A lot of people would have childhood memories full of happiness,joy, great adventures, and lots of family gatherings. Even more people would remember the craziest pranks and stunts we pulled to torment the neighbor who didn’t like us or let us play in the garden, the cookies we stole from the kitchen when mum wasn’t looking our side and how we pulled chairs before a person could sit so they would fall and everyone would laugh merrily.
Some memories will forever be hatched into our minds throughout our lives and no matter where we are or what we do, we always relive them again and again. Some dark memories creep into our souls and minds, depriving us of peace and inner calm, at times when we least expect, unleashing enormous emotions of hatred, loathing, and vengeance, clouding our ability to focus on the present and more peaceful times.
I grew up in very difficult circumstances and often wished I could change my life or have a fairy godmother who would transport me into a different land altogether. My only salvation was having my Dad beside me. His guidance and comfort helped me overcome all the negativity and fight with determination to accomplish my goals and achieve my dreams. I still remember his words each time I lost hope – “When the going gets tough, we don’t quit, we get tougher.”
My dad was not able to secure a permanent job when I was a growing child. He found plumbing, fixing and fitting gigs here and there to make ends meet. My mother had to work more than two jobs to keep the family going and also have to cook for us once she was home. My dad would meet several people for jobs but somehow things never went our way. We were the target for all our relatives who supported us financially.
My mum and dad loved each other dearly and never let any kind of ego or hardship come between their love for each other. My dad would do all the housework, attempt to cook something for everyone to eat and make sure mum had everything she needed when she came home.
Our relatives did not just support us financially but also attempted to control every aspect of our life. They did not leave a stone unturned to make us feel like we owed them everything and had to be grateful to them all our lives. In return for their support, we had to do everything they asked us to at any time of the day and in any way they wanted.
I woke up each day listening to the voices criticizing and ridiculing my dad, insulting and humiliating him, treating him like he was their pet dog who had to fetch the ball they threw to entertain themselves. He had to fix their houses when the bathroom was clogged, carry their shopping or grocery bags, clean their houses and obey every command they uttered. For all his hard work, he would receive a few pennies or just be given a meal and was told to be thankful for what they did for him.
They had cars but they would not carry their pizza or gravy bowls in their cars with the excuse that their brand new car would get stained if a drop of gravy would spill from the bowl. My dad would carry bowls and bowls of food every night to their homes waiting for them to come back from their long drives so he could place their meal on the table. If he got tired waiting for them and left they would shout at him telling him he would not lose anything if he waited for a few more minutes.
If they forgot to buy bread for their morning breakfast, my dad would have to start looking for bread late at night to feed their bellies. If he sat down to eat, they would tell him he ate too much or he should make sure he did not finish the whole meal since my uncles and aunts had not yet eaten.
Whenever we had visitors at home, they would complain how irresponsible and incapable dad was. They would tell them how generous and kind they were helping us out and supporting us financially. We had a home because they paid the rent for us. We had clothes because they gave us their hand me downs. We had food because they ensured we had their leftovers to eat.
We cleaned up after they had eaten. We wore what they wouldn’t be seen dead wearing yet we had to be grateful to them. I do not deny they helped us but at what cost? We did not just receive charity from them, we worked hard to ensure they were happy and we did everything at their pleasure. It was like they owned us and we were their personal slaves.
Every time I saw mum carrying their dirty dishes I vowed never to let myself be tormented like that. I was not going to the one receiving orders from masters. I buried myself in books ignoring the remarks they threw my way. “You will never succeed in life, The only job suited for you is to be a wife or cleaner, You are a savage just like your dad.” I loved reading books but they always criticized me saying instead of wasting my time with novels I should read my school books. But my dad encouraged me to read, wiped my tears and taught me how to rise up above the hatred.
My dad fueled my imagination at every chance he got. He led me to dream big and reach for the stars. He questioned my beliefs, debated with me and taught me to stand up for what I believed in. He let me take huge leaps and sometimes allowed me to make mistakes and learn from them.
I still remember asking him what he was going to gift me for my birthday. He would say a book and a pen. I would complain that he always gifts me a book. I want a doll house, a new dress, a piano or a trip to the zoo. He would look at me, hold my hand and say, “Princess, you can have all that when you read. You will have adventures with new characters, expand your vocabulary and also ignite your creativity.” With a pen, I would write silly stories and dad would grade me with an A+. For my books, he would build a tiny library for me. While my friends played with dolls and toys, I played with books. When I won an award for being the best reader in class, I was overjoyed and realized the depth of dad’s words.
I was always bombarded with words of ridicule by them. You are fat, you are ugly, you should oil your hair, your friends are not right for you, don’t wear high heeled shoes, don’t do this and don’t do that. The always complained and complained. I often had bouts of self-doubt and pity, wishing I would miraculously wake up and see myself in another world. My only hope was my dad. He would hug me and tell me “when there is no hope, find it and make yourself be the only hope you need.”
I recall how excited I would be when I came the third hoping they would approve my effort but they only said you did not come the first. Every opportunity they had, they utilized it to the maximum to crush me and to ensure we were always dependent on them.
By God’s grace, dad finally managed to secure a job and to this day I am proud to have him as my mentor, and my father. Whatever I am today, I owe it to him. He is my heaven on earth and no one can ever replace his presence in my life.
Today, when we are self-sufficient and can provide for ourselves, they shower us with good words and send us dishes full of fruits and sweets. They show fake concern and attempt to mend the broken relationships.
I rose above their hatred and negativity.
And now I do not need their care, love or support.
I have whatever I want and there is no place for negativity in my life.