WHO WERE THE people you considered family?
Was it your mother or father? Your brother or sister? Was it your friends?
The single word seemed to carry a lot of meaning for people. Family were the people in your life in which you could count and rely on. They were the people you loved and who loved you back. Family were the compasses which guided us throughout life. It wasn’t something defined by the surnames we shared or even by blood. It was defined by love and commitment. Family meant being there for others when they needed it most. It meant choosing to have each other’s backs.
I had a family once.
It used to be just my mother, father, brother and I. My mother was the person who looked after us all. Have you ever met someone who just gave out such a comforting aura? That was my mother. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, she would treat you like her own. She just had her own special way of making everyone feel wanted and loved.
Yet my father was different from my mother. He didn’t smile or joke much. I struggled to remember a time where I had seen him freely and genuinely laugh. He usually walked around the house with a stony face like he hated us all. I didn’t have many memories with him. He wasn’t there for birthdays, Christmas, or any other special occasions. He didn’t come to my school plays or parent teacher meetings. He didn’t even sit with us for dinner most of the time. I often wondered if we had ever done anything for him to act like this around us. Our simple presence seemed to annoy him. Every time I asked my mother about, she always reassured me that I was simply overthinking things. She told me he loved us a lot.
Was that what love supposed to be like? Was love arguing with your wife every night because she forgot to heat up the dinner? Was love raising a hand to the person you were supposed to love? Was love ignoring your children, even on their birthdays?
Perhaps my brother and I were too young to understand. We simply watched with wide and scared eyes, cowering on the floor as glasses and plates were smashed against the floor every night. We watched as father’s anger grew, and with every passing day my mother grew quieter.
With each week that passed, she slowly became less and less like herself. Instead of baking us cookies and cakes like she usually would, she locked herself away in her room. She stopped singing to herself. She stopped going out to meet her friends every week. Devin and I would hear her heart wrenching cries and sobs through the door every single night. Father didn’t seem to care too much. In fact, he didn’t even seem to notice anything. Mother said she was okay. I knew she was putting on a brave smile for us when we worriedly looked at her. Yet all we could do was watch as our mother slowly began to shrivel away. It was like we were living with a ghost. Mother too began to forget about us. She walked by without seeing us. She stopped asking about us. She stopped helping us with homework. She stopped playing with us. She stopped coming to school to walk us home.
She simply stopped living.
Soon, Devin and I began to hate being at home. The second we stepped inside, we could feel the suffocating atmosphere. I began to avoid my father, in fear that he would do to me what he was doing to mother. Even mother began to scare me with her blank looks and expressions. I missed her warm smiles and laughs. And so, Devin and I spent most of our time outside in the small playhouse we had built. It mainly consisted of a few pillows, blankets and smuggled food. Yet even being out there, in the cold, was better than listening to mother and father arguing.
We soon found out that my mother had liver cancer. She hadn’t even realized until it was too late to do anything. The doctor couldn’t do anything for her. It was simply a case of waiting for her time to be up. Devin and I spent every night by her bedside, clutching her hand, watching over her. We had the constant fear that she would disappear if we didn’t. We watched as she tossed and turned in bed, plagued by her nightmares. It seemed like she couldn’t wake up from them. We watched as even in her sleep, she couldn’t seem to find peace.
We prayed every night, to all the God’s up there to save her. I prayed for a miracle to happen. I prayed that the doctor was wrong and she would get better on her own. I prayed for this to be all a dream and I would wake up and everything would be fine. I prayed that father would stop hurting her even while she was this sick.
But my prayers had never been answered.