Category Archives: Lesson learned

To be… or not to be aggressive

My profession puts me in a situation where I’m required to be ‘aggressive’. Most people seem to have this misguided notion that the more aggressive a lawyer is, the higher their chances of winning a case. Million dollar question is, is that the reality or is it just a mere fallacy? I vouch for the latter.

A couple of years ago, when I was in my second year of law school, I was seated in court following proceedings during my clinical attachment. There was this ongoing personal injury case, where the plaintiff was seeking compensation for injuries he had sustained in a car accident. The defendant’s lawyer was a young energetic man, who had this awfully intimidating tactic…

So intimidating was he, that the plaintiff kept contradicting himself during his cross-examination, because he was incoherent with fear. I imagined if he was calm, he wouldn’t have kept fumbling over his words… Ordinarily, the court setting is extremely unnerving. Therefore it goes without saying that if the lawyers are too harsh on the witnesses, their trepidation is aggravated and as such, their testimony might be a tad compromised.

Still, from a novice lawyer’s perspective, if aggressiveness helps win a case, who cares whether the witnesses were too freaked out to be coherent? Every competent lawyer’s hope is for the court to rule in their client’s favour, and sadly, seldom does it matter how that case is won.

I remember a lecturer during an evidence law class telling us that a lawyer has the power to convince the court that a white board is actually black. That furthermore, it is not the truth that helps a client win a case, but about who of the lawyers is crafty enough to convince the court their client is the victim.

This was the concept in the ‘Justice’ legal drama produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Victor Garber and Kerr Smith. In the show, an incident would occur, then the parties concerned would get legal counsels, who would battle the matter out in court.

After the court’s verdict was given at the end of the show, they would reveal what actually transpired, and if justice was served. As one would imagine, the actual victims were not always the ones winning cases. This is what happens in real life. Sometimes the offenders are the ones who get away with their wrongful acts.

Growing up, I thought the harsher a lawyer was, banging tables and all, the more effective they were. I still had the same notion in law school because that is how successful lawyers are portrayed on tv… This went on, until I actually started my pupillage and interacted with real people. Now I know, that aggressiveness doesn’t win a case; humility and preparedness does.

When I was doing my pupillage, one of our clients called, saying his cousin had been arrested for assault. At the time everyone at the law firm was engaged, so I was asked to go bail him out. I had met our client only once before in a different matter, but thankfully when I saw him he remembered me, and so did I.

Interestingly, before I got there, he had already warned everyone who cared to listen that his lawyer would really deal with them. He had issued numerous threats based on what he imagined I would do… However, when I finally arrived I started talking to him, and the police officers just to get an idea of what had transpired.

At the time our client’s cousin was already behind bars, so I requested to be allowed to talk to him as well. Unlike his cousin who was championing for a ‘smack down’ between me and the police officers, he just wanted the matter to end there. Therefore I talked to the complainant, asked what had happened and what he expected to achieve from filing the complaint, so I could get his side of the story…

Turns out it was just a relationship between a landlord (our client’s cousin) and his tenant (complainant) gone awry… The landlord wanted to exert his dominance over his tenant, who owing to hard times had defaulted on payment… and consequently, the tenant wanted ‘justice’ for the assault occasioned to him.

By the time I was leaving the police station hours later, the complainant had agreed to drop the charges, and we had come up with a payment plan to cover the rent arrears. Everyone, except our client (landlord’s cousin), walked away happy. See he had hoped I would deal with the matter aggressively… but in my quest to find an amicable solution between the warring parties, I had poured cold water over his wild expectations.

Before I arrived he had been such a bother, that no officer at the station wanted to deal with him. Eventually, when we posted bail and his cousin was released, he seemed happy. However, when my pupil master called to commend me for my good job, he added, “But I was told you were not aggressive”.

That had me wondering, “If being aggressive means ones barks out threats mindlessly, and subsequently widening the chasm between the parties, isn’t it better to solve matters diplomatically?” That incident helped me realize I don’t need to be aggressive to succeed as a lawyer; and neither do I need to employ hard-line bargaining tactics to win cases.

I just need to be humble, yet assertive. That way I’ll bridge barriers without stepping on people’s toes. There’s no harm in resolving matters peacefully… In bar school, one lecturer posed a hard question: “Can a good lawyer be a good person?” I think, yes! Maybe it’s my inexperience misguiding me, but I truly believe a good lawyer, who’s skilled and successful, can also be a morally straight person; one who does not win by sharp practice.

Rejected and Alone: Part 3

One thing I have learnt about human beings generally, is that when people need something from you, they will keep chasing after you…but once you get to a point where you have nothing to offer, you become almost non-existent. No one remembers you, or needs you for that matter.

