Tag Archives: childhood

Dance with my father

When I was small, I had memorable birthdays. Unlike my sisters’ birthdays which always fall during school terms, mine falls on December, around the holidays. This put me at an advantage; my birthday was always celebrated; we didn’t have to postpone it or skip it entirely because we were still in school. It also made it easier for our family friends to remember it. I felt lucky. But that is not why I remember my birthdays fondly. It is not for the beautiful gifts I received or for the enormous love showered on me by my family and friends; it is for one little birthday tradition we had.

Later at night, when we couldn’t take in any more of mom’s scrumptious food, we would have a session with dad; a dance session. At the time our taste in music hadn’t been lucidly defined, so we went with dad’s choices. He listened to Madonna, Kool and the Gang, Janet Jackson, Vanilla Ice, Black Box, Fine Young Cannibals, Abba, Michael Bolton…he had a vast collection of albums, and I enjoyed listening to his song choices. He was (still is, but I’m not particularly into his current choices) crazy about music; I think that’s where my sisters and I inherited our ‘music bones’.

On my birthdays, there were these particular disco party non-stop mixes we couldn’t pass up. We had to dance to them, it didn’t matter how tired we were. If my dad forgot, we would beg him to dance with us and reluctantly, but happily he would join us on the dance floor. Mom wasn’t such a dancer, so she would just sit on a far sofa, watching us, visibly entertained.

dance

Sometimes engrossed in the fun, we would mimic mom’s reserved dance moves-we’d seen her dancing a few times-and unable to hide the excitement she would burst into a hearty laughter. It was fun. We were dancing freestyle; if we ran out of moves, we would imitate dad’s moves, dancing to the tunes. I loved every bit of it; my sisters did too, and so did my parents.

The last time I danced with my father was during my thirteenth birthday; when I entered teenagehood.

We made wonderful memories; but that was back in the day, when dad wasn’t too caught up in his own misery; when everything didn’t seem so dark in his eyes; when he wasn’t so bitter; when his leisure activities didn’t only include drinking and listening to morose songs.

I miss those days, and it’s not the dancing I miss, it’s what those moments represented. They were happy moments.

Making Choices

making choices

In my recent posts, I have been writing about domestic violence. It’s a topic I rarely delve into, because it takes me back to a past I try so hard to forget; but then some issues can only be ignored for so long. Many people blame their parents or someone close to them for their shortcomings. Personally, I have more than enough things I blame my parents for. Sometimes I feel if it wasn’t for my relatively damaged past, I would be a much happier person than I am today. When I sink into my occasional depressions, I feel my past contributed a lot.

I’m not the only one; I know people who despise the lives they lead because it’s not what they would have chosen under normal circumstances, and were only led to make the choices they made by undesirable state of affairs.

Nonetheless, life doesn’t always have to take the course someone else carved out. The good thing in life is that each one has the right to make their own choices. One doesn’t have to turn out damaged because they met/lived with an equally damaged person.

Studies show that many perpetrators of abuse were themselves abused at one point; dealing with the trauma turned them into abusers. But slowly I’m learning one can lead a totally ‘clean’ life; one that’s not marred by a horrendous past. The one thing which determines the path one takes is their willingness to change. If one desires it, it will happen gradually. It could be difficult at first, but with determination, nothing is impossible.

Miss Independent

miss independent

Ne-yo loves Miss Independent; apparently I love her too. My damaged past has taught me a lesson or two concerning independence. For starters-I don’t mean to step on any toes-but I feel the only reason most men ask their wives to stay home, is so that they can control them. Some cite love and concern, but honestly, I feel there’s more to it than meets the eye. Again, I apologize if my opinion appears skewed. It’s just that the ‘culprits’ I know personally haven’t convinced me otherwise.

My dad for instance; when I was about nine, he asked mom to quit her job; he said he would take care of her. At first mom was reluctant; she wasn’t sure that was what she wanted…but dad could be charming at times; when he’s not fighting he could be really sweet. Mom fell for his charms; she went ahead to hand in her resignation letter.

I have reason to believe those few years she stayed out of work are her worst to date. It’s like by giving up her job, she had also given up her freedom. She was at dad’s mercy. He had the last say in everything, even when it came to basic necessities such as food. If she wanted anything, she would have to consult dad. She had willingly, handed him the reins of power…I don’t fault her really; she trusted him, but apparently he took her for granted.

If mom was alone, things would have been easier I know; but she had three little mouths to feed. Even with the struggle, she had to take care of us. I think it’s at that time when their run-ins intensified because mom wasn’t satisfied with the treatment dad was giving her, and dad wasn’t willing to make it better.

One night dad came home past midnight, drunk. He hadn’t been giving mom any money for replenishing our food supplies. We couldn’t sleep; it was difficult to fall asleep hungry. We stayed up; hoping dad would be kind enough to bring us some fast food. The minutes ticked away, and as the clock struck midnight, we knew this would be one of those nights we went to bed hungry.

Finally he came home, reeking of alcohol and roasted meat. Obviously he was full. Mom asked him why he was being so unfeeling. She was hurt. We hadn’t eaten, and dad was doing that on purpose, because he knew she didn’t have money at the time. Mockingly, he threw money on the table. He didn’t seem bothered by the dejected looks on our faces.

