Category Archives: Memoirs

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.

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Eulogizing Fishy: lessons from a goldfish. Part 1

Keeping pets, whether they are of gargantuan size, or are as tiny as an ant, has a huge impact on the owner/keeper in my humble opinion. This, I have learned all on my own. Wonder how? I’ll expound on that. Six and a half years ago, one of the two goldfish we had died. We didn’t know what the cause was; but from recent researches I’ve come to the conclusion that it was septicaemia. Her fins appeared shredded, and she seemed to be bleeding from various parts of the body.

At the time, my sisters and I didn’t know much about rearing fish so we were depending mainly on our aquarist’s advice. He had gifted the aquarium to my small sis, and would come every once in a while to clean it. All he had tasked us with was doing weekly water changes. After a while we parted ways with him, so it was upon us to decide how we were going to keep the aquarium clean.

Personally, I had tried touching the goldfish once, when he was showing us how to clean the aquarium, but I found them too slimy for comfort. That was the first and last time (to date) I attempted to touch a live fish. My small sis on the other hand, didn’t find the sliminess an issue so by default she took over the responsibility of cleaning the aquarium. The only things I helped with were the part water changes and feeding.

As I have pointed out, we didn’t know much about fish so we were nurturing our goldies on a trial and error basis. For starters, we didn’t understand that feeding them too much was an issue. If I knew then, what I know now, those precious goldies might have lasted longer than they did. I remember when one of them (the female) started seeming inactive, we’d throw some pellets in the aquarium, since we’d figured they always seemed psyched up when they were being fed.

Little did we know that she was constipated and the food was only aggravating the situation. Next thing we knew, she was lying upside down, lifeless at the bottom of the aquarium. That was a sad day. Anyhu… I’m digressing…

When the aquarist showed us how to tell the sexes apart, we had named the female Finley, and the male Chibols. These two names were borrowed from a game my big sis had been playing on tagged at the time, and those were her goldfish’s names. Slowly, we got attached to the two. When Finley died, mom replaced her with another female, so Chibols wouldn’t get so bored, and to avoid ‘turf wars’ between males…

This new female that was brought into the aquarium seemed a bit aggressive and she always seemed to be chasing Chibols around. To avoid the emotional attachment, my sisters and I agreed we wouldn’t give her a personalised name, so that when she died we wouldn’t be overcome by grief like we had when Finley passed on. By consensus, we settled on the name ‘Fishy’.

A few months later, Chibols also succumbed to what seemed like Septicaemia. It was heart-wrenching! My sisters and I collectively agreed fish rearing wasn’t our thing. Ergo, we decided that when Fishy died, which we assumed would be sooner rather than later, we wouldn’t be bringing in more replacements. Discouraged, we continued tending to our only surviving goldie.

 

Broken! God, where are you?

God, where are you? Have you ever gotten to that point where you look around, and the pitiable state people are in; the deplorable state of affairs just makes you wonder if God exists for real, and if He does, why He’s watching quietly as everything goes (seems to go) awry? This past week I’ve found myself in related instances. Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes might bring into view a very bleak perspective of things.

A couple of days ago, my small sis came home looking so broken. Her eyes were all droopy and, her shoulders slouched. I could tell all was not well with her. “I cried today”, she told me.

I was in the kitchen preparing supper, so I just paused, knife in hand to look at her. “Why?”  I asked her.

A dejected sigh escaped her, before she answered, “When I was coming home, I saw this child on the street. From my estimation, he couldn’t be older than five. He was seated, leaning against a wall. I wanted to give him some biscuits I’d bought because I figured he was hungry. He was asleep, so I tried waking him up but he wouldn’t open his eyes”.

I was expecting the worst at that point… and I started dreading that the next words coming out of her mouth would be, he was dead. God-forbid! She sniffled before continuing, “I thought he was on drugs or something. Maybe some other kids already introduced him to them.”

“For most street kids it’s some sort of coping mechanism,” I explained. Then I figured he was only a small boy. I don’t have much experience with babies that I can use as some point of reference but I know some fall into deep sleep when they do get to sleep. So I also told her the same thing; or maybe, he’d been hungry for so long so he was too weak. I hoped it was the former. I know how it feels to go for a long time without food and honestly, I wouldn’t wish that, even on my worst enemy.

