Sunday, February 6, 2011

Culture and Compassion

On Thursday last week, my husband drove me to our primary care physician and I got the diagnosis and some medicine: I have the flu. Earlier in the week, I had begun my fight against what I thought was a common cold, as I wondered why the extra vitamin supplements I had been taking were not upholding my immunity.

However, when I considered recent on-the-job-stress, the departure of several attorneys and the attendant staff lay-offs to preserve the firm's bottom line, I attributed my debilitated immune system to the pain shared for coworker friends and their new plight, job-hunting in a tough economy.

I am recovering in the three days since I started the meds, thankfully and rightfully, considering the cost of the Tamiflu alone, $75.00 for ten capsules! But, according to a kind notification in my Personal Prescription Booklet, my insurance saved me $38.99. I am thankful for employment and for medical insurance.

I am also thankful for the small amount of energy I have today, to sit up and write this short post. I have been thinking about my worry early in the week, when despite rigorously downed cups of lemon, ginger and honey tea, and boosts of vitamin C; I continued to feel under the weather. My husband’s encouraging pat on the back, “that’s right, my dear, nip that cold in the bud like I do,” did little to ease the nagging concern: if I get sick and become bed-ridden, my husband and children will have to take care of me. I did not want to put them in that position.

I have been thinking about women, specifically African wives and mothers in the Diaspora, who might dread getting sick because of a concern of the unknown.

Will someone catch them when they fall? Will they experience the pleasant surprise of a spouse who will go the extra mile, pamper them when they are sick?

I suppose if we lived back home, in Kenya or in Nigeria, or somewhere on the continent, my husband might do one or two things to nurse me back to health, and leave the majority of the care in the hands of a daughter, or a female member of the household to handle. That would be the expected cultural practice.

I wonder, given the same situation in the United States, with a daughter born and raised here, if the roles might reverse, with the African daughter believing that the responsibility of care rests primarily on the father, the husband. I cannot answer that question this time, because our daughter lives in New York and so, by default, hubby has to care for and pamper me.

And I am fortunate to have a loving extended family, comprised of close women friends from Gambia, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Ghana, to mention just a few. Women friends who will cook healing soups and deliver them to the house; who will prepare special healing balms, made from the sap the baobab tree (from Gambia). Women friends who will deliver special instructions to my husband:

“As soon as she comes out of the bath, make sure you give her a good rub down, all over her back, her front, behind her ears, on the bottom of her feet. And don’t think of anything else when you are done, cover her up and let her rest!”

Our mothers will be proud that after all these years living in America, we continue with cultural practices they grounded in us; our caring for one another. And I am thankful.

Have a good week.

Mingi Love,
Mama Shujaa.