Tag Archives: Father

Height of Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fatherless child: Part 1

absentee fathers

Fatherless child. Ever wondered who’s a fatherless child? I have a few ideas: it could be a child whose father is already dead; or it could be a child whose mother had more than one lover so she might not be able to tell who exactly is the baby’s father; it could also be a woman who had to raise a child alone because the father abandoned them; or it could be a child who knows the dad but he’s ever absent so the child considers him/herself fatherless.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that there may be other definitions of a fatherless child, but for the purposes of this post, discussion if you’d rather, I’ll limit myself to the aforementioned options since those are the ones I’m truly conversant with.

This post was prompted by very weird happenings; and I say weird, for lack of a better word. First of all, there’s this lady who works with mom. She has a three year old cousin whom she takes to mom’s beauty salon. So a few weeks ago mom playfully called him by his three names; the last being his surname.

Innocently, the kid told mom he wasn’t going by that surname anymore, and naturally she got curious. “My mom told me that one left us,” he answered innocently, when mom sought to find out why he was denouncing his surname.

“And the one you live with?” Mom asked since she knows the kid’s dad; or at least she thought she did.

“That’s not my real dad, but he lives with us.”

“D’you call him dad?” Mom pried.

“I just call him by his name,” he answered.

In my opinion, I felt the boy was too young for his mom to be telling him such complex matters but then again, even if she didn’t, someone else (think a nosy relative/neighbour) would beat her to the punch at some point. Anyways, that gave me the impression the boy already knew the man they live with is not his dad and that his actual dad deserted him and his mother. I couldn’t help wondering what would happen when later in future he meets him, knowing what he does now.

Then coincidentally, when I was coming home from court last Friday I overheard some neighbours’ kids talking. From my estimation they’re about three years old because they all recently joined kindergarten.

“Timmy says he doesn’t have a dad,” the only girl in that group of five children said. Timmy was also in that group, just listening silently.

“I have a dad,” another one said.

“Every child has a father and a mother,” the girl added confidently.

“But Chad says he’s the only one who has a mother and a father,” another one added. Chad wasn’t in the group with them but I know him and he’s a somewhat bratty kid who’s been mollycoddled by his parents a lot because he’s the last of three sons; so I kinda figured he had said that braggingly. I wouldn’t blame him though; his family emits the happy, perfect family vibes, unlike mine.

By the time I passed them, they were still debating about their friend Timmy being fatherless and whether it’s even possible for someone to be without a father. I pitied Timmy because I’ve heard of kids being bullied by others because they don’t have fathers. Thankfully those ones were not trying to make him feel bad about his fatherless condition.

Then in another totally unrelated instance, my small sis was arguing with dad. It wasn’t an argument per se. It was just dad doing all the talking while she on the other hand tried to block him out so she could finish fixing her breakfast.

He came home drunk in the morning after spending an entire night out club hopping and he found her in the kitchen. Mom had taken the car keys away because he always goes out to drink and by the time he comes back home he’s usually too drunk to park it.

Since he didn’t know who had taken the car keys and mom had already left the house, he assumed it was me or my sisters. When he started with his drunken rumblings, insulting us, my small sis just lost her cool and told him, he’d never been a father to her.

I understood where she was coming from; we’ve lived with him all our lives, but we couldn’t feel more fatherless. He’s been emotionally unavailable all through and never once has he tried to make up for the hurt he’s caused us. So even though we carry his name everywhere we go, we know it’s only a name.

Love you beer… The confrontation: Part 2

alcoholism

If something unsettles you, it’s better to address it and just get done with it, because waiting for it to happen is much worse… That’s what I was thinking the entire time I was watching dad. He’s really not the forgiving/forgetting type. Even if he doesn’t confront someone for something they did, he will eventually. I was waiting for the façade to come down; for him to finally confront me, problem is, I didn’t know how long it would take before he got tired of pretending everything was hunky-dory.