“When I figured he wasn’t waking up I just tucked the packet of biscuits under his sweater so the older kids wouldn’t snatch them from him. Guess what Aly? That’s when I noticed he didn’t have legs”.

“What?” I couldn’t help my surprised look. It’s not unusual to see a street child whose legs have been amputated, or who was born with under developed limbs, but hearing that about a homeless boy, and who was of such a tender age for that matter, made my heart bleed. He was out on the cold streets alone, and helpless. It certainly had to be harder for him living out in this callous world, with no one to fend for him or defend him.

His mom must have left him out there when she figured he was going to be a differently abled child. How unfair, I thought. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to live, knowing I left him out there,” my sister interrupted my momentary thoughts. “I haven’t a clue where he is. I’m scarred Aly.” She seemed broken, as those words left her mouth.

It wasn’t hard to imagine how tormented she must have been feeling. She has a big heart, and half of the times she does things even I have trouble comprehending. Sometimes I ask her not to let people take advantage of her kindness, because that’s just who she is. If there’s any weakness in her, I can bet that would be her biggest weak spot. I fear it would make her too gullible. But that aside, there was a baby living out there on the cold streets alone. The thought itself made my heart ache.

“God knows where that boy is,” I told her, “so let’s pray for Him to provide for him and that He may also keep him from harm’s way”. Nodding, she acquiesced. I could tell she would have wanted to do more for the child, but as it is, we’re so strapped for cash it hurts. Nowadays we’re merely getting by…

This and some other incidents reminded me of this Lenten reflection/prayer:

“My Jesus, the world still has you on trial. It keeps asking who You are and why You make the demands You make. It asks over and over the question, ‘if You’re God’s Son, why do You permit the world to be in the state it’s in?’

Why are you so silent?”

“…Your humility frustrates me, and makes me uncomfortable. Your strength before Pilate as You drank deeply from the power of the Father, gives me the answer to my question- The Father’s Will. The Father permits many sufferings in my life, but it’s all for my good. If only I too could be silent in the face of worldly prudence- steadfast in the faith when all seems lost; calm when accused unjustly; free from tyranny of human respect; ready to do the Father’s will, no matter how difficult”.

“Silent Jesus, give us all the graces we need to stand tall in the face of the ridicule of the world. Give the poor the strength not to succumb to their privation, but to be ever aware of their dignity as sons of God. Grant that we may not bend to the crippling disease of worldly glory, but be willing to be deprived of all things rather than lose your friendship.

My Jesus, though we are accused daily of being fools, let the vision of quiet dignity standing before monstrous injustice, give us all the courage to be your followers. Amen”.

 

Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 2

In reality, when one loves for real, they lack the willpower to pull the plug on a relationship that already feels dead. One keeps holding on, tolerating all the pain, in the hope that the relationship will work out somehow. If experience has taught me anything, it’s that a failed relationship is just that; a failed relationship. Most of the time our instincts warn us, but we choose to ignore them.

I’ll keep saying it over and over again; sometimes it’s better to walk out than hold on to a relationship that’s already dead. The consequences are just not worth it. For instance, the friend of my friend’s sister is only twenty six years old. That’s too young to be going through marital hell. She knows her husband cheats on her but she doesn’t seem to find that an issue, and why you ask? Because she loves him.

These past few days alone, I’ve witnessed mom going through untold hell. Dad’s only getting meaner with each passing day. He’s already said he won’t be paying my sister’s school fee and mine. He doesn’t seem to care that I’ve only two semesters of law school to go. So now I’m putting all my faith in God. Only He knows why all things are happening this way.

One of my greatest consolations is that my big sister finished her masters degree and she managed to do it without dad’s help. So maybe after all, we won’t need his help either. I live for the day we’ll be freed from his imposed dominance. For instance, I’m unable to point out when he errs because he holds my school fee over my head, so if I openly disagree with him he threatens to cut me off.

Nowadays I avoid him like a plague because I won’t feel the need to lash back if I don’t hear or see him doing irksome things; and as it is, that’s who he is. Unfortunately, he still gets under my skin because he treats everyone else with utter disregard for their well-being. I’m pretty sure I hate him, but I’m constantly asking God to grant me the grace not let hate corrupt my soul.