The way I see it, human relations are so fickle. It’s just a matter of ‘scratch my back, I scratch yours’. So what happens when you’re not in a position to scratch someone’s back? You become irrelevant. To date, there are people who only call/text when they need something from me.

Interestingly, those from uni call/text when they need revision materials from undergrad, since I always had my books and other reading materials in order. Then those from bar school call/text because they need some samples of legal documents. Some will even skip the “Hi…” part, and delve straight into the crux of the matter… “D’you have a sample of a petition…?” etc.

In the wake of this blatant rejection by my acquaintances, I’ve had enough time to ruminate an awful lot about relationships generally. When you have nothing to offer people, or when they do not need anything from you, only the truest will stand by you.

Popularity is like water on your palms. One minute you have it, and the next it’s all trickled away. When you’re popular, you’ll attract all types of people; both the genuine and the fake. With me for instance, I had to ward off flagrant sexual advances from my fellow students and lecturers.

I remember this one time on Valentine’s Day, a married guy in my class asked me out and I turned him down. “We need to enjoy these bodies we have because at some point they’ll just turn to dust,” he scoffed. My personal principles wouldn’t let me entertain his advances, knowing he was married.

Nonetheless, we still remained friends, and he never stopped pursuing me. He was just one of many admirers, whose advances I had to turn down. I got the feeling those who hit on me were doing it for all the wrong reasons; some thought my position made me easy to get.

I suppose that was the same reason even married lecturers came after me, and with them, since they had the ‘power’, when I turned them down some gave me bad grades just to prove a point. It was implied duress, and it hurt, but that didn’t weaken my resolve. My position, wouldn’t compromise my principles.

At some point I even dreaded interacting with male lecturers because I had realised my straight A’s came from lecturers I rarely interacted with. Eventually, I graduated with a Second Upper, and while I personally wanted a First Class, that was still good enough for me.

Deep down, I hoped people would see me for me, and not the popular class president I was, but I doubt anyone ever did. At least no one I know so far. My classmates had all the best words in the dictionary to describe me: “charismatic, diligent, kind, the purest soul, selfless…” etc., yet all that was easily forgotten when we finished school.

When I needed an internship after finishing undergrad, a few months before getting into bar school, the ones I contacted did not come through for me. It was my turn to seek their assistance, but the few ones I sort assistance from turned their backs on me. The other day I was going through my contacts, and out of over four hundred contacts, there was not a single person I could comfortably call.

Currently, my close contacts are a wavering five or seven… and even out of these, I am not sure there’s anyone I’d ask for assistance if I needed any. The relationships I’ve had so far have made me sceptical about seeking people’s assistance because the rejection is too much to bear.

As an introvert, I feel more inclined to retreat into my cocoon; my personal space, where I don’t let people in. I’m afraid of letting people in because experience has taught me most people will stick around until they have nothing to take from you. So yeah, right now I feel rejected, and alone… but at the same time, I feel peaceful, and at ease.

I’m not troubled by the thought of disappointing someone when I turn down their invitation to a casual night-stand; or stomach-churning anxiety, as I wait for people I texted/called to reply my texts/calls. It’s awfully lonely, but also very peaceful.

I miss having normal conversations with someone because they just missed me, not because they need something from me. At this point in time, I’m not even sure who my friends are… One thing I’m gradually learning though, is that it’s during these low moments when we know who our true friends are.

Positions of power/authority might delude someone into thinking they are loved, but that love is truly tested when one has nothing to offer… money, connections… etc.; ‘friends’ disappear when that money/power disappears.

Of importance, is that true friends are as rare as diamonds. When you find someone who treasures you for you, not because of what they expect from you, or what they think you might offer them, hold them close; because those are the true gems, and they are extremely rare.

Rejected and Alone: Part 2

Fast forward to three years later… As I had feared, I have not met or talked to most of my classmates. I was lucky enough to meet a handful in bar school, but since everyone was obsessed with passing the extremely difficult bar exams, very little time was left for socialization.

We exchanged brief hellos and hugs on the corridors, and soon after each one of us would proceed to our different destinations. If we happened to ride home together, we would spend the entire time discussing legal issues. When we sat our bar exams we parted ways again, only bumping into each other intermittently at the courts during our pupillage.

Again, like with the brief meetings in bar school, our random encounters at the courts were brief, and it was even worse than before because we had court timelines to meet, lest the matters we were attending to were called out before we got to court. We could not afford to appear incompetent in our pupil masters/mistresses’ eyes.

That is how my relations with my classmates became almost non-existent. Funny thing is, even when I was doing my undergraduate studies, I kind of knew the ‘friendships’ were only short-term. Given my introverted nature, I was always guarded and consequently, my ‘inner circle’ was very small. Deep down I knew most of my classmates were mere acquaintances, who would disappear from my life once we parted ways.