Two and a half hours later, he came back, visibly drunk. Mom had already gone to bed. He went straight to the bedroom. He didn’t ask for food, and no one asked if he was hungry. When he is drunk we prefer to let him be because talking to him would be opening sluice-gates to incessant carping. The night was too serene to ruin it with drunken ramblings.

Relieved that he was safely home, my sisters and I sat down to watch the fifth season of the vampire diaries. At eleven forty five, almost an hour later, dad walked into the living room and without a word he left the house.

At around two in the morning, my sisters went to bed and shortly after, mom woke up. She was stressed dad was out that late. Seeming distraught, she asked what time he had left. Seeing her so troubled reminded me what had led me to text dad on Tuesday morning; when he starts drinking, he can’t seem to stop, until he runs out of money.

By the time I went to bed at four, my old man was nowhere in sight. After saying my night prayers, I went to check on mom and found she had already gone to bed. Empathizing with her, I switched the lights off and went to bed.

Sunday morning, my alarm went off at seven forty five, and though I was sleepy, I knew I had to wake up to prep for church; however, sleep overpowered me and I drifted back into slumber, until my small sister came to wake me up at eight thirty. I didn’t have much time to prepare so I got up, prayed and got out of bed.

I didn’t know what time dad had come but my big sister told me he’d come in the morning. I wasn’t surprised; that seems to be something he is doing a lot lately. Mom had already left for the mid-morning mass, my big sister wanted to sleep in after a gruelling week interning and attending classes, and dad didn’t pick up when I tried calling him; he was in a deep sleep.

I took the car keys and asked my big sister to tell him I took the car. I knew he wouldn’t be too pleased but seeing as he couldn’t drive, I knew it was a necessary risk as my small sister and I were already getting late for church.

When we got back home later in the afternoon, dad had just woken up. He didn’t complain I had taken the car; instead he just greeted us, and left, again. He came back at around seven in the evening, took some more money and left again. He showed up two hours later, looking pretty much at ease.

Mom and I left to go sign in at the gate. It’s a security measure taken to keep tabs on all residents/non-residents, who come into the estate. When I drove in earlier, I hadn’t signed in because I had thought dad would, but then he didn’t. After signing in, we walked back to the house, and found loud music playing.

Other than the fact that it’s against estate policy, it was just too loud. I gestured to my dad, to turn the volume down.

“It’s too loud?” He shouted.

I nodded, and he acquiescently turned it down. A while later, he rose and left for the bedroom. Minutes later, he walked back to the living room, headed for the main door. Mom couldn’t take it anymore. She walked to him and asked him, evidently shocked, “You’re leaving again, at this time?”

“I’m not talking to you, unless you want us to fight,” he barked.

“Just tell us if there’s someone you can’t stand in this house. You’ve been drinking since you came. You spent the whole night out, and now you want to leave again.”

“I was listening to music and you said it was too loud, so now I’m leaving.” He threatened to hit her, but then mom told him if he dared she would call the cops on him. It wouldn’t be his first time to spend the night behind bars; eight year ago, he was at it, disrupting peace in the house when mom called the police and they took him away.

When the police came in that night I was at the verge of hitting him on the head with a soda bottle, in defence. I shudder at the thought of what could have happened had the police not showed up in time. It’s a dreadful night I try to forget.

Just like that, everything turned chaotic, everyone talking at the top of their voices, and finally dad managed to get whatever had been troubling him off his chest.

“You started this,” he yelled at me. “You are your mother’s accomplice. Don’t send me those silly texts again.”

“You need to get help dad,” I shouted. “You have a drinking problem.”

“I’ve had it with you,” he snarled.

Love you beer… The confrontation: Part 1

alcoholism 2

After texting dad, asking him to reconsider his love for beer, we didn’t get to talk and he never texted back. In preparation for his arrival, I wrote down a short essay, ‘Why I think you might have a drinking problem’, listing all the things he does that have led me to the conclusion he is an alcoholic, and furthermore attaching some receipt he’d drunkenly left lying around to support my findings.