My sister tried talking to him the other day after he publicly threatened to call some young men to beat mom up, and that was after he’d almost run her over. I knew he has a dark soul, but deep down I hoped he had changed. This wouldn’t be the first time he hit her in public, but the last time that happened was about a decade ago. My small sister is still traumatised by the events of that day.

One thing I’m pretty sure of is that if mom could go back in time, she’d make different choices. Lately she’s been saying constantly that there were red flags all around her when she and dad started going out; but she was a young naïve woman, who actually believed love conquers all. Apparently, it doesn’t always. In my humble opinion, love only triumphs when both parties in the relationship are willing to fight for their love.

Yesterday when we were leaving for church in the morning, dad was getting home after spending the night out drinking. He even had the audacity to ridicule us. According to him, God’s punishing us while He’s blessing Him. On a bad day, that might have crushed my spirits; because on the face of it, that’s how I’d interpret this dreadful situation we’re in.

Dad’s getting meaner by the day, yet he doesn’t seem to be suffering in any way. On the other hand, every day my mom, sisters and I feel like God has given up on us. But deep down I know He hasn’t. He acts in time, so we just need to continue hoping in Him.

The things dad said when we were leaving for church had me thinking he’s become the devil incarnate. Worse still, when we came back from church we found he’d locked the door from inside and had left the key in the keyhole. We panicked. I rang the doorbell a couple of times, hoping he would be kind enough to open. But he didn’t.

My small sis tried pushing the key out with another key but she failed. My big sis, who had gone to sit on the steps in anguish, afraid we would stay outside until dad decided to show mercy on us just rose, deciding to try her luck.

After a few attempts she finally managed. I just can’t explain how overjoyed we were. That felt like a major triumph. The possibility that dad might have fallen into deep slumber, given his inebriated state had us terrified. Worst part is my big sis had locked the door herself when she was leaving but dad – in an unnecessary show of might- opened the door and locked it from inside, so that had us reading malice into the whole thing.

When we walked into the house, mom obviously went straight to their bedroom and lo, and behold! Dad was just standing at the window, casually looking outside. Meaning he had seen us walking to the house, and even heard the doorbell ringing, but he chose not to open the door. Where I am right now, I feel like we’re living with the enemy.

Financial dependence is incapacitating. I can only think of one reason why my sisters and I are still living with dad. But where I’m at, I’m so convinced that when I move out I don’t want to remember I have a father. So in my humble opinion, one should run if the relationship they’re in feels dead. There’s no need waiting up to a point where everything just comes crumbling.

Red flags? Run, baby run… Part 1

You’re in a relationship, and there are red flags flying all around; alarms are just ringing… when is the best time to run? If you’ve been asking yourself that question, now might be the time to run. Don’t wait till it’s too late. A few weeks ago I was walking from class with a friend, and I was asking how she’d been the previous day since I hadn’t seen her. She went on to tell me how she had visited her sister and how she witnessed her sister’s friend, who was also visiting, go into labour.

She said it so casually so I just figured it was no biggie. It was just another case of an expectant woman realizing time had come for their bundle of joy to come into the world. At first I thought the lady’s labour pains were just a false alarm, until it hit me that she was actually going into labour. Only difference is, she hadn’t been rushed to hospital yet because she had rung her husband and was waiting for him to come drive her to the hospital.

My sister’s friend was nursing an infant herself and therefore couldn’t drive her friend to hospital. It took them a while to realise the dad-to-be, wasn’t going to be arriving soon. The lady obviously started panicking, afraid that her baby would die if she didn’t get to hospital soon. She had lost triplets before, so naturally she was afraid the same fate would befall this unborn baby.

Two hours later, on realizing that the friend’s husband had bailed, my  friend’s sister called a cab. About an hour later, the dad-to-be showed up, just when the cab was also arriving. Disappointingly, he was drunk. I had trouble understanding why the guy was acting so slothfully when the matter at hand sounded like it required urgent attention. If they hadn’t lost three babies already I just might have understood him, but realising what was at stake made me judge him harshly.