Mom snapped, “You’re giving me money? At this time? What do you want me to do with it? Slice it up in their plates and feed it to them or what?” She was hurt, angry, and frustrated. In his drunkenness dad snapped too and they started fighting. We went to bed ravenous with our eyes red and puffy from all the crying, and our hearts heavy.

The next morning mom used that same money to buy us breakfast. I watched miserably as she struggled to cater to our needs; it was just humiliating. She had to suck up to him so she could get money for whatever she needed. I noticed everytime she needed money, dad wouldn’t give it to her without a fight.

Mom got tired of the vicious cycle and she started looking for a job. But as it turned out, it wasn’t a very simple task. It took longer than she had anticipated and all the while she had to endure his torturous deeds. She contemplated leaving him, but then she figured if she left we would suffer the consequences because he was still the one paying our school fee. So she put up with him, with all the frustration.

Mom, determined to get her life back on track, started her own business with the little money she had been saving up. It was difficult because dad was against it, but she pressed on. It didn’t bring her enough income, so she closed up and continued looking for another job.

It wasn’t until mom found a job that I saw her truly happy. She had gone through so much humiliation; I always opt to block those memories out of my head because they’re just so many and extremely heartbreaking. Sometimes it’s just easier pretending it didn’t happen.

When she went back to work, her fights with dad reduced remarkably; she didn’t need anything from him. She was independent.

A few months ago he was asking her to quit her job; but this time, it was different. He asked her to quit her job so she could take care of him, so that she-in his own words-could serve him. I impenitently laughed in his face. “Seriously?” I asked, then I started laughing again. Honestly it wasn’t funny in a rib-tickling way, but I found it ludicrous. He was clearly offended-that’s what I was hoping to achieve (I hate myself for that, but it’s the least I could do to let him know what I felt. He rarely lets us speak our minds). I doubt mom would ever fall for that again. No one in their right mind would forget the humiliation she went through.

I learned that it doesn’t matter how much one’s partner has; if it’s not mine, then I’d rather do without it. There’s just something about having money that one has worked for; it’s liberating. I love miss independent; the freedom; the peace of mind…

Oh there’s something about

Kinda woman that can do for herself

I look at her and it makes me proud…

 

Damaged

depressed

Ever since I was seven, I’ve been watching my parents fight; I would wish it wasn’t that way but unfortunately it is. One thing I’ve gathered over the years is that parents should settle their ‘beef’ away from the children. If I’m anything to go by, parents should never fight in front of their kids. It’s just destructive; it messes a kid up on so many levels. That’s a vital lesson I’ve learned.

When I was nine-by then I had gotten used to seeing my parents fight; it felt normal- I got caught up in one of my parent’s wrangles. I don’t remember how it started, all I remember is finding myself in my parents’ bedroom; I had heard mom shouting. When I walked into their bedroom, I was horrified to find mom pinned down on the bed beneath dad. He was hurting her.

Instinctively, I rushed in and started pulling on dad’s pants. My hands were tiny at the time, so I just got hold of one leg. Furious, he kicked hard and I staggered a few steps back, falling on my bum. I don’t remember getting hurt; I was reeling from the shock of seeing mom calling for help. That was all my mind could register; mom needed help, and I couldn’t help. So together with my sisters, we started wailing, asking him to let her go.

I don’t remember how long he went on, or when he stopped. The next morning, I was still distraught from watching the scathing scene. I felt like a lifeless zombie as I walked on the school corridors. That day I talked to my class teacher about it. I just couldn’t take it anymore; I had to tell someone. I can’t quite remember what she told me but I remember feeling relieved.

Since then I have witnessed so many similar scenarios, but that one refused to go away completely. It torments me; I guess because it was the first time I saw mom so helpless.

Unconsciously, as I watched them over the years, I started building my defense; even when I didn’t jump in to help I’d start contemplating the best counter attack; if someone said something nasty, the best thing was to lash back. If someone hit, hitting back would happen almost naturally. It all happened in my head and as it turns out I’m really good at visualizing stuff; that’s how I learn most of the practical things.

When I learnt how to belly dance for instance, I just watched my big siz doing it, visualized it when I was in bed at night, the next morning when I got out of bed I just tried moving my hips and voilà, I was doing it like Shakira; it just took a little practice to smooth out the rough edges. That’s how it was as I watched mom and dad fight, hurling expletives at each other; it is those same obscenities I would hurl at other kids whenever I found myself in some altercation. Coming from a kid, the words were X-rated.

Naturally I have a quiet demeanor; most of my extended family only know my calm and composed side, because I always prefer to take the high road even when I feel they’re driving me nuts. The upside is I sleep comfortably at night, without any guilt troubling my conscience…and for that peace of mind, I always opt to walk away from heated scenes. It does get unbearable sometimes and inevitably I lush out, but nowadays such moments are rare.

The longest time I stayed home was after leaving high school. Normally I’d just be home for a few weeks on holidays but at that time, I didn’t have the option of taking a break from all the drama while away in boarding school; I hated life there but it did break the monotony of watching my parents fight. Watching them at it, tempers flaring, constantly brought back the violent side I had tried so hard to bury while in high school. Worse still, as I watched them go on and on about matters I wished they’d deal with out of my sight, I started building my defense again, countering them in my head.

At the time, mom’s regular run-ins with dad also made her snappy; her words were ever clipped and she just felt cold. I wrote a lot at that time, because I realized it felt therapeutic. Sometimes I would just cry it out. I grew tense from all the madness; I didn’t want to say/do anything I would regret, so I held it all in.