It might sound extreme that I went to such an extent but I figured if he started accusing me of ‘calling him an alcoholic’, even though I hadn’t said it like that, he wouldn’t give me a chance to explain. On the other hand I also figured, if he didn’t rip the papers in anger, curiosity would get him to read them.

He had already asked mom to tell me to stop sending him silly texts, so I sought of had an inkling what mood he was in. I hoped to convince him my complaints weren’t just based on hearsay or things I had just concocted.

He was supposed to come home Friday evening but instead, he texted mom around eight at night, telling her he was in bed; he wasn’t coming. I know he gets lonely out there because he goes for a whole week without seeing us but somehow, as much as I empathized with him, I felt relieved he wasn’t coming.

It’s been a while since he failed to come home on weekend. The only time he doesn’t come is when he has so much work he needs to finish up in the office, especially after being on leave. So when mom told me he wasn’t coming, I imagined it had something to do with the text.

Based on previous incidents, I assumed it had gone two ways: either he had felt so ashamed that I had candidly pointed out he had a drinking problem and would try to make up for his shortcomings, or he had gotten so furious and would spend each minute of his time home threatening to snap my neck.

Well, I’m not sure he is capable of actually causing me such physical harm but nowadays there’s no telling what he can/can’t do when he’s under the influence. When the beer goes to his head he does crazy things. I hadn’t seen him since I texted him that Tuesday morning, but I knew things wouldn’t be all rainbows and unicorns when he came.

alcoholism 3

Saturday afternoon, my small sister told my big sister and me dad had called mom; he was on his way, coming home. I had imagined he would be coming the following weekend. Somehow I felt disappointed. The uncertainty made me tense up for a while, but then I reminded myself why I had sent him that text in the first place; he’s drinking a lot, and someone had to tell him.

While we were waiting for him, my big sister got a call from a friend; a lecturer she had grown to like had been MIA for a while. Reason being that he had been involved in an accident and no one knew of his whereabouts. Distressed, she called him up but his phone was off. That only had her more worried.

It was while I was comforting her, telling her not to worry and all, that dad came. When I opened the door, I didn’t know whether to smile or remain poker faced, but when I extended my hand, he pulled me and hugged me.

That, I had seen coming.

Surprised, I hugged him back. He had beer on his breath, so I assumed he had been drinking before he got home. But I didn’t care; he already knew what I felt about him binge-drinking, and that’s all that really mattered. My big sister was still feeling down and he tried finding out what was wrong with her, though she remained mum. He went straight to the bedroom and came out a few minutes later, before leaving again.

He came back almost two hours later with mom and left again right after. I couldn’t quite figure if he was happy or mad, though he seemed unperturbed; however, I knew there was a storm brewing underneath his cool exterior. It wouldn’t be long before he eventually flipped his lid…

Love you beer, till death…

i love my beer

If we had the power to turn lifeless things like beer into fully functional living things, I bet for so many people it would be a case of ‘till death do us part’.

There’s this day I was listening to the radio and the presenter was light-heartedly making the comparisons between a woman and a beer: it won’t complain when you touch another beer;

It won’t ask where you’ve been or who you’ve been with when you come home late.

You can take it anytime because it won’t give you excuses like, “It’s that time of the month.”

It won’t complain about you leaving the toilet seat up.

Beer doesn’t ask for commitment and won’t assume you’re in a relationship just because you had your way with it once.

You’re always assured you were the first one to have it.

When you go to a bar you know you can always pick up another beer and the one at home won’t complain if you go back with beer on your breath.

Beer doesn’t throw tantrums atleast once every month

It won’t replace you with dildos/vibrators and stuff…

The list was quite long but basically in a man’s perspective, a beer is way better than a woman. In a way, given all the things women are ‘accused’ of, beer would indeed seem better than a woman. However, nothing good comes easy.

love my beer

These same men who are 100% pro-beer forget the simple facts:

That a beer doesn’t prepare warm meals for the man, neither does it bestow him with the priceless gift of fatherhood. It doesn’t clean the house, do laundry or handle uncontrollable kids and that is why it will never get a headache.

