Sunday, May 25, 2014

Legacy of Divorce: Holding it Together with Duct Tape and Glue


Divorce is such a normal thing in this new age of technology and science. More than 30 years ago, there were stigmas attached to children of broken homes. Society expects them to be failures at life, losers, scum of the earth, trouble makers, and whatever else that's negative. Even some of my relatives expected me to get pregnant out of wedlock, become a drug addict, drop out of school, or all of the above. Their 'kind' exchanges with us were often laced with sweet sarcasm and disguised disgust. It hurt deeply to hear people whisper behind our backs, saying things like, "Poor kids. They are gonna grow up to be losers." Unfortunately, we disappointed them.

If it weren't for my mother's strict parenting and my grandfather's strong conviction on how important education is, maybe my relatives and the sceptics might have had something to rejoice and celebrate. Of course they weren't able to empathise. They came from intact families. Their parents stayed together (regardless of the reasons for it) until their dying day. How can they possibly understand what challenges we faced. At their best, they may have been able to imagine how it must have been like for us. But in the end, their ignorance surpasses their efforts to understand. So, we were given the only thing they can muster: sympathy.

My mother is a strong willed, independent and principled woman. Through her example, I learnt that there's very little women cannot do. She frequents DIY shops to purchase tools in order for her to fix whatever that needed fixing around the house. She worked day and night to put food on the table and the clothes on our backs. She scrimped and saved just so we can afford a budget holiday once a year. Her father may have been a very rich man, but she insisted on being financially independent. 

While mom was busy at work, I became the caretaker of my brothers. Being the eldest child comes with a huge sense of serious responsibility. We had to take care of each other, because others had turned their backs on us. We became second class citizens within our own family circle. We were the lepers.

My brothers and I may not be among the most successful people in our country. We have no assets to call our own. We have no riches to splurge on frivolous wants. We worked hard because we didn't have the support that should have been provided by those who are related to us. In fact, many were just waiting for us to mess up or fail, just so they can smirk and bitch about how mom has failed as a single mother.

Despite it all, despite the inevitable occasional disputes and disagreements thats normal to have in a family and among siblings, we stuck together. We do this because we had no one else. My grandfather took us under his wings and adopted responsibilities that weren't his. He loved us deeply and we felt every ounce of it.

Whenever I enter the home of an intact family, with both parents being actively involved in the wellbeing of their children, it leaves me feeling very poor. Not financially poor. Just the deep sense of deprivation: the absence of a father living with us: an intact family.

Yes, I am fragile in that way. I believe my brothers feel the same way too. But we don't talk about it. We just fight through the tears and heartache and move on. We move on together. Mom and dad are my parents. But my brothers are my family. That sums up all the reasons why I do the things I do to keep things together. 

And now, my brothers and I focus only on one thing: caring for mom. Whatever makes her happy. Whatever gives her peace of mind. Whatever that makes her smile and laugh. Whatever that we can do to care for her health. These are our top most priority. She never abandoned us. She never left us. She stayed on and fought hard to keep us together. We will do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

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