Growing up in Haiti, my mother, Gislhaine, lived in a small city, Leogane, with her parents and enough siblings to make a football team, basketball team, and soccer team combined. Gislhaine had sickle cell anemia. As a child, she suffered from back pain, knee pain, and low blood pressure. Sometimes the pain meant she could not walk; she screamed all day. She was always sick and always had to be hospitalised. When she was 14, my grandfather brought my mom and her two sisters to Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, so they could go to the best high school in the country. Then my grandfather returned home, and the three girls stayed in the city. Gislhaine was smart. She graduated high school and attended college. She wanted to become a nurse so she could help other people with sickle cell anemia. Unfortunately, her parents could not afford to send her to a medical school, so she studied accounting instead.
After she had me and my twin, my mother was sick all the time. She couldn’t work. My aunt sent us money from the U.S. I remember crying each time she was sick. When she was in pain, I was in pain. She never left the house, and I sat by her bedside in case she needed anything. I carried her to the bathroom. When it was time for her to take medication, I gave her the pills. I asked the maid to cook soup when she was hungry. I remember yelling at my brother to come help, because he often left to play outside. Even when she was sick, my mom worked hard to make sure we had everything we needed. We studied at the best school, wore the best clothes, and had the best healthcare. She stayed up late with us, helping with our homework and studying for tests. We were not allowed to sleep until we finished studying. On Saturdays, she woke up early, 4 or 5 a.m., and yelled, “I saw that you didn’t finish this,” and made us complete our homework before we could go play. On Sunday nights, she forced us to revise all our lessons before we slept. “Nobody’s going to sleep!” she shouted. She just wanted the best for us. In her thirties, Gishlaine moved us all to the United States to live with my aunt. It took my mother a couple of years to learn English and find a job. Now she works in a retirement home taking care of elderly people. Even though she is still sick a lot, my mother works as much as she can so she can send my brother and me to college next year. She has to stand on her feet all day, which makes her knees hurt. After a long day, she comes home and goes straight to bed. I want to tell her, “Just stop working. I will take care of you.” I know I can’t take care of her right now because I don’t have any money. I know I have to finish school so I can have a bright future and make my mom proud of me. She always reminds me, “I’m doing this for you, so you can succeed and have the best education.”