In any case, it destroys what one has struggled so hard to build; relationships, a home and it indirectly demands for commitment by getting one into a defenceless addict, turning one into a pathological liar.

At the end of the day, if a man overindulges in the vice, not even the women he thinks so lowly of will want anything to do with him. There are many women who complain their husbands can’t ‘rise to the occasion’ because long-term love for the bottle tampered with their libido.

Ask my old man what kind of trouble he’s been getting into since he became best buddies with the bottle. I never thought he could ever tell a lie, but nowadays he breathes lies, spends nights out in bars, even on weekdays, drinks whatever little money he gets his hands on, picks fights with just about anyone and I have a feeling he has lost all respect among his peers.

The life he is leading now, if you ask me, is that downward spiral to self-destruction. He doesn’t want to admit that he is an addict and needs to get help. The last time I pointed the issue out, about three years ago, he got so pissed and threatened to snap my neck. After months of dread I finally overcame the fear and now I don’t really feel like I need to run for cover whenever I find myself in the same room with him.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to care about the thin ice he’s treading on. This past Monday he told mom he was on his way home (he works in a different town and only comes every weekend). By 1am Tuesday morning he still hadn’t arrived. Mom obviously started freaking out, imagining the worst. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I just took my phone and sent him an 11 pages text. It was long, but given that there’s so much I wanted to tell him, the characters didn’t even feel enough. He came home almost thirty minutes later but we didn’t talk. There was nothing infuriating in the text as I had tried to make it as sweet as possible but I knew he would get mad regardless .The ‘alcohol’ topic is one we don’t discuss freely for fear of getting him all disconcerted.

He went back to work Tuesday morning, and we still didn’t talk. Last night he called mom and after the usual ‘howdy’, he started complaining about the ‘silly’ text I sent him. Mom wasn’t in the mood to argue, so she just disconnected…

Dad’s coming home tomorrow God willing, and I’m only imagining what kind of hell he’ll raise because I ‘insulted’ him. When mom told me what dad was saying, I just told her, “I want to be in his good books, but if it means I’ll have to lie or keep the truth from him to get his love, then I don’t want it. If he doesn’t want me telling him things he doesn’t want to hear, then he should change his behaviour because I only tell him what I see.”

She didn’t say much, she just nodded in agreement.

Women might not be everything men want them to be, but then neither is beer. Everything, no matter how good it is, if taken in large amounts could be harmful. I have watched dad become an entirely different person because of the bottle.

Personally I love wine, but everytime I think of indulging, I remember what alcohol has done to my family and I get the ‘skull danger sign’ in my head… ‘Drink at your own risk’.

Fatherless

fatherless

One of my nieces, now aged four, is asking about her dad’s whereabouts. She was asking her grandmother, my aunt, “Do I have a dad?”

Her grandmother replied, “Yes, he came to see you when you were slightly younger. Don’t you remember?”

Obstinately she asked, “That far back? I don’t remember him.” I understand her. She’s only four; how much could she possibly remember from her past?

A few months after she was born I met her dad. He’d accompanied me and her mom to the clinic for her monthly post-natal check-up. At the time he seemed like just a teenager, and judging by the daughter’s queries, I’m assuming he’s joined the league of absentee dads.

My niece is currently in kindergarten. She’s starting to ask questions that all kids in her situation are bound to ask at some point. Sometimes single parents hope their kids will skip that phase because it poses many challenges in terms of what answers should be given and it’s difficult to ascertain if the answers given are age-appropriate. With my niece for instance, how does one begin to tell her that her parents conceived her when they were themselves very young so it would have been almost impossible for them to end up together then?

When I saw the guy who was said to have fathered her, I couldn’t believe it. He was so young; one could tell he wasn’t fully grown yet. I didn’t ask, but I presumed he was still in his teens. I commended him at the time for standing by his baby mama because many guys his age would just have ‘hit and run’. I don’t know when he started drifting away but nowadays it turns out he’s a complete no-show.