I’ve seen guys who are excited about the thought of being dads. It’s usually that excitement, coupled with the love they feel for their wives/baby mamas,. This particular dad-to-be however, couldn’t have seemed far from interested. He didn’t seem remotely concerned about the grief his wife would be subjected to if she lost a fourth child. My heart bled for the lady.

At first one would imagine the guy was just nervous about how this delivery was going to turn out; and in such a case, that would be perfectly understandable. However, what I gathered is that the man’s a philanderer. He’s always getting involved with younger girls because apparently he feels he’s very hot so in his opinion they find him irresistible.

“He must be on top of some woman, when his wife is here waiting for him,” my sister’s friend had speculated when she saw the panicky state her friend was in. Thankfully, the lady got to hospital safe but delivered through C-section as she’d taken too long to get to hospital since she went into labour. She had a bouncing baby girl. That was a miracle if you ask me.

It’s only been two years since lady got married to this guy. In my books, they should still be in their honeymoon stage, where they are still madly in love with each other. In other words, the marriage is still too fresh for the lady to have started living her unhappily ever after.

“Why is she still with him?” I asked my friend. “Does she depend on him in any way?”

“She recently took a loan to buy him a car,” my friend answered.

“So she’s financially independent. She can walk away now when it’s still early,” I replied.

“She loves him terribly. She doesn’t feel like she could live without him.”

I pitied the lady. She’s madly in love with a guy who doesn’t even seem to remember she exists. “That’s one-sided love,” I said. “At some point that marriage is bound to fail. Problem is, when that separation happens, it’s going to leave a very bitter and scarred woman in its wake. If that woman knew half of my mom’s story, or even the life my sisters and I have lived, she would take to her heels.”

Family life, not meant for all? Part 3

Some people are clearly unmoved by children’s sentiments and if you ask me, it’s pretty unwise of a grown up to take offence when a child makes an innocent comment. Dad’s like that. He forgets that it’s commonly said, ‘if someone wants a really genuine answer or opinion on something, they should try picking a child’s mind’. They are honest, because they see the world through pure eyes; their emotions haven’t been coloured by biases yet.

They don’t see colour, or different religions… It’s no wonder Jesus said, that anyone who wants to get to heaven should be like a child. That said, dad didn’t dig deep into his conscience to see where he was erring as a parent. Instead, he felt comfortable telling himself all these years that my small sis was at fault for telling mom we should find a new dad.

There’s also a grudge he harbours against me because years ago, when I was only two years old, I ‘rejected’ him. As it is, my parents had parted ways when I was about six months old. Dad’s mom had been pressuring him to leave mom and find a girl from a wealthy family and somehow he had heeded to his mom’s advice.

For more than a year they were separated, so while I was growing up, I didn’t know dad. Eventually, he decided to get back with mom and when he came for us, I didn’t recognise him. So I ran. That precisely, was what he accuses me off. That I ran away from him, instead of running into his embrace. Now that I have an idea of how dad’s mind works, I try not to let that incident bother me.

When Saturday came, he left. I’m not sure whether he left for his brother’s, or he travelled back to his other house so he could prepare for work. Given that he’d gone back on a Saturday, it wasn’t hard to tell he couldn’t stand our presence.

Midweek, he sent mom some money. He didn’t call though. After assessing the situation, I told mom it would be better if she gave him back the keys; not because he deserved it, but because we should let nature take its course. We have tried our best. As it is, we can’t force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. If ever he changes for the better, hopefully he will, it will have to come from his heart. In the meantime we’ll just leave everything to God.

Earlier today, mom gave him back the keys. He was ecstatic. He even said he was going to church. He asked me if I needed a lift and I told him I’d already attended mass. He left. However, I wasn’t fully convinced he’d gone to church because the mass he purported to attend was half way through and the other would be starting in an hour’s time. I figured time would tell.

About two hours later, he came back. Mom asked him how mass was and he said he wasn’t from church. I felt disappointed he hadn’t been there but I also appreciated that he didn’t lie about it. Lately he’s become a pathological liar; guess that’s a characteristic of people getting into an advanced stage of drug addiction. His alcohol breath was a clear indication of where he’d been.

Five minutes later, he left again. Turns out he’d only come back for more money. As my big sis was on her way to get some items from some nearby supermarket, he offered to give her a lift and as she had spent the entire night up, working on a client’s research-related report, she just agreed.

