Category Archives: Memoirs

Of birthdays and milestones: Part 2

Where I’m at now, it feels like the sky is not the limit anymore…sad as that may sound… As it is, I’m all grown up so my dreams do not begin with, “When I grow up…” Nowadays, most of them start with, “God willing, when I get money…” In addition to that, even as I dream, I’ve slowly learned that not all dreams are viable; so again, unlike when I was a child, I try to be a bit pragmatic when I’m setting my own goals.

Now as I turn a year older, every birthday becomes a point of reflection, where I analyse the milestones I’ve made so far, and the dreams, which like my childhood sweetheart, have fallen by the way side. Anxiety sets in, when I feel like I’m growing older and I haven’t gotten where I want to be yet.

One interesting thing I’m starting to note about matters age is that where someone has achieved so many things… climbed great heights and all, they’re mostly termed, ‘young’. However, where one hasn’t achieved much, society perceives them as ‘old’. For instance, where one becomes a company’s CEO, say at 26, society views them as very young. On the other hand, where a person of the same age is working but hasn’t moved out of their parents’ house, they’re said to be ‘too old’.

The long and short of this is that, once a person leaves high school, everything they do will in one way or another be weighed on the ‘too old for…’ or ‘too young for…’ scale by society. And that’s just how it is, in my humble opinion.

Some of the very depressing movies I’ve watched in relation to age are ‘Ass Backwards’ and ‘Lifeguard’, starring Kristen Bell. For a young person growing up, these movies remind one that dreams might just be that, dreams! But God-forbid!

Looking back at the far I’ve come, I’m not sure what I would do differently if I could move back the hands of time… and this is not to mean that I have achieved everything I would have wanted so far. It’s just because, most things in my past were shaped by people who at the time wielded authority over me, say my parents… so it wasn’t about me making choices.

However, if I met my younger self, I would tell her not to worry too much because God’s always in control; and when you give Him time and room to work, He’ll take you, right where you need to be. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a very long time, and this is the one part of me I would wish was different. Nonetheless, I believe God doesn’t err. He made me this way for a reason.

For all the experiences that have caused me so much pain and anguish, I celebrate them. Because as they say, ‘We can’t have a rainbow without a little rain’… So as I turn a year older, I’ll continue to dream, because one thing I’ve learned these past few years is that God answers prayers. Furthermore, when you seek His guidance, He’ll align your will with His, so all dreams will be like great visions of what is to come.

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Of birthdays and milestones: Part 1

In slightly over a week I turn a year older. Yaaay! Funny thing is I’m feeling excited, but mostly anxious about it. Excited, because birthdays are that one day in our lives, when we annually celebrate the anniversary of our births and for most people it’s a day that’s arguably characterised by festivities, big or small; and anxious because nowadays birthdays to me, don’t just mean cake and fun.

When I was growing up, I waited for my birthdays eagerly. All I had to worry about was whether I’d get a new dress or not; mom had made it a tradition to buy my sisters and I dresses to celebrate our birthdays. I remember this one time I fell and sprained my ankle on the eve of my birthday… just hours to my big day. Thankfully, the special treatment I received for being the ‘birthday girl’ far outshined every ounce of pain I felt.

As birthdays come and go, I feel I’ve reached a point where, each year sort of signals an evaluation point. See, thing is, when I was a child, I had dreams…so many dreams, which were always introduced by the phrase, “When I grow up I want to/I will… and to be honest, it was fun. The sky, as they say, was the limit. All I had to do was dream it… the rest I would leave to God, and only time would tell whether those dreams would materialize.

Some dreams as I’m realizing, fell by the way side; for one reason or another, they are unattainable. My childhood sweetheart for instance; this far I’ve come, I don’t quite remember loving a guy as much as I did him. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in a relationship I would term ‘serious’ per se. For an entire decade, he’s the only guy my heart beat for…even on a dull day, thoughts of him would give me that warm, fuzzy feeling and the dark clouds would scud away.

His mom adored me, and she was hopeful I’d be married to her son someday. That’s the beauty of childhood. All dreams are valid. At the time we were around eight years old since he’s only one week older than me. As we grew up though, we started forging out our own different paths and a year after we finished high school, my sister invited him for lunch one afternoon when she bumped into him on her way to school.

At the time we had moved to a different neighbourhood so we didn’t see each other much; not to mention all the adventurous spirits brought to life by teenage hood. It’s usually a time of trying out new things…actually come to think of it, it’s like shopping; trying out all things to see which fit better. It’s all about self-discovery. Therefore, we had not gotten an opportunity to sort of synchronise our dreams.

That afternoon, when he came over for lunch we talked a lot, and somehow it felt we were going to rekindle things. The chemistry between us was intense. However, the next time he came over it was unannounced; and after spending some time together that day it dawned on me, we were never going to be an item again. He had changed, and I had changed as well. Simply put, we were incompatible.

That evening as I saw him off, all the fire that had burned in my heart for years died abruptly. It was then I realized I needed to move on. Interestingly, we have never ended our relationship formally. So just like that, a dream I had held onto for ten whole years went up in smoke. That, is just one of the many beautiful dreams I had as a child that with time proved unfeasible.

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.

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.”