Now the girl is at that stage where she’s starting to realize that children should have a father and a mother and unfortunately her dad’s missing in the picture. Plus there’s that awful possibility that sometimes kids make fun of each other and she might not be an exception to the ridicule. Those little people could be nasty at times… but we love them still. One could hope that their kids wouldn’t have to ask those questions, but how does someone hope for such when in school one of the primary things children learn is about the family.

When I was still a small child, in my first year of primary school, I remember being asked by my teacher to draw and name the members of my family. I had an amazing time drawing and colouring them. With that in mind, I find myself lost when I try to think what a child in my niece’s situation would do. She would probably draw herself, her mom, her grandmother and her nanny; because those are the people she’s grown around. And I’m assuming there would atleast be one of her classmates who, in her innocence, would ask, “Where is your dad?”

I empathize with my niece; she’s only four. At what age will her mother or grandmother feel confident she’s old enough to learn the truth? And until that time comes, what is she supposed to tell other kids her age? Those kids who don’t understand that sometimes it’s impossible to have both parents around. How will she handle the vicious remarks other kids utter sometimes? I don’t know really if it’s possible to tell children not to worry or give much thought to such brutality, all I know is that for them, before it gets better, it will get worse.

 

A twisted kind of love: Part two

When I started this blog a few months ago, I told dad about it in my excitement. But I doubt he’s ever read any of my posts. If ever he comes across this “twisted kinda love posts,” I know he’ll either hate me for it, or feel guilty enough to want to change. I’m not even asking that he be perfect; no one is. Even I am tremendously flawed.

As it turns out, not everyone was lucky enough to have a father. Sometimes I hear people complaining about how miserable their lives are because they weren’t lucky enough to have a dad; but take it from me, that is not a reason to not enjoy life. Yesterday evening, I was very happy, until dad came home drunk, long after mom had gone to bed, and then he started playing some songs that were played at grams’ funeral barely a month ago.

I felt disappointed. He knows mom hasn’t fully recovered from the shock of her mom’s passing, yet he chose to play those particular songs. I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this, but songs are very good at bringing back memories. They remind one what s/he was doing when they last heard that song, especially if it’s a song one doesn’t listen to everyday.

Earlier in the afternoon, after Sunday mass, I had a conversation with my big sister; I told her dad was every woman’s nightmare. It was a very long reflective train of thought that had brought me to that deduction. When he started playing those songs at night my sister just told me, “You were right. Dad is every woman’s nightmare.” He should have been consoling mom, not aggravating the situation. Mom was very close to her mom. After grams’ passing one of my aunts was concerned mom wasn’t grieving; she thought mom was still in denial. It was only when grams was being lowered into the grave that she wailed. Knowing mom, I know she was greatly affected by it.

I just couldn’t hide my rage when I heard dad playing the music on full blast like he was at a crusade. Worse still, he made sure all the major doors were open; he deliberately opened them. I’ve still not understood why he did that. While trying to comprehend his behaviour, many things came to mind. Before grams died, mom called him, asking if he would help her clear the hospital bill. He only comes home on weekends as he received a job transfer slightly over a decade ago. He went M.I.A for two days; he didn’t even call her to ask how grams was doing. Mom’s the one who called to inform him of grams’ passing. If grams were alive, I know she would be displeased with the treatment dad’s giving mom.

When grams was still alive, she adored dad. I’ve never seen a mother-in-law who treated her son-in-law with so much TLC. If dad’s mom showed my mom half of the TLC, I know mom would be a very happy daughter-in-law.

Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it; but then I have many instances to reference his actions to. Whenever his siblings or mother calls, he always sends them money, even when he feels it’s too much; he always budges. I’ve always wondered why he refuses to cut the cord; I’ve seen the way his siblings treat him. I would hate it if my sisters treated me like that. They never involve him in any plans. Whenever they call him it’s always to ask for some contribution for some unimportant occasion, or if they want him to give them a ride because their cars are in some garage getting serviced. I just don’t feel the love. Maybe that’s where dad inherited his twisted kind of love.

