A while ago my dad was here, asking if my sisters and I decided to accompany him to his granny’s-my great grams- this coming Sunday. He had been telling us about the trip for the last week… I didn’t even feel an ounce of remorse as I shook my head, “No, we’re not going”. I know he feels bad that we won’t be going, but there are things one can’t feign; affection for instance, especially if one has had to fake it for a long time.
My great grams was endowed with a big family; honestly I don’t even know how many children she has, not out of ignorance, but because generally my extended family happens to be one of those very dysfunctional ones. I think she has eight children, of whom I’ve only met three-my paternal grandma, her sister and their last born, who is so young, I bet he’s my dad’s age, in his early fifties.
Every time I think of my great grams, who I suppose is in her late nineties, I see God’s favour. She has lived to see her great-great grandchildren; the fifth generation. When I was ten she was walking on her own two feet, and loved dancing a lot, but now old age has rendered her blind-partially, and can’t walk on her own without being supported.
She has her own weaknesses; she’s only human, but one thing I admire about her is that she’s a deeply religious woman; she prays a lot.
The blessings rubbed off on her children too. One of her sons, who I’ve never met, but hear people praise so fondly is a retired Catholic Bishop, who now resides in Rome. My paternal grandma has been working as a teacher, and only retired when I was clearing from high school a few years ago and her sister, runs a prestigious hair salon-last I checked- and is married to an ex-politician (only by virtue of him losing his senatorial bid in the previous elections).
Honestly, when I think of my family in general, I thank God, because we have been blessed abundantly. That however, in my opinion, has made most of them so materialistic. At the risk of being accused of hanging our dirty laundry for all and sundry to see, almost all of my paternal relatives view people in terms of what they have, how much they have… and it is precisely this sensitive issue that has weakened the bond between my nuclear family and them.
Ever since my sisters and I were small, we were exposed to so much ‘hostility’ from the rest of the family, simply because we were not rich enough…
When I tell my dad we won’t be accompanying him, he looks evidently hurt, even though he tries hard to mask it behind a façade of equanimity, and I try to understand him. That’s his family, but they don’t treat us as family. We severed our ties with them because they were treating us like pariahs; they were insufferable. For years, we listened stoically as they defamed us, we watched patiently as they treated us like crap…until we could stand it no more; when my sisters and I were kids, we always wanted to fit in, but as we were growing up, we realized that was not the kind of life we wanted to live; always sucking up to people…pretending we were happy when in real sense we were hurting inside…
Somehow, they forgot we had emotions; they trampled on us ruthlessly, but we couldn’t hate them… hate was too strong a feeling to habour against them, it didn’t feel worth it…so we flipped those switches; we stopped hurting, nothing they did affected us anymore… we became indifferent. We kept our contact with them to a bare minimum.
The last time we accompanied my dad to his gram’s was seven years ago. It was during the Easter holiday. My mom didn’t come along. She only attends extended family functions when it’s really necessary… that was just another of the ‘unimportant’ get-togethers they had decided to host, just to eat roasted meat and beer. They always met up every Easter but never invited us, except for that one time.
My sisters and I were excited; we knew they didn’t love us as much, but we had finally decided to bury that hatchet. We would do our best –on our part-to promote cordial ties between us and the rest of the family (I’ll save the details for another day, but in a nut shell, the chasm runs way back in time, long before I was born… but it has extended to our generation- our cousins and us).
We didn’t want any bad blood between us, so when we left for my great gram’s that chilly morning, we had decided to play nice. When we got there on a warm Saturday afternoon, the compound was packed. Most of the faces were new to me. Her house couldn’t contain all of us, so they had put up a gargantuan tent-in front of her front porch- enough to hold people from four generations.
Even as we walked around the place, inhaling the uncontaminated countryside air, we could feel that aura of unfamiliarity around us; we were like aliens. Our relatives who had never met us regarded us with so much affection, holding us in very high esteem, but as usual our immediate extended family treated us with disdain; doing what they do best to make us feel out of place… by the time the sun started sinking into the horizon, alerting us that it was time to disperse to our respective homes, I was already so bored… I couldn’t wait to go back home.
While preparing to leave, my sisters and I were already sitted in the car, when we heard that all the cousins had been invited for a sleep over at my gram’s-my dad’s aunt-place. We were almost elated, until we learnt that everyone had been invited, except us; the lowly couldn’t mingle with the moneyed. At the time my grandpa was actively into politics. My granma-his wife-was still basking in that glory. As far as she was concerned, we were paupers…we didn’t fit in her social circle…
I was heartbroken; I almost shed tears, but I willed myself to be strong; I wasn’t going to break down for such a petty issue; it wasn’t the first time they were discriminating against us, and it wouldn’t be the last. We had to be strong.
When we got back home, it was close to midnight, but my mom hadn’t gone to bed, she had waited up for us… when she opened the door, I saw her face and all the emotions I had been suppressing throughout the day came flooding back. I clutched my arms tightly around her, almost crying, but I wouldn’t let tears flow on their account. A few unruly tears escaped my moist eyes, and I wiped them furiously with the tips of my fingers; they weren’t worth this pain in my chest.
We sat in the living room, updating my mom on the day’s events. She was hurt, that they dared treat us like we were worth nothing, but she didn’t say much.
“Don’t worry, it’s all in God’s hands”, She smiled comfortingly, her pain palpable. As we went to bed that night, we vowed to never attend any of those get-togethers again. If they were only meant to hurt us, we had no problem steering clear of them…