I usually think of those relations as functional work relations. We were working towards a common goal, and each person had to play their part cohesively. That way, we would be successful in our endeavours. Throughout my undergrad, my phone was always ringing off the hook, because there was always something my fellow students wanted to enquire about regarding classes; and as such, I was always at their beck and call.

Nonetheless, there were red flags along the way with regard to the transient nature of our relations. As I’ve mentioned, my phone was always ringing when we were in session. However, that was never the case when we went on holiday; only a dozen students would try to call/text to check on me.

Owing to this, I tamed my expectations, since I did not want to let the thought of my popularity fool me. I was only popular because somehow my classmates needed my services, but minus that, I did not have a personal relationship with majority of them.

Therefore, it was somewhat obvious that the popularity would only last until I was out of that institution. Funny thing is, when I ‘rarely’ bump into any of my classmates, we usually regard each other with so much respect and warmth. There is still that lingering camaraderie, but it’s usually a classic example of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

When this year was starting, I decided to reach out to some of my old acquaintances, seeing as years were just passing by and we were just growing distant. I was kind of fifty-fifty, anticipating most would ignore my texts since they did not really need anything from me… Turns out I was right, sadly! Majority did not bother to acknowledge my texts. Needless to say, that did not come as a surprise.

Rejected and Alone: Part 1

Difficult moments bring a lot to the surface. The hidden truth is revealed; the good and the bad, but mostly the bad. At least in my opinion. Lately I have been reminiscing an awful lot, possibly because I recently finished my pupillage, and now I’m in that ‘professional limbo’ where I am technically not a student anymore, yet I have not been admitted to the bar.

Ideally I should have found a holding over (post-internship) position to work while I await my admission to the bar, but as it turns out, finding a job nowadays is anything but easy. Ergo, I have more than enough idle time on my hands. It is this ‘interesting’ predicament that has seen me spend more than enough time strolling down memory lane.

See, during my undergraduate studies, I was my class’ president for the entire duration of our law course. I remember this one time, one lecturer who had taught us in our second year walked into our class two years later, and was surprised to find I was still the class president. “She is still the class president?” He asked, patently surprised. “You guys did not pick someone else?”

“She’s very nice…” “We love her…” “She’s very competent…responsible…” multiple voices rent the air simultaneously.

“I cannot hear what you’re saying if you all speak at the same time,” he interjected.

One of my classmates, who was seated at the front, raised her hand; and seeing as she was already known to the lecturer from our previous interactions, he picked her. “We did not see the need to elect someone else because she is very good at her job,” she said, and the rest of the students said “Yeah,” in agreement.

I suppose the lecturer did not have much to say because he just smiled and said, “I see”.

Every now and then, some of my classmates would come up to me and tell me that if I wanted to run for any political seat they would vote for me, but since politics has never been my cup of tea, I would just tell them politely that I was not into active politics. My sentiments notwithstanding, they would tell me they would still back me up if I ever changed my mind.

In a nutshell, my relationship with my classmates was very cordial. I served them diligently, and they never missed a moment to let me know how grateful they were for my services. A few days before sitting our final exams, they organized a small ‘surprise’ session, where they gave me gifts, among them being a pencil drawn portrait of myself. I loved it.

Their kind gesture caught me so off guard, because most of the times I’m the one who does things for people, never expecting anything in return…so this was definitely very unexpected, and as such, a breath of fresh air. The noble act moved me to tears, and much as I hate crying in public, I could not help it. Next day some teased me, calling me a cry baby.

Less than a month later, we finished our exams and it was time to bid each other adieu. While I was extremely excited to be done with law school, I was awash with nostalgia and sadness. Going by my past experiences, I knew some, if not most, goodbyes were forever. For four years we had all been working towards one common goal; to finish law school. Now that we had done that, our diverse dreams would take us to different directions… and that, is what made me sad.

Seventy times seven

Cold wars are a serious problem in my family and lately they are becoming annoyingly common; for instance, for the most part of last week and the previous week, my big sister and I were not talking to each other. What’s funny is that we’d fought over something so trivial – splitting house chores. At first the conversation had been going ok, but after a while we started disagreeing and before we knew things escalated…next thing we were going our separate ways.

A day later, I’d already gotten over the anger and I was ready to reconcile. My sister, on the other hand, seemed grumpy. I tried talking to her a couple of times but she blatantly ignored me. At some point I started panicking when I realized she was so bent on keeping to herself, that she would use alternative doors, so we wouldn’t bump into each other.