I fell into my first bout of depression at that time; I didn’t know what it was then. I just felt miserable; like life had lost its meaning. Everytime they started fighting I would get muscle spasms from all the anxiety. I ended up getting medical treatment for it, after developing an incessant headache and insomnia, which stayed with me for one and a half years.

After recovering, that’s when I realized I didn’t want to be a part of it anymore. If they decided to fight, I would just watch impassively. Going with barely any sleep for close to two years had taught me a tough lesson. I wasn’t going to live their life anymore. That was one of the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life. I reset my thoughts and focused them on the positive things in my life, and to date, that’s how I deal with it.

My baby siz however, hasn’t mastered the strength to be indifferent; so everytime she hears people-even outsiders-talking with their voices raised, even when they’re not necessarily fighting, she stiffens with fear, her heartbeat rapid. If she’s asleep, she’ll suddenly wake with a violent jerk, perturbed by the noise. I sympathize with her a lot. I don’t like to hold my parents responsible for it, but as much as I hate to admit it, this could have been avoided.

I couldn’t do much to change that part of my life, but I know one thing for sure, I wouldn’t want my kids to go through that…no one should. Parents should remember kids rarely forget; they could block it out, but most of the time the memories haunt them into adulthood. It is damaging. I feel damaged.

I’ve grown up with so much violence around me, I’ve become naturally defensive. Even when I walk away, I do it consciously, fighting all the urge to lash out. Sometimes it is difficult to hold back, especially when it’s a recurrent issue; when one keeps pushing all the wrong buttons because they don’t see me snapping. In such instances I just let it out.

I hate it when I do it, but sometimes it’s just inevitable; one can only take so much. I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to the life I’ve lived, so every day I strive to find the peaceful way out when faced with a challenge. As it is, I feel damaged, but I already resolved to make different choices…to ‘make love’ not war.

My peace-deprived childhood makes me crave serenity so intensely; that’s my ray of hope; that after all, I won’t be extending the emotional turmoil from my past into my future, God willing.

 

Violent…Am I?

parent's fighting

Recently I read an article that highlighted tell-tale signs that one’s partner may have abusive tendencies:

a)      He or she was physically abused or psychologically abused as a child.

b)      He or she has previous involvement with domestic violence.

c)      He or she saw one parent beat or dominate the other

d)      He or she witnessed one or both of their parents abuse alcohol or drugs.

According to the article, it would appear I’m a violent person, but I’m I really? No.

On why I could be a teetotaller, a good friend Jowal posted a very insightful comment; he quoted a story about two brothers who turned out so different from watching their father abuse alcohol; one became a teetotaller because he didn’t want to be like the father whereas the other became an alcoholic, just like the father.  Basically, in life one can’t always choose what they go through, but one has the power to choose what path they take afterwards.

As a child, I was introverted, but I didn’t miss the chance to ‘dig my claws’ into anyone who crossed my path. Students knew I was a walking time bomb, even though I managed to hide behind a façade of equanimity; but I was fine, as long as no one tried to ‘detonate’ me. When I was far from my mom, where I knew she couldn’t intervene, I’d take matters into my own hands; standing up to anyone who dared offend me.

Sometimes I’m tempted to think my mom resulted to have us-my sisters and me- shipped away to boarding school to save us from the daily violent attacks dad put us through when he and alcohol became best buddies. The attacks weren’t really aimed at us, but somehow we got caught in between.

I remember one time, while away in boarding school, I got into a fight with a girl I shared a bunk bed with. It was late at night. The matron on duty came rushing to our dormitory when the other girls started screaming. By the time she walked in, some girls had managed to tear us apart. One big girl had pinned my arms behind my back. As I stood there panting heavily, I took a moment to access the damage I’d made; I realized my adversary had scratches on her face and somehow I’d ripped her night dress from the neckline downwards.

I couldn’t recall doing it; I had done it in a heated moment…incandescent with rage.

The matron matched us to the headmistress’ quarters, but as it was late she asked us to see her in her office early the next day. The following day, during our Friday assembly, we were paraded before the whole school, with the furious headmistress branding us the two bulls of the school. We spent the better part of that day carrying out our punishment.

I wasn’t one of those kids who picked fights with anyone for no apparent reason; whenever I got into fights it was to defend myself or people I loved. For instance, when I got into that fight, it was after stomaching prolonged tension inflicted on me by my bed mate, a girl others feared because no one understood her background.

When clearing from primary school, one of my friends, who was the school’s headgirl at the time signed my leavers book; she added a P/S, requesting me not to start the third world war. I laughed when I read it, but I wasn’t oblivious to what she meant.

When I joined high school, I didn’t like the school at first because my dad had forced me to go there. I spent the whole of my first year contemplating my transfer. My mom was behind me all the way. She didn’t want to see me suffer and she understood I wasn’t comfortable in that school. The situation was even worsened by the fact that I’d gotten off on the wrong foot with the school’s administration; I had my long hair relaxed, which was against school policy. I spent the first term in and out of the principal’s and the guidance counselor’s offices explaining why I wasn’t going to shave my hair as was the required punishment.