I know more than enough instances where his family mistreated mom, but I don’t recall him standing up for her at any given time. He is the type of person who would rather go eat out than prepare food for his sick wife. He’s done that so many times. Once, he went out to drink leaving mom sick. My small sister, who was about five at the time, walked mom to a nearby clinic; my big sister and I were away in boarding school.

At the clinic, mom was given some ointment which she was supposed to rub on her back. Dad wouldn’t do it, so again, my sister, with her tiny palms had to do it. I can’t sum up all the instances I’ve seen dad act all irresponsible. If I broke it down it would be a novel.

I’ve never asked that he be perfect, but what hurts most is the fact that he takes mom for granted. He never treats her like the amazing woman she is. If I was sure talking this out with him would help him change, I would do it; but I’ve tried it and it failed. He repeats the same mistakes over and over again, and the worst part is he never seems remorseful about it.

Everytime we fall out I always find it in me to forgive him, because the bible tells us to forgive seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:22). It’s never easy, but knowing that God would be happy with me if I forgave him gives me the strength. Unfortunately, he hasn’t made an effort to change his errant ways. That leaves me wondering; he always says he loves us, but his actions make it impossible for us to believe him. I don’t think he loves us; and again I can’t help but insist, maybe he does love us, but in a very twisted way, because what I see him doing? That’s not love.

Journey to the past

live life to the fullest

I’ve been trying to retrace my steps with anxiety; I wanted to get a clear insight into how/when it started. As I took my journey back to the past, I realized that the first time I suffered an anxiety attack I was twelve, while in boarding school. It was dark, in the middle of the night. Everyone was asleep, but somehow I couldn’t sleep. I can’t remember what I was thinking exactly, but I started breathing fast as my heartbeat rose. Slowly, as the hours passed, a dull ache developed in my chest. I felt like I had been running for hours.

I’m thinking whatever was going on in my mind that night was nothing pleasant; I know this because most of my thoughts while I was in boarding school revolved around me transferring to a day school near my home. I was never really comfortable staying away from home. I constantly worried about mom an awful lot; if she was doing okay, because everytime I went back home on holidays my small sister would tell me how she and dad had fought.

I was young at the time, but I remember feeling like our (my sisters and I) presence kind of eased the situation because we would stop them from getting into frequent fights. I always worried that maybe dad would hurt mom so bad…it was horrible.

That night I never slept; I tossed and turned in bed, clutching on to my chest. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and that also had me all worried. At day break I went to the sick bay. We didn’t have a dispensary in the school because there was a mission hospital adjacent to the school. The matron who was on duty that day gave me painkillers for my chest pain; they (matrons) only treated minor ailments: headaches, stomachaches sore throats, coughs that didn’t seem severe…

Normally if one was feeling unwell they would go for their morning, afternoon and evening dose of whatever medication (students weren’t allowed to be in possession of any medication). If whatever ailment didn’t subside after three days, they would ask one to visit the hospital on the fourth day.

The pain in my chest seemed to worsen with each day. On the fourth day I was referred to hospital. After our daily morning assembly that day, everyone who had been referred to the hospital, myself included, waited outside the headmistress’ office so she could give us permission to leave the school compound.  

Eventually I found myself sitted in front of a doctor, telling him how I was feeling. “My heart is beating faster than usual, and my chest pains a lot.” I don’t even remember if I underwent any tests, but I was diagnosed with ‘heart skip’. I didn’t dwell much on the diagnosis; all my mind registered was that I was suffering from a heart condition.

Subsequently, when I went back to school, I pulled out of every activity which I considered strenuous; all games and the weekly manual cleaning didn’t survive the cut. I have always been a sporty person, so I felt a sense of great loss descend upon me when I sat out of a P.E lesson later that day, because I was ‘sick’.