After a careful examination of my conscience, I realized that even though the things I’d told her were true, they were hurtful. Furthermore, the situation had been worsened by the fact that I’d said them with my voice raised. Possibly if I had said the same things calmly under different circumstances, they would not have stung as much as they did. Granted, I had said them in response to what she had told me and that’s why I had gotten angry in the first place. Since I knew she wouldn’t talk to me, I sent her a text apologising.

Still, she did not talk to me. I gave up trying and asked God to soften her heart because I could not understand how she could carry anger around for that long. I missed talking to her, but I did not know how else to reach out. Eventually, she started talking to me after a week. Of utter silence.

Over time I have realised that when I hold grudges, they consume me from within, so if I stay angry for long I end up hurting. That’s why I try not to stay angry for longer than necessary. Furthermore, there’s that reading about not letting the sun go down when still angry; meaning, even if it is alright to get angry sometimes, we should not drag it out.

“If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day… Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you…

Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God as has forgiven you through Christ”. (Ephesians 4:26-31).

Those words keep ringing in my head whenever I’m angry…and I thank God for them because they keep me from holding grudges, even when I feel someone has really hurt me. Coincidentally, the Sunday readings in church the last two Sundays focused so much on forgiveness.

One thing I got from this past Sunday’s reading is that if you want God to forgive you, you must forgive others as well. That is a prerequisite we must fulfil before seeking God’s forgiveness. That got me thinking, most of the time we walk around holding grudges against people, yet when we sin, we ask God for forgiveness, forgetting we haven’t forgiven others ourselves.

Jesus’ parable about the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18: 21-35) teaches on that. In a nutshell, it is about a servant who owed his king millions of dollars, so the king ordered that he be sold as a slave, together with his wife and children. The servant dropped on his knees, imploring the king to be patient with him because in time he would pay everything. The King felt sorry for him and forgave him his debt and let him go.

When this servant was on his way, he met up a fellow servant who owed him only a few dollars. Enraged, he grabbed him by the collar, asking him to pay all he owed him. The poor man fell on his knees asking for more time, just like the servant had begged the king, but he wouldn’t hear any of it. Instead he had him thrown in jail until he cleared his debt.

Other servants saw what had happened and they reported it to the king. Incensed, the king ordered that the unforgiving servant be brought to him. He castigated the servant for not showing mercy to his fellow servant. Subsequently, he had the unforgiving servant thrown behind bars, where he’d be punished until he repaid all the millions he owed the king.

As Jesus told His disciples, that is how God the Father will treat all those who do not forgive others. We should forgive each other seventy times seven times. This is just figurative. What Jesus was trying to say is that we should forgive as many times as possible because our human nature makes us prone to sin. That way, even God will forgive us.

On that same note, we are highly discouraged from avenging ourselves. In Romans 12:17-19 we’re told, “If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. Never take revenge my friends, but instead let God’s anger do it”.

One of the lessons I’ve learnt during this covid period is that being cooped up indoors with your loved ones could easily make them seem like foes, because everyone starts focusing on the small, insignificant things… We need to overlook those trivialities, because it’s in so doing that we can live in peace and harmony…and when fights inevitably break out, forgiveness is key. That way, our humanness doesn’t pull us away from God’s grace.

 

Trying times… Part 2

Owing to the ‘ambush’, I said I wasn’t going to talk to the politician. I’d just say hi on my way out. However, mom said she’d already told him we were in the house because that was the whole point of dragging him over. Ergo, out of respect I went to greet him.

Surprisingly, when my sisters and I talked to him he seemed very interesting. Though I have never voted for him, I’ve always admired his nonconformist attitude towards societal beliefs and practices. He does things differently and has no apologies for it.

As the minutes ticked away, I actually let myself enjoy the thought that a politician I only saw on TV was just sitted across from me…in our own house. It all felt surreal and the thought was thrilling. It’s surprising how some of our simple childhood delights stay with us even in adulthood.

“I have no money”, he’d warned us. And that obviously was the least of our worries. We’ve never been interested in receiving hand-outs.

“In this house, we’re not interested in getting money”, my big sister assured him.

“We prefer being given a fishing net to fish”, I added. That has always been one of the principles we live by. If someone gives us money to satisfy our immediate needs, what about tomorrow? Will they be there to provide for us still? Funny thing is, most of the people we meet prefer giving someone money…

Close to an hour later we’d discussed very many things with the politician and he filled us with so much hope. He was going to help our big sis get a job and all our problems would be over…or so we thought. Little did we know he was possibly worse than all the other hot-air-blowing charlatans we had previously encountered.

Eventually he took my big sis’ phone number, promising to contact her if any job openings came up. Later when I got back home, I found my sisters all excited. Since I’d been gone, he had assigned my big sis the role of project coordinator in some youth project he was running. He had requested her to recruit some 50 young people who would assist with the research project.