The other girls loved my hair; they sympathized with me. Slowly, I came out of the shell I’d retreated into and I realized the school wasn’t that bad. During that period, I also realized I didn’t want to retaliate. If anyone crossed my path I’d just ignore them. I realized it was easier to be indifferent towards them than get myself into more trouble with the administration. My conscience also felt light; I wasn’t tormented by the memory of hurtful stuff I’d said to someone during a heated argument. I enjoyed the tranquility.

The students I went to high school with never got to meet my wild, untamed side. I had realized violence didn’t solve anything; it just aggravated things.

It wasn’t easy to remain graceful under pressure, but I tried. When I went back home I would find myself in the all-too-familiar scene; dad driving everyone up the wall. I would sermon all my strength, restraining the anger burning inside me; sometimes it would work, but at other times I would succumb to my rage. I would speak my mind out; in most cases the words felt like dagger stabs to those on the receiving end; I just didn’t see the need to sugar-coat things.

I knew I had only said what needed to be said; nothing was untrue, but even so, I couldn’t stand the guilt of knowing I had intentionally/unintentionally hurt someone. I learnt to bite my tongue. It was a struggle bottling up all the emotions, which were a combustible mix of raw anger and frustration. I fell sick in the process from all the stress; but I never looked back. I pressed on, determined to change my violent ways. After a few years, I learned to control my temper.

I would attribute my violent outbursts to the fact that I was subjected to so much domestic violence, but I made a choice; to not be like my father. It was difficult, and still is; sometimes I run into people, who get my patience running awfully thin, but I have mastered the art of walking away; nevertheless, dad hasn’t changed; he’s actually more violent than ever, but watching him just strengthens my urge to be a better person. That’s a choice I made. Everyone has a choice to be what they want to be.

Why I could be a teetotaller: Part two.

no alcohol

As a kid, one of the things I admired about my dad was that regardless of how much alcohol he had imbibed, he wouldn’t stagger; he always remained collected and he didn’t seem to forget anything he did/said when he was intoxicated.

At one time, we thought he was extremely drunk so when he was seated on the couch dozing off, my sisters and I decided to get to some mischief. We pulled some money from his shirt’s pocket. He only opened his eyes for a few seconds, and we stilled, but he went back to counting sheep.

In the morning, he came straight to us asking for his money back. We were shocked. We had assumed he wouldn’t remember a thing. Meekly, we told him we had spent it. We still had it of course, but we didn’t want to part with it. I bet he read the mischief on our faces and let us get away with it deliberately. He didn’t even scold us. He tried to look stern, but his brown eyes sold him out. There was a trace of amusement in them. That was my sweet dad, ever patient with us.

I had seen some of our neighbours staggering home, and later we would be treated to a ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ show. There was this guy, he was the second born of our neighbour from staying in. To date, he is the most repulsive drunk I’ve ever met. He would walk into his parent’s compound drunk into a stupor. Then he would walk into the house, drag his old dad out, and with a mop handle, he would rain blows on him, he didn’t seem to care where they landed, beating him senseless. It was horrifying. I haven’t the slightest idea why he did that.

His old dad, who we were so fond of, passed on silently one night, sitted on the couch. We were woken up by loud screams which cut through the night, and I remember the first thought that came to mind as I lay in bed was a grim one; the old man had died. We didn’t know for sure what had happened until dawn when mourners started streaming in, and I realized I had been right.

I couldn’t help wondering if the wayward son had gotten the chance to ask for his dad’s forgiveness. I don’t know if it was out of guilt, but soon after his dad’s funeral, our neighbour’s son stopped drinking.

Silently, I found myself looking up to my dad on matters drinking; he managed to remain composed even when he had consumed large amounts of alcohol. Sometimes I even preferred him drunk; he was so lively; so relaxed. We would dance, and occasionally we would do karaoke, and he would record it all on tape.

But with time, and so much pressure from his mom, it all changed. The one person, who had given me hope, that one could drink and still look happy, became the one person I hated to see drunk. Each drop he consumed seemed to drain all his joy, leaving a vicious man in its wake. All he wanted to do was fight.

The roles reversed and it happened that my parents became the ones to treat our neighbours to scenes from Brangelina’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The only noticeable distinction was that there were no firearms involved. Our once happy home became a place I dreaded. Dad would only be my happy dad, until he took alcohol, then he would visibly morph into evil dad, seeing faults with everyone; with everything he laid his eyes on. At times he would challenge mom to fist fights, but she knew better than to oblige.

We would watch from behind closed doors, but when things intensified, we would throw all caution to the wind and run to intervene.

Slowly, as I watched similar things unfold with passing years, I started developing a negative attitude towards alcohol, with the realization that I didn’t want to be like my father. I couldn’t comprehend any of his violent outbursts, but one thing remained evident; when he was sober, he was my happy dad- the one I loved, the caring one, the kind one…

Each time he drank, turning the house upside down, I would calm myself down; all I had to do was wait till morning, and he would be back. Happy dad would be back. I was never disappointed. In the morning, when his head had cleared, he would resume his happy self, looking so innocent and loving.

However, to my displeasure, I noticed that his two shades have become permanently conjoined by alcohol, melding them into one version of him, with his darker side being dominant over his recessive good side, which we rarely catch glimpses of. I’m still in the process of trying to understand him; to assess what I feel for him. Sometimes I feel it’s still love, but at times he leaves me so enraged and I start second guessing myself. It’s a feeling that oscillates between love and hate.

