Tag Archives: familial love

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.

 

FAMILY GET-TOGETHERS…

family get together

A while ago my dad was here, asking if my sisters and I decided to accompany him to his granny’s-my great grams- this coming Sunday. He had been telling us about the trip for the last week… I didn’t even feel an ounce of remorse as I shook my head, “No, we’re not going”. I know he feels bad that we won’t be going, but there are things one can’t feign; affection for instance, especially if one has had to fake it for a long time.

My great grams was endowed with a big family; honestly I don’t even know how many children she has, not out of ignorance, but because generally my extended family happens to be one of those very dysfunctional ones. I think she has eight children, of whom I’ve only met three-my paternal grandma, her sister and their last born, who is so young, I bet he’s my dad’s age, in his early fifties.

Every time I think of my great grams, who I suppose is in her late nineties, I see God’s favour. She has lived to see her great-great grandchildren; the fifth generation. When I was ten she was walking on her own two feet, and loved dancing a lot, but now old age has rendered her blind-partially, and can’t walk on her own without being supported.

She has her own weaknesses; she’s only human, but one thing I admire about her is that she’s a deeply religious woman; she prays a lot.

The blessings rubbed off on her children too. One of her sons, who I’ve never met, but hear people praise so fondly is a retired Catholic Bishop, who now resides in Rome. My paternal grandma has been working as a teacher, and only retired when I was clearing from high school a few years ago and her sister, runs a prestigious hair salon-last I checked- and is married to an ex-politician (only by virtue of him losing his senatorial bid in the previous elections).

Honestly, when I think of my family in general, I thank God, because we have been blessed abundantly. That however, in my opinion, has made most of them so materialistic. At the risk of being accused of hanging our dirty laundry for all and sundry to see, almost all of my paternal relatives view people in terms of what they have, how much they have… and it is precisely this sensitive issue that has weakened the bond between my nuclear family and them.

Ever since my sisters and I were small, we were exposed to so much ‘hostility’ from the rest of the family, simply because we were not rich enough…

When I tell my dad we won’t be accompanying him, he looks evidently hurt, even though he tries hard to mask it behind a façade of equanimity, and I try to understand him. That’s his family, but they don’t treat us as family. We severed our ties with them because they were treating us like pariahs; they were insufferable. For years, we listened stoically as they defamed us, we watched patiently as they treated us like crap…until we could stand it no more; when my sisters and I were kids, we always wanted to fit in, but as we were growing up, we realized that was not the kind of life we wanted to live; always sucking up to people…pretending we were happy when in real sense we were hurting inside…

Somehow, they forgot we had emotions; they trampled on us ruthlessly, but we couldn’t hate them… hate was too strong a feeling to habour against them, it didn’t feel worth it…so we flipped those switches; we stopped hurting, nothing they did affected us anymore… we became indifferent. We kept our contact with them to a bare minimum.

The last time we accompanied my dad to his gram’s was seven years ago. It was during the Easter holiday. My mom didn’t come along. She only attends extended family functions when it’s really necessary… that was just another of the ‘unimportant’ get-togethers they had decided to host, just to eat roasted meat and beer. They always met up every Easter but never invited us, except for that one time.

My sisters and I were excited; we knew they didn’t love us as much, but we had finally decided to bury that hatchet. We would do our best –on our part-to promote cordial ties between us and the rest of the family (I’ll save the details for another day, but in a nut shell, the chasm runs way back in time, long before I was born… but it has extended to our generation- our cousins and us).

We didn’t want any bad blood between us, so when we left for my great gram’s that chilly morning, we had decided to play nice. When we got there on a warm Saturday afternoon, the compound was packed. Most of the faces were new to me. Her house couldn’t contain all of us, so they had put up a gargantuan tent-in front of her front porch- enough to hold people from four generations.

Even as we walked around the place, inhaling the uncontaminated countryside air, we could feel that aura of unfamiliarity around us; we were like aliens. Our relatives who had never met us regarded us with so much affection, holding us in very high esteem, but as usual our immediate extended family treated us with disdain; doing what they do best to make us feel out of place… by the time the sun started sinking into the horizon, alerting us that it was time to disperse to our respective homes, I was already so bored… I couldn’t wait to go back home.

While preparing to leave, my sisters and I were already sitted in the car, when we heard that all the cousins had been invited for a sleep over at my gram’s-my dad’s aunt-place. We were almost elated, until we learnt that everyone had been invited, except us; the lowly couldn’t mingle with the moneyed. At the time my grandpa was actively into politics. My granma-his wife-was still basking in that glory. As far as she was concerned, we were paupers…we didn’t fit in her social circle…

I was heartbroken; I almost shed tears, but I willed myself to be strong; I wasn’t going to break down for such a petty issue; it wasn’t the first time they were discriminating against us, and it wouldn’t be the last. We had to be strong.

When we got back home, it was close to midnight, but my mom hadn’t gone to bed, she had waited up for us… when she opened the door, I saw her face and all the emotions I had been suppressing throughout the day came flooding back. I clutched my arms tightly around her, almost crying, but I wouldn’t let tears flow on their account. A few unruly tears escaped my moist eyes, and I wiped them furiously with the tips of my fingers; they weren’t worth this pain in my chest.

We sat in the living room, updating my mom on the day’s events. She was hurt, that they dared treat us like we were worth nothing, but she didn’t say much.

“Don’t worry, it’s all in God’s hands”, She smiled comfortingly, her pain palpable. As we went to bed that night, we vowed to never attend any of those get-togethers again. If they were only meant to hurt us, we had no problem steering clear of them…