Excitedly, she had brought on board one of our cousins to help with the recruitment…and all was going on great. It had been a while since I’d seen her looking so jovial. That evening he called, telling her he’d be flying abroad; and since he’d realised she would be a great asset in his team, he wanted her to accompany him. We didn’t see any harm in that so we told her it was ok.

Since he didn’t have her personal details, he requested her to send him a copy of her passport because he had to fill out some papers in preparations for the flight and that had to be done before midnight. Ordinarily, we wouldn’t send such personal details to someone we’d just met, especially with the rising cases of identity theft…But as I mentioned earlier, desperation makes people myopic.

Enthusiastically, she scanned the first page of her passport and emailed it to him. We were all on cloud nine. We had finally met some ‘big fish’ like we’ve always hoped and things couldn’t be better. Later in the night he called her making some very ‘unconventional’ requests. He particularly told her he would prefer she dressed more ‘modestly’; that she didn’t have any hair extensions and instead covered her head with a veil…

With regard to modesty, he made reference to how Mary, the Holy Mother of Jesus dressed, adding that, she (my sister) would be better placed to understand why that was important because we’re Catholic. Furthermore, he referred her to 1st Timothy Chapter 2. He expressly said he liked working with ‘religious people’. I found that baffling.

I know my family and I are not saints, but when it comes to religion, we’re very tight with God. With all these problems we’re constantly facing, it would be practically impossible to live without God. He’s been our refuge all through. So needless to say, it felt deeply insulting for someone to throw ‘religiousness’…or the lack of it in our faces.

When he’d visited earlier, he’d found my sister saying the rosary so my mom had to request him to wait a bit; and, by his own admission he’d found that very intriguing because young people do many things, with praying being at the bottom of the list. Additionally, he’d found her in a pair of loose jeans (because she’s lost some weight) and a very decent top. But we understood what he was hinting at…it’s the Mother Mary look.

“I have no issues with dressing modestly, but what you’re asking for is a bit too much. I have my own principles too”, she contended.

“I don’t know what made me think I could trust someone I just met for thirty minutes”, he retorted. He hang up, and after that, all the promises he made vanished just like that as he covertly rescinded them all. He didn’t pick her calls nor call her.

After doing a quick search on Google, we found the person in-charge of the youth project was a fraudster, who the authorities were searching for. He was using an alias and the email address my sister had sent names and contacts of her recruits to wasn’t valid.

It had all been a hoax. Then we realised we couldn’t report the matter to the police because of the politician’s connections. He had the power to annihilate us. At that moment, all our problems felt dwarfed by this potential disaster we were staring at. Helplessness engulfed us!

Two days later since meeting the ‘big fish’ it evidently dawned on us that we’d been duped. Given that the research assignment had turned out to be a ruse, my sister had to personally reimburse some of the recruits for the expenses incurred. Now we know better…

Trying times… Part 1

‘Tried and tested’…that seems to have been November’s theme. See, the thing about desperation, is that it makes us stoop to levels we wouldn’t ordinarily stoop to…or do things we might normally find absurd. Yeah, this month of November that’s finally coming to an end has been an enlightening one…and I particularly choose the word ‘enlightening’ because even when things go horribly wrong, I usually like to look at the glass as half full.

Now that I’m done with law school, I need to join an advocate’s training programme, at the end of which I’ll be admitted to the bar. So while I haven’t quite found some internship or paying job to keep me busy till next year, I know God willing when next year starts my plate will be so full… I might be deeply craving some breathing space.

However, things haven’t been all rosy for my big sis who’s been jobless pretty much the entire year. Even though I never tell her this for fear of sinking her already sunken spirits, I usually empathize with her when I recall how much she struggled to finish her masters because my dad had cut her off when he felt like she was taking too long in school. I don’t remember seeing anyone work so hard.

Sometimes, even when she had an exam the next day, she’d be burning her midnight oil working on some clients’ research report, in an attempt to beat the deadline. That’s how she managed to put herself through grad school. It was never easy. At the time she was a research assistant at her school and because of her lecturers’ connections and referrals by some of her clients, she always had paying work.

When she was done with her masters she continued paying our small sis’ tuition fees but slowly the projects reduced and before long she wasn’t getting any. Turns out, ‘out of sight out of mind’ is a real life phenomenon…lol! The instant she left campus, the research projects she was getting assigned just stopped coming…and so did her referrals…Given the circumstances, for someone who was always so buried in work, finding themselves idle could be extremely overwhelming…not to mention frustrating!

When kids are struggling so hard to read for exams and do their homework, seldom are they given some heads up about how difficult it is to find jobs. But looking at the bright side, it could be a good thing because no one would ever want to waste their time hunching their backs reading and then for their efforts to be futile.