When I look at him-the man he’s become- and the fact that his dad died of alcohol related complications, I feel I have reason enough to be a teetotaller.

Why I could be a teetotaller: Part one

If I say I take alcohol, I would-to some extent- be lying…and if I said I don’t, I know some people who would raise their eyebrows at me. Honestly, I have trouble answering this question. I’m not a teetotaller, but given the circumstances, I could be one. Somehow I seem to have a thing for peripheries; fences if you rather-something I can’t say I’m proud of; but sometimes it is just beyond me-like in social misfits.

To be succinct, I’m a light drinker; a conscious decision I’ve made over the years. I only drink on special occasions-parties mostly-and even so I always try to keep my consumption in check, lest I wake up to horrid revelations of things I said/did when I was under the influence.

Methinks Aly’s alter-ego would be a stripper, dancing on bars; maybe one day I’ll get myself drunk enough to do that. I’m not particularly big on dutch courage, but it’s something I imagine I would do when intoxicated. But so far, I must admit, the most I’ve ever drank was a few glasses of wine, which tampered with the ground level, I came so close to staggering.

wine

Funny thing is, with the way I started out, one would have thought me and alcohol would be best buddies. I’ve been given a few pointers on matters drinking: not to mix drinks, to drink when I’ve eaten, to take lots of water, by my old man, but even with this in my mind I refrain from alcohol consumption. I’m thankful that this far, I’ve come I have managed to not over-indulge.

When I’m out with friends they often ask why I don’t like getting drunk, and I simply tell them it’s because I like being in control of my actions. Truth is, there’s more to it than that; I fear that I could turn out like my dad; moreover, looking at my paternal side, drinking seems like a genetic thing; no one’s a certified alcoholic so far, but…it’s not a culture I would want to extend into our lineage.

My dad has always been drinking since I was born. At first he would do two bottles tops, but over the years he has managed to become a full-blown drinker. Recently I declared him an alcoholic. I didn’t tell it to his face upfront; I merely alluded to it in a four-paged text, pointing out that I felt we had become so detached, because he hardly spares any time for us; if he’s not buried in his work at the office, he’s somewhere drinking his wits away.

One might argue that since I’m all grown I should give the man a break, but deep in my heart, I know I will never be too old to be my father’s daughter.

Apparently, he never let me forget that text; not that I would wish to, because I still have it saved in my phone. I thought it was sweet when I sent it, still do, but he managed to misconstrue it and subsequently went on to fight about it. He was so furious; he constantly said he would snap my neck because I had called him an alcoholic. I knew he loved me too much to do such a thing, but when inebriated, I didn’t trust him. I kept my distance.

My sisters and I were introduced to alcohol at a very tender age. I was around seven at the time. But we were only drinking for the heck of it, sipping on it, straight from the mug; not because we relished the taste, but because daddy was drinking it; it was cool.

Everytime my small sister saw my dad drinking she would bring her sippy cup and dad would pour her a little of his bottle’s contents and in a single gulp, she would dispose it off in her tummy, then she would ask for more. But dad always had a sweet way of turning her down. We were afraid she would become an addict but somehow she made different decisions along the way and now she hardly drinks.

Once when we were small, around the same time, I recall this one night; dad was out drinking, then he came home late at night. He opened another beer and I’m guessing he had taken enough that day because soon after he had poured it into the glass, he stood, leaving it barely touched.

It was a Saturday, and we were watching a movie; mom was already asleep. We were alone in the living room. At first we thought he had gone to the bathroom, but after a long while we realized he had gone to bed.

Mischievously, we drained the glass, then sipped the beer straight from the bottle in turns, until the bottle was empty. I don’t know why, but we went to bed feeling like heroes; like we had slain enemies on the battlefield.

The next morning, as we prepared for church, we couldn’t help gloating about our achievement; how we had ‘emptied’ dad’s bottle. He just grinned, while mom just watched us speechless …but she didn’t seem mad. They found it amusing.

I thought it was amusing too, but over the years, as I watched my dad morph from the fun loving man he was into a cold, violent and distant stranger, I realized I wanted to be different.

THE ONLY GOOD THING MY GRANMA EVER DID- she birthed my father

Most of the people I know, me included have one principal desire; to love and be loved. It feels good especially, if the people one refers to as family love them; if that family stands by one’s side during tribulations…but what happens if that same family is the root cause of one’s misery? Where does one turn?

The other day I posted on fb that the only good thing my granma ever did is she birthed my father. I received a couple of ‘lols’… it was one of those numerous moments when I say something serious but people assume I’m just nuts…I didn’t mind it though, I actually felt good that they saw the humorous side of my lamentation. So ‘what would make someone say that about their granny?’ one might ask…

Aplenty! Reasons aplenty…

For starters, my paternal granma doesn’t love my siblings and me, and if she does, then she definitely has a very funny way of showing it. One might be tempted to think I’m just a love-deprived person trying to seek attention but honestly, that’s just so far from it. If I’m writing about this, it is because this little fact has had an unmitigated impact on my life, and my family of course; it is an issue that goes way back in time, back to when my parents were in their early twenties; it has defined the course of the relations my family and me have with our extended paternal family.

Basically, my mom comes from a humble background. Her dad died when she was so small, she hardly remembers his face, leaving her mother to be the sole provider of the family. She was a small-scale farmer, so she only made enough money from selling her farm produce, coffee mainly. When my father fell in love with my mother, he took her home to his mother so she could give them her blessings.

