred to be called “Goose” or Kanut. Tikaani suffered a heart attacked at age forty-nine and Kanut runway to the north while carrying his unborn child, he is unaware that she was pregnant. She was thirty-five. She was in love with the shaman, but this was unknown by the community.
This one of several outcomes I have for Tikaani. I am unsure what I have planned for him. .