Due to this, my big sis is almost always in low spirits. She’s even lost weight because of all the stress that has taken away her appetite. Sometimes she’ll stay in bed the whole day but when she gets up she has visible under eye circles…a clear indication that she’s not getting enough sleep. Moreover, she’s become so touchy nowadays so the rest of us have to walk on eggshells while around her for fear of getting her all upset.

On a bad day I’ll snap at her but when I’m all calm I understand what she’s going through. I mean, she graduated with a magna cum laude in her undergrad and in her masters she still got a GPA of 3.75, yet she was hardly getting time to read because of the research work she was doing. And now, all she has to show for her hard work are hours and hours of idle time that are slowly pushing her towards the edge of the precipice.

This hasn’t just taken a toll on her, but also on mom, who’s wondering why God’s taking so long to hear our prayers. I don’t know if I mentioned this in any previous post, but slightly over a year ago mom closed her beauty shop, because it wasn’t making enough money and every month she had to pay the rent. Owing to that, she’s also home nowadays. It’s just depressing!

I never imagined getting a job could be this difficult. In my honest opinion, parents shouldn’t force their kids to stay in school. For the longest time, Arts have always been frowned upon but take it from me, ‘papers’ are not everything. More often than not, for those papers to work, someone needs serious good luck and then to know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone…in a high position.

In her attempt to apply for jobs, my sister has met very many swindlers who promise to give her jobs and so far none have materialised…when not desperate it’s very easy to see some quack coming from a mile away but desperation really makes us myopic. Sometimes, I guess it’s due to the despondency, we refuse to see what’s right in front our eyes…and then when things start going awry, that’s when we snap back to reality, as though rousing from some hypnotic daze.

One of the recent swindlers is a renowned politician whose name I’ll withhold. Mom bumped into him in our estate and eager to find my sis some job she requested him to come over so he could meet her. That was a week ago. After talking with her he promised to get her some job and true to his word, that evening he assigned her the position of project coordinator for some youth project he was running.

When the politician, a former presidential candidate, walked into our house that morning, I was preparing to leave for the bank so even when mom came to tell me she had brought him over I wasn’t moved. In any case, I actually reprimanded her for bringing a total stranger into our house.

Then again, she would never understand me because while she’s very social and outgoing, I’m very introverted and I like to keep strangers out of my personal life; and home is technically the ‘heart’ of personal…

Height of Addiction

This weekend has been an intense emotional roller coaster, both for me, my mom and my sisters. A lot has happened, and it all stemmed from one misguided action… so basically what we’ve been experiencing is some sort of domino effect.

This past Friday, I was working on some school assignment in the evening when mom received a call from a friend. It was an urgent call. I could not hear what he was saying from the other end but the worry in mom’s voice made me guess all was not well. When she got off the phone, she came to talk to me.

Apparently, the friend had asked her to go get dad because he had been roughed up during a bar brawl. He’s been on his annual leave for the last three weeks and all he’s been doing is bonding with his favourite beer bottles. That’s all that seems to matter to him, sadly. That day he had left home early in the morning to go to the bar and he had come in around 2.00am drunk after spending the entire Thursday afternoon out.

As she asked me to accompany her to the bar dad had gone to, she sounded horrified. We did not know what state we were going to find him in so the anxiety was overwhelming. By the time I changed into decent clothes, mom had already left.

When I caught up with her, she was already with dad, who was sitted on the co-driver’s seat. My jaw dropped when I saw him. His clothes were all ruffled and muddy and he had this huge bleeding bump on his forehead. His left eye was red too. I had never seen him in that state before. Worst part was, he was so drunk so his words were coming out slurred… and at the time he seemed so calm and composed. It’s like he wasn’t aware of what was going on.

Seemingly, he was in some state of utopia where everything was all rosy. To mom and I though, it felt so humiliating. This was the head of our family; my father, and mom’s husband. A wave of anger engulfed me and at that moment I felt so much hatred towards him. He was tainting our family’s image; subjecting us to public ridicule.

Initially, I’d accompanied mom so we could drive him back home since he was clearly not in any position to drive. However, another one of mom’s friends had volunteered to drive him back home before I got there. After starting the car for him because he could not locate the cut-out, I stepped aside so he could reverse the car.

Some lady who was watching asked mom and I to get in the car but I refused. There was no way I was going to be seen with dad after the drama I imagined he had treated people to. I was so mad at him. Some guys, who I also imagined had witnessed the whole scuffle, advised us to take him to hospital first. That gave me chills, because I thought, guys fight all the time, but they don’t always go to hospital for it; unless it was serious.