Unfortunately, my mom’s humble background had her at a disadvantage; my granma didn’t seem impressed one bit that her son was marrying a poor farmer’s daughter; he could do better. This was the root of all the tribulations my family and I have encountered so far. I hate it when my mom recounts how it happened because the memories perceptibly aggravate her; she always tells it, her voice forlorn; and one can clearly tell it’s something that pains her a lot.

When my dad took her home, his mother showed them manifestly that she wasn’t pleased; she took to treating my mom like a hand, as opposed to a guest in every sense of the word; she was just a nobody, not good enough for her son. Neither my mom nor dad seemed to mind her indiscretion, as they were madly in love. She remained persistent; she never stopped reprimanding my dad for his ‘poor’ choice.

Later, when I was only six months old, my big sister was slightly over two years of age, my dad finally bowed to pressure and he and my mom parted ways. She went back to her home. It was only after his big brother’s intervention that the two reconciled.

He found a place of their own and they moved from his mother’s. However, in spite of the distance they had put, his mother still managed to get to him. This happened during occasional get-togethers which were held at her ranch. Only my dad and his three siblings attended them. I was just starting to learn how to spell my name then, but I realized I didn’t like it one bit when my dad spent a few nights at his mother’s, because he would leave elated and come home tense, picking fights with my mother. It was horrible.

Sometimes it would be so bad, my mom would threaten to leave; but afterwards, when the storm had abated, she would hug us tightly, telling us she would stay, only for our sake. For the better part of my childhood, I remember vividly, the tormenting dreams I used to have; my mom leaving. I would watch helplessly, crying, begging her not to leave…then I’d wake up.

These dreams made me loathe my dad’s violent outbursts, because I was afraid one of them would see my mom leave. It became obvious, everytime my dad went to his mom’s, he would come back a vicious man; cold. His mother’s castigation was eating at him, slowly by slowly, turning him into a feelingless human. She wanted him to leave my mom; marry someone of a higher social status.

Once my mom told us of an argument she and her brother-in-law had; impudently he blurted out, “My mom doesn’t even like you!”

When we were small, my sisters and I never visited our granma. The first time we went to her home I was fourteen, and we went there because the entire family was meeting there for the occasional get-togethers. She seemed pleased to see us all- cousins, uncles and aunts; my dad, his siblings and their families.

We spent two days there. We travelled back to our respective homes on Christmas Eve. Before leaving, she had her help pack up some fruits and vegetables from her vast farm as a token of her appreciation that we had visited her. She gave three of her children and somehow, managed to leave my dad out. I didn’t seem to mind it- it was just food-but then later on it hit me; it’s the thought that counts; she had brazenly shown my parents she still didn’t approve of their union. Obviously my mom was piqued; when was she going to accept that she was now a part of her family? granny

The other time we went there we were with the rest of the family; usual get-together. My parents were both in absentia. They had deliberately chosen to sit that one out. My sisters and I had only agreed to go so it didn’t seem like we were ejecting ourselves from the rest of the family, but if it was worth it? I think not. We only made more unpleasant memories.

The third time we visited her was three years ago; she was sick and we only wanted to check up on her. That was the first and only time-so far-my sisters and I went there on our own volition. She was happy to see us, though she couldn’t resist inserting her side comments into our conversations, which sadly, made me realize she only favoured the person with the deepest pockets.

At the time, my big sister, who models part time, had plans of travelling out of the country. My granma had gotten wind of the interesting news and was- in my opinion- trying to warm herself into my sister’s heart so she could invite her over when she was settled. I couldn’t help feeling amused as I watched the thrill in her eyes as she pictured herself flying overseas; she was like a teenager in love.

After spending three days there, we left. The next time we saw her again she had only made a detour as she visited her second born’s first wife; we live only a few blocks apart. As usual, it was unpleasant, and I wondered why she had bothered to come.

I can’t say I hate her, because that would be too strong a word; but I can’t also say I love her, because then I would be lying, even to myself. I have no fond memories of her whatsoever; I didn’t even get to call her granma; she wouldn’t let us. Even her children-my dad and his siblings- call her by her first name…

It just makes me wonder, why wouldn’t she want to be called mom or granma? But then again, she doesn’t act like one either. When my sisters and I were small, we were always tense around her when she decided to pass by when visiting one of her other children; we didn’t know what to call her and her first name was out of question; it felt preposterous, blasphemous even.

After so many years of silent agony, when I was eighteen, we decided to call her ‘granma’ and let the chips fall where they may. We felt we were done sugar-coating her old age. Apparently it’s a family thing because last I checked, even her sister didn’t like that word so much.

I have tried so hard to think of any good thing my granma has ever done for either one of my family members or me but I found absolutely nothing. All I see are tears and intense pain; She has made our lives miserable, just because she couldn’t stand the idea that her daughter-in-law was a poor farmer’s daughter…and she made no effort to get to know my mom as a person; I know she would have loved her; but she didn’t bring extra wealth to her family, to her that is all that mattered.

If ever I found myself thanking her for something, it would be only for the primary fact that she birthed my father.

 

GOD IS WATCHING!

God is watching

Do you have those moments that you find yourself doing/saying something but when you look into the past you can’t quite recall where you learnt/heard it?