After being diagnosed with ‘heart skip’, the remaining part of that term felt quite miserable. I couldn’t run around the school compound. I couldn’t take part in the games I loved. My life just felt mundane. I was living like ‘Jill’; all work and no play. Nonetheless, all those precautions I took didn’t help my ‘condition’ much. In any case, it seemed to worsen. When I finished my prescription the situation hadn’t improved; I went back for review.

That term I went to the hospital so many times, the headmistress-a distant relative-nicknamed me a hospital tourist; even so, she didn’t bar me from seeking treatment. After two reviews and more medication, nothing had changed; I even felt much worse.

When schools closed, mom came to pick me up. She was incensed, that no one had cared to tell her I was unwell. She couldn’t do much at the time though; there were no teachers around as they had all retreated to their quarters. Early the next morning she took me to our family doctor, who had my chest X-rayed. It didn’t reveal anything. Mom asked about my earlier diagnosis-heart skip- but the doctor said there was no such thing in the medical field. Apparently the pills I’d been taking were just vitamin pills.

The next term I went back to school, I resumed all the activities I had ditched the previous term. Life felt normal once more. The knowledge that I wasn’t really sick psyched me up and all the chest pain became history.

 

 

Opposites Attract

opposites attract

I’ll never understand some things; not because I’m daft, but simply because those are some of nature’s machinations-but I know there’s a scientific explanation to it. Have you ever met two people who are completely different and you wonder how they ended up together?

When my sisters and I were small, my baby sister didn’t understand what was going on between mom and dad; fighting and all… She would constantly ask mom innocently, “Can’t we just look for another dad?” She was too young to comprehend the fact that the two were bound together by holy matrimony; it wasn’t just something mom could fix with the snap of her fingers…but that’s how kids are; they think their parents are super heroes.

She obviously felt dad wasn’t her ideal father, and she felt we would be much happier if mom found us another dad. If only it was that easy. If I had a choice, I would have gladly kicked dad to the curb on mom’s behalf long ago. I fail to understand how she put up with his abuse for so long, but everytime I remind myself, she was brought up in a very religious setting. She was going to join a convent; it was during the early stages of her formation, when she met dad and fell head-over-heels in love with him, plus she was a catechist… and the church preaches strongly against divorce…you know, ‘what God has put together, let no man put asunder’…

That in a nutshell defines my parents; virtuous mom (she’s no saint though) and a phenomenally mean dad (especially when he’s ‘under the influence’), and that is precisely what I don’t understand. They’re so different; completely opposite.

I know more than enough married couples, and there seems to be something common. It’s like nature went out looking for the extreme opposites and put them together to even things out. For instance, there are these family friends we have. We haven’t seen each other for a while since they moved to Australia a few years ago, but their family was a contrast to ours-last I checked.

The mom was the domineering control freak while the husband was so humble. The kids loved the father more. Then I have these four cousins, who have different fathers because their mom cheats on their loyal dad an awful lot. I’m not sure they know it; it’s an open secret.

I just can’t seem to trace any family with two ‘good’ parents. One of mom’s nephews- he’s almost her age- calls her a lot to ask for advice because his wife cheats on him brazenly.  He set up a business for her, lavishes her with gifts… he’s most women’s ideal husband. Lately he’s not been calling, so mom figured she should check up on him because the last time they talked he didn’t feel fine.

She rang him today. Apparently, his two kids-barely teenagers-threw their mom out. They asked her to take some time off to figure out what she wants to do with their father. I’ve never met her honestly, but from the description I get of her, she drinks a lot, doesn’t visit her kids in school, spends nights out, away from home… He, on the other hand is a quiet, laid-back guy.

That got me thinking; those kids wish for a better mom, like my sisters and I were wishing for a better dad. It almost feels obvious, if the wife is good, the husband is the villain of the piece…and if the husband is good, the wife is wicked… Opposites attract, literally; but for what it’s worth, I hope I’m wrong.

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.