This had me thinking that he might have suffered some internal injuries, God-forbid. Problem is, he was looking so unkempt. He had to get cleaned before we started displaying him in public again. So mom and I advised that guy to drive him home.

Since the bar wasn’t a long distance from home, mom and I just walked back. When we arrived we found dad standing outside the car. He couldn’t even walk unaided. Therefore, mom helped him up the steps as the friend was leaving. At first I had ignored him but mom called me to go roll the car windows up.

When I started going up the stairs, I noticed bloody footsteps and I panicked, wondering what part of dad’s body was bleeding. I got to the house and I told mom about it. She hadn’t even noticed it. A few hours later, dad’s leg was still bleeding and he didn’t want to be taken to hospital. His forehead on the other hand seemed like it had been stung by bees.

Exasperated, mom called his brothers, hoping they would convince him to go to hospital and eventually, he agreed. We learned from my uncle that our 3-year old nephew was suffering from acute pneumonia and had been admitted in hospital. My sisters and I decided to kill two birds with one stone: accompany dad to hospital and visit our nephew.

We left the hospital around 4.00am Saturday morning after tests, including a CT scan showed he was ok. Due to that disruption, now the school assignment I was working on is still incomplete and I feel so inconvenienced. Every time I keep thinking this was totally unnecessary and could have been avoided.

Dad on the other hand is home with a bandaged foot and forehead and he won’t say what happened to him. He says he fell down, although some people say he got into a fight. We don’t know how he acquired his injuries. All I know is that this has caused my family great humiliation. His siblings suggested it’s time he went to rehab but that won’t work if he is unwilling.

Since I’ve known dad, he’s always been best buddies with the bottle; and as we grow older, his love for the frothy liquid seems to grow alarmingly, while everything else crumbles. Though he won’t admit it, I can tell he’s already addicted and him quitting will take a miracle. After everything I’ve witnessed, and felt these past couple of days, I would advise anyone to stay away from alcohol. It has caused us so much pain and humiliation, and this could have been avoided altogether if dad could make better choices.

Eulogizing Fishy: lessons from a goldfish. Part 2

One year went by, then two, then three… by then, we’d forgotten all our previous reservations and we just loved Fishy to bits. She maintained some degree of sass, while still appearing adorable. If her tank wasn’t cleaned as per schedule, she would swim away when someone got close to her, splashing water with her tailfin.

It was just impossible to resist her charm. Before we knew it, we were singing her ‘happy fifth birthday’… Given the disappointment we’d suffered from the loss of our two goldies, this felt like a huge milestone. It felt amazing.

Though we couldn’t pat her or talk to her, we were able to communicate somehow. She expressed her emotions in a way that was relatively easy for us to figure out. Sometimes I would find myself wondering what she would say to us if she had the ability to talk…

Due to the symptoms Chibols and Finley had exhibited before they succumbed to septicaemia, I was always looking out for shredded fins and blood on her body. Luckily she looked perfectly fine. However, a couple of weeks ago, in early August, she started exhibiting disease symptoms.

Every time we fed her she would float at the top, with her limp body bent. Sometimes she would be floating, with her body upside down. When she wasn’t eating she was swimming normally. Due to this, we reduced her food portions and stuck to feeding her once a day.

Some nights we would go to bed, afraid we’d find her gone in the morning; but to our pleasant surprise, we would find her swimming, seeming as energized as ever. We got the impression, she was really fighting to be ok… Zealously, she would fight to get over what was ailing her. Two weeks ago, she appeared to have recovered so we went back to feeding her twice a day.

That, unfortunately, was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. She started floating with her body upside down again and by the end of the next day she had sank to the bottom of the tank. Realizing her health was deteriorating, we started panicking. This time we were almost sure she was going to die… and it was awfully depressing.

Mom, who’d also grown attached to her, kept monitoring her progress and subsequently she called a friend who works in a pet shop. He said Fishy had a bacterial infection and prescribed Sera Omnipur for her. All this while, she had lost buoyancy as her head seemed heavier than the rest of her body. She tried jerking herself up but no matter how hard she tried to swim up, she couldn’t.

The research I carried out indicated she might have been suffering from a swim bladder disorder and I was just praying it wasn’t permanent. Mom went and bought her the prescribed medicine.  At the pet shop, they warned her that Fishy’s halcyon days were behind her and that the medicine wouldn’t do much difference.

In spite of that, she still got the medicine and after administering it, we were still hopeful Fishy would survive. She had proved to us she was a fighter. Up until then, we didn’t know feeding her shelled peas was an option to help with the constipation. Since we hadn’t fed her for three days we tried feeding her the peas but by then she had seemingly lost her appetite.