I have this story etched at the back of my mind; I’ve retold it severally, on many occasions…

When I try hard to remember where I got that story, I think I read it, only I’m not too sure where: God has three principal characteristics:-

He is Omniscient- I relate this to science; He knows everything.

He is Omnipresent-I relate this to presence; He is everywhere.

He is Omnipotent- I relate this to power; He is all powerful.

This basically means that we can’t outwit Him, we can’t outrun Him, and neither can we overpower Him.

As a kid I had my own fair share of inadequacies. Lying was my prime flaw. It was nothing major really, just those little lies kids tell to get out of snags. Most of the times I lied, I was trying to escape my mom’s wrath, whenever I erred. I already mentioned she was the quintessence of stringency.

Once, when I was nine, my mom was boiling water on the stove. I don’t know what it was for, but as she lay there on the couch, she asked me to cover it up. That wasn’t difficult, I took a plastic lid from the cabinet and covered it up, and I left it to boil.

A while later I went to check if the water was hot. My heart almost burst out of my chest when I walked into the kitchen; the green lid was slightly bigger than the saucepan’s rim; the flames had melted one part that had been protruding.

How was I going to tell my mom I burnt a lid? I panicked. I just took the lid and threw it in the furthest corner of the cabinet, hiding it behind some dishes. Feigning composure, I told my mom the water was ready. I deliberately omitted the part where I burnt the lid; I was afraid she was going to find out what I had done, but to my relief she didn’t. At the time our house helps had left recently and I was sure she would know I was the culprit if she found it. I only crossed my fingers, hoping…

My heart would always skip beats whenever I heard my mom in the kitchen. Eventually she found it, but after a very long time; it was a chilly Sunday morning, she was making breakfast while we were preparing for church. She was in a hurry, so she didn’t dwell much on it…she just wondered why it wasn’t thrown away and she tossed it in the bin…

Sometimes, my mom often took our backpacks just  to rummage through; to check if we were in possession of items that didn’t belong to us and if we had all the books they-she and my dad-bought us at the beginning of the term.

We didn’t know when she would conduct her search, so we had to have our things in order. If one lost a book or any writing paraphernalia, we made sure to tell her before she found out. Most of the time she would find everything in place, but a few things would afford us an intense scolding. For instance, she always ensured we had pencil sharpeners; she didn’t want us sharing razor blades with other kids, because she deemed it unsafe. Diseases could be easily transmitted through sharing of such sharp objects.

The forbidden fruit has invariably been sweeter; I found razors appealing. I preferred them to boring sharpeners, just for the simple fact that I didn’t have them. During the searches, my mom would find pieces of broken razors in my pencil pouch, and she would be all the rage… she would reprimand me so harshly, that I would be afraid of using them, even in her absence, lest someone from my class snitched on me.

That was the life I lived, playing when the cat was away; engaging in mischief when my mom wasn’t around.

I don’t know how old I was, but I know I was young because since then my life changed remarkably, when I learnt of a story; the story of a young man who had stolen from his family. He, just like me, was afraid of being reproached by his family, so he went to hide.

The young man walked into a dark cave, because he knew no one would find him there, and he was comfortable; but in the eerie silence, his inner voice reminded him that someone was actually watching him; God was watching; the cave was extremely dark, but not dark enough to hide him from God.

On that realization, he scurried out, in search of a better hide out. He settled for a small space underneath a massive rock. It was all solid, God couldn’t see him there…then that disturbing thought crept in his mind; God was still watching.

Afraid, he crept out hastily from underneath the rock scampering for a better hide out. His feet led him to the ocean. He took a plunge into the vast waters… but while in there, he figured the ocean wasn’t deep enough to hide him from God. He was still watching. He swam back to shore… there wasn’t a place he could hide; God was everywhere, He could see it all, even his secret thoughts. God had seen what he had done… and it’s His opinion that mattered.

As he sat there, he realized that it wasn’t his family’s wrath he should fear, but God’s. The lad made a resolve; he was going to ask for his family’s forgiveness…

That story changed my life…in my juvenile mischief I would remember, “God is watching”… and that would instantly halt me in my steps. The story taught me that it wasn’t my parents I should fear, but God, who sees it all.

So even when the sugar bowl was sitted idly on the table, tempting me to take a spoonful, the thought that God was watching would stop me…

I didn’t turn out perfect…actually far from it; I question some of the choices I’ve made so far… but I know one thing for sure, had I not learnt of that story, chances are I would have turned out worse. I stopped being afraid of my mom; if I made any choices with my mom in mind, it wasn’t because I was afraid of her retribution, but because I didn’t want whatever choices I made to hurt her, because I respected and loved her.

Ever since, I learnt to look at things from an entirely different perspective; I was afraid of God-in a reverential way; what He thought of me was all that mattered…till date, that has been my guiding precept.

 

WHERE DO BABIES COME FROM?

stork carrying baby

In January this year, I accompanied my mom to her ophthalmologist; she was going to get fit for a new pair of glasses to replace the ones she had as they had expired after the required two years duration. I was free that day, so when she asked me to take her I had no reason to turn her down.

It was mid-morning, and from the look of it, the day would be a beautiful one. The sun was out, but the cool breeze made it just the perfect day out with my mom.