While he was driving, he told her he was going to sell the car because he couldn’t use it when he wanted to see his mother. That admission rubbed me off the wrong way. I know, while he’s so fond of his mother, I can’t say the same of us. He treats us like we’re an obstacle; the greatest setback in his life.

A few days ago, I just found myself wondering why God would give an irresponsible man such as him a family to take care of, yet he seems so detached. As a brother and son, he may have been perfect but the way I see it, he just wasn’t cut out for married life. He seems to have picked the wrong vocation because as a husband and father he’s performed so poorly.

The only thing that gives me hope is the fact that God took a chance on him.  So maybe there’s something worth saving in him after all. Only time will tell.

Family life, not meant for all? Part 2

The entire week he didn’t call and he refused to pick up calls. Since he comes home on Fridays, we waited to see how he would handle that sticky situation. Eventually the week ended and as was expected, he called mom to tell her he was coming home and he wanted to find the car keys in their usual place. From what I gathered, he practically barked the order over the phone.

When he got home, he found my small sis and I. We didn’t have classes that day. First thing he did, he asked for the car keys. It didn’t escape my attention that he had alcohol breath on a Friday afternoon, meaning he’d imbibed before making his way home.

We told him we didn’t know where the keys were. Disappointingly, he dialled his brother and I must say I felt ashamed as I watched, and listened to him pouring out his heart to him about how we had hid his keys. According to him, we were colluding with our mother… which wasn’t entirely false. He went on to say some things I would have preferred remained unsaid since those are essentially family ‘secrets’; and all these he did, thinking we would be intimidated into giving him back the keys.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what authority he thought his brother had over us. He’s never come through for us when we’re in dire need of some assistance. Worse still, the last time he visited us while in the company of his mom and siblings, they tried to show mom how bad she was for dad and he (dad) blatantly took their side. Because of that and other unfortunate incidents, I do not feel his authority is binding on us. If at all he has any, it would only be persuasive.

As a daughter, I must admit I felt disappointed and ashamed. Disappointed that my old man was too blind to notice obvious things; that there are issues in our family which need to be addressed and it won’t be an outsider addressing them; and ashamed that by implication, he was giving up his ‘man card’. Because he was indirectly creating the impression he is not strong enough to handle his wife and kids, so only his brother could.

When he was done, he said he was leaving and was never going to come back. That again, he thought would function as a threat, which obviously didn’t serve the intended purpose. Shortly after, he left. Of the things that really got me so worked up was the fact that he didn’t care to ask how we’d been doing since he’d been gone, given that he knew mom had told him we were experiencing some serious financial challenges. All he cared about was his mother. The rest of us could go to hell.

Later in the evening, his brother called mom. He didn’t tell her why he was calling and only said he was inviting her to join them in some trip they had the next day. The one that had dad taking an early off on a Friday. Courteously she refused because it was on such short notice. Even he, was surprised dad hadn’t told us in the least that there was a family event; not that we would have attended anyway.

Mom asked him if there was anything else he wanted to tell her and he said there wasn’t so she just told him she knew he wanted to ask about the keys. She explained to him why she had taken them and unexpectedly, he actually understood why she had done it. He even asked if dad was still going to church. It wasn’t hard to tell he was also concerned about his brother’s behaviour. She also told him she wouldn’t be giving dad back the keys until the underlying issues were resolved.

When dad came home from the bar later, he said he was washing his hands off of us. He didn’t want anything to do with us. I had trouble understanding where he had prioritised us as his family, seeing as he was readily going out on a limb for his extended family, yet when it came to us, he seemed unperturbed.

The other day he was drunk, he got cross with my small sis, apparently for something she did ages ago, when she was around six. “You asked your mother if you could go find a new dad,” he scoffed, “maybe it’s time you did. Go find yourself another dad”.

That got me really concerned. All these years, I never knew he heard when my small sis had said that. Clearly she hadn’t said it out of pride, or anger. It was an innocent child speaking her mind out as a result of the misery our own father was putting us through.

So why would he in his right mind, not take a moment to ponder over that? Why would an innocent six year old say that of her dad? Personally I would freak out if God-forbid, I heard my children saying they wanted another mom.