Even while she was lying at the bottom of the tank, she determinedly tried to get up but her body failed her. It broke our hearts that she was fighting so hard to remain alive but her body wouldn’t cooperate.  We’d keep checking on her so she wouldn’t feel so alone and somehow it seemed to bolster her will to live.

What amazed me though, was that whenever my small sis tried talking to her, she would visibly shift into a different position, in an attempt to swim. I couldn’t comprehend that, but I imagined the two had formed a special bond over the years as my sis had been the one cleaning her aquarium; so she easily recognized her.

Sadly, one week ago, on Friday morning we found her gone. I knew she was going to die given her frail health, but even then, I was overcome by grief…I couldn’t help it. She had been part of our lives for six whole years and three months. As I looked at her lifeless body that once swam in the aquarium briskly, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss engulf me. I didn’t know a fish could have such an impact on me, or my family for that matter.

Now, days later, I still miss her. I was telling my big sis how ironic it is, that we grew so attached to her, despite the fact that it’s for that same reason we refused to name her. Taking into consideration how she fought unfalteringly to stay alive, I learned the lesson of resilience. As long as one can get air into their lungs, the battle is not over yet. The plan is to keep fighting; to push, until the end. Small as she was, Fishy taught me that.

Burning bridges – Part 2

When dad suggested he was going to bring his mom home, we all voiced our disapproval. For starters, she has never acknowledged us as her grandchildren. The last time she passed by for less than hour, in the company of her three other children, things got ugly when she started attacking mom, treating her like an outsider. She threatened to take her son away, from mom…

We couldn’t fathom living with her under the same room indefinitely.

If God-forbid she came down with a cold or something, especially now that her health is frail, we could be accused of poisoning her or something. So to be on the safe side, we’re all avoiding the responsibility of taking care of her. God knows we’d really want to, even if for humanity’s sake, but that would most likely be to our detriment.

Now would even be the worst time to bring her to live with us since we all leave in the morning and come back home in the evening and as we’re in a financially tight situation, we can’t afford to seek the services of a private nurse. That means she would never have anyone to take care of her and that could earn us her eternal wrath. I doubt anyone in their right mind would want that.

Ironically, when my maternal grandma was alive, we were the ones begging her to let us take care of her. We had a tight relationship with her and because she was naturally kind-hearted, we didn’t have to fake anything with her. Whatever problems we faced in her presence, we knew she wouldn’t judge us; she wouldn’t resent us. We went to her for guidance and she was only too eager to give it.

When mom and dad fought, she never took sides. She would admonish whoever of the two was at fault. That’s something dad’s mom has been incapable of for ages. Where her children are concerned, she effortlessly takes their side. And that explains the wanting relationship she has with her daughters-in-law. According to her, they have always been the enemies.

The one daughter-in-law who at least seemed to like her a bit is the one she encouraged her son to ditch because she favoured another woman over her. So now, nature has put her in a position where she needs help, and though four generations have sprouted from her, she has had trouble finding a safe haven where she can spend her sunset years.

She called too many shots when she was strong and able, without caring whose toes she stepped on. Now those same people whose feelings she bruised are the same ones whose helps she needs. Life really has a way of shuffling things around. Problem is, tolerance and trust don’t just bloom overnight. Worse still, where trust is absent, in its place there’s too much suspicion, which could be disastrous when it’s unrestrained, like in my family.

What I’ve learned from all these is that no man’s an island. Furthermore, even when someone feels invincible because they’re financially stable and are in good health, they shouldn’t take others for granted because no one knows how tomorrow will be. We might need to use the same bridges we burned to get to the other side of the river.

never-burn-bridges

In addition to that, sometimes it’s better for parents to let their children make their own choices, however wrong they feel those choices might be. It would be too bad if a parent and their child are separated later in life simply because the parent couldn’t respect their child’s decisions. That happens to most people, especially where there are new members being introduced into the family by virtue of marriage.

The truth of the matter is, once the child grows up and leaves the nest, their better half will in most cases have a say in the decisions they make. That therefore means that when a child chooses a partner, if they insist that’s who they want to share their life with, their parents should respect that. For everyone’s sake.

I don’t know if dad’s mom regrets her past choices, but I can almost bet she’s feeling their effect now and I find it a tremendously sad situation. From what I’ve seen in my family, that simple act of parents not meddling in their children’s relationships could save generations tonnes of rancour. It could also spare aging parents the misery of having to spend those final days in utter solitude because they burned all bridges and therefore have no one to turn to when they’re too old to take care of themselves.

All we have to keep reminding ourselves is that tomorrow might be a very different day from today and the people we seem to despise or take for granted are the same ones we’ll be running to for help. That’s just how life is. Sod’s law of some sought.