By the time we got to the eye clinic, the sun was overhead; it was midday. When we walked in the place was relatively packed, but there was sufficient room for all of us. A lady dressed in a pink shirt and black tailored pants-that was their uniform- came to attend to us. She brought with her a form which my mom was supposed to fill out then after a while she took it to the main reception; she handed the form to the lady who was sitted behind the desk. The lady looked at it then went ahead to pull out my mom’s records from a shelf of neatly stacked files, which were arranged alphabetically but they couldn’t trace them, so the lady we had talked to came back with the form my mom had filled out.

It was my mom’s name they had misspelt. She went back and a while later she came with the ‘elusive’ records.

She filled out a few details then she showed us to the waiting bench. When my mom’s turn came, I didn’t see the reason to remain behind, so I walked in with my mom to the ophthalmologist’s office; she was a pretty Asian lady- judging from her appearance I presumed she was in her thirties.

We exchanged a few pleasantries and my mom and I took our seats. I took the seat next to the door while my mom took the one adjacent to the doctor’s. The doctor and my mom walked down memory lane briefly, recounting my mom’s last visit there.

The doctor handed my mom a pair of goggles which had a red lens on one side and a green one on the other. My mom, who’s already familiar with the routine put them on, facing a remote controlled screen fixed high up on the wall, that had one side coloured red and the other green. The doctor asked my mom to read some letters on the screen and she adjusted the goggle lenses based on my mom’s vision.

As the doctor controlled the screen with the remote in hand, she swung her swivel chair sideways, and then from the clear blues she mentioned she was feeling light-headed. “I think I’m pregnant”, she added excitedly before anyone of us could ask if she was unwell.” I feel this when I’m pregnant”.

“Congratulations,” mom smiled.

“I’m certain I’m pregnant,” she beamed, “I’ve been feeling this for a while now”.

“That’s your second?” Mom asked curiously.

The doctor’s face lit up, “Yeah, I still have that one son, he’s six now”. She unconsciously swung her chair sideways, “I told him his sister would be coming and he was so happy”.

Then she looked at me; I didn’t know what to say, I don’t like joining in other people’s conversations, but at the same time I didn’t want to come off as a bore… “It’s a girl?” I found myself asking.

She smiled, “We’re not sure, but I’m hoping it will be a girl.” She paused, “When my husband and I told him his little sister would be coming soon he asked where is she?” I just sat still, waiting to hear her reply. “I told him she’s in my tummy. Then he asked, how did she get in there?” The conversation was heating up. I didn’t want it to seem like I was intruding, but heavens! It was too good to resist.

When she said her son had asked where his sister was, I had expected her to tell him one of those interesting lies parents tell their kids; like, they would be getting her from the market or something close to that. But she had actually told him the truth. I hadn’t anticipated that. I thought that was brave of her.

So when I heard the ‘how did she get in there?’ part, my thoughts scattered… did she tell him about the birds and the bees? I wondered, my gaze fixed on her, eagerly waiting to hear her reply; how she manoeuvred out of that sticky situation, but she seemed a bit hesitant, I couldn’t wait any longer, “so what did you tell him?” I asked.

She turned to look at me, “I just gave him candy and he forgot all about it”. Then she turned to my mom again, to add an extra lens because my mom had said her right eye’s vision was somewhat blurry. “But I know he will be asking about it again soon, hopefully by then I will be prepared”.

That conversation took me down memory lane, back to my childhood. Kids seemingly put their parents in very uncomfortable situations, when whatever answer they need has to do with matters sex. My mom is just one of those chosen few who never go through that stage; none of my sisters and I ever asked that million dollar question, “Where do babies come from?” I’m not sure how my sisters learnt about ‘baby making’, but personally, I accidentally bumped into the answer.

After class one late afternoon, I was nine at the time; I was walking from the classroom headed home, when on the corridor I stumbled into a red book on the floor. I don’t remember what drawing was on the front cover, but it was in black. I picked the book up and flipped through the pages and I liked what I saw. The topic that particularly caught my eye was, ‘Answers parents give their children when they ask where babies come from…’

I had no idea who the book belonged to; maybe some cheeky kid had taken it to school to show it to their friends or maybe an older kid had dropped it… but I knew I had to read it all, so I put the book in my bag and took it home, hoping my mom wouldn’t see it; she always warned us against taking things that didn’t belong to us.

That evening after finishing my homework I embarked on reading that red book. I chuckled as I read about some of the white lies parents tell their kids; babies are bought from the market; a big bird comes and drops the babies right on one’s door step… Then I remembered the big birds-storks- I had seen in cartoons carrying a bundle on their beaks, and subsequently dropping it off on someone’s doorstep. The owner of the house would take the bundle, open it and find a beautiful baby staring at them.

After that, the author(s) of that book went on to explain the real thing; where babies come from. It gave a detailed explanation of the reproductive parts of the male and female anatomy and subsequently how a baby is formed when the two engage in coitus… I had taken that biology class in advance.

Just by sheer luck, I had learnt where babies come from…

Four years later, as a teenager, my teachers taught about reproduction; they were emphasizing on the topic an awful lot to ensure girls did not end up with buns in the ovens when hormones started raging at the onset of puberty. Interestingly I realized they were teaching me something I already knew. The one thing they didn’t seem to help me understand was how the baby came out…

I spent many years wondering how a whole baby passed through the birth canal into the world… I needed facts, but the people I asked weren’t so willing to divulge the details; they were prevaricating. At some point I just got tired of the undetailed answers; I thought it was time I did what I should have done ages ago; I asked my mom about it…