When my mother died, I was inconsolable. I was fifteen but I knew and understood what was at stake. I was thinking about how life was going to be without my mom and how I and my siblings were going to cope. Everyone told me, “It is well. You’re not alone. Your dad will ensure you don’t lack anything so just believe in God and trust that everything will be OK.” It wasn’t easy for us but as the days went by, the pain subsided, though the memory became a tattoo on our hearts. After mom was buried, I tried as much as I could to lay everything behind me and move on with my life.
Then I started dreaming of my mom every night. Sometimes she’ll lie next to me and tell me not to be sad because she has not gone anywhere. One night she gave me a message to give to my other siblings. I felt it was just a dream so I brushed it aside. She kept coming every now and then telling me to tell my other siblings that she was not gone but around us. I kept those messages to myself until I couldn’t carry the message any longer. I gathered my siblings, three of us, I’m the second born, and told them what mom had been telling me in a dream. Maybe they didn’t believe me. Maybe they took it as a dream, they just smiled and told me to stop thinking about mom. Several days later, she came to me crying. She didn’t give me any message. She just sat there crying while I watched her from a distance. After that dream, I never saw her again.
I was in a boarding school in SHS when I heard my dad was getting married again. Honestly, I didn’t see it coming. My senior brother called to tell me and asked if I could come. I felt attending such a wedding was a betrayal of my mom’s memory so I told him, “We have exams on Monday. I need to study for it.” I was waiting for my dad to call and tell me himself but he never did. I intentionally called him, pretending I hadn’t heard of it but he still never made mention of it so I told myself, “Maybe it’s not that important.”
I came home on a vacation one day and saw a woman in our house. She wasn’t alone, there was a boy sitting in the hall watching TV and a girl my age in the kitchen. Later that day, I was told those two people I saw were the kids of the woman. Still, my dad didn’t say a word or introduce the woman to me as my new mom. He expected me to simply get the memo and move on but I didn’t. I asked questions, “Dad, who is she? Is she the replacement for my mom?” He nodded his head. “She’s your mom. I married her because you people are still kids. You need a mother figure around here to help raise you.”
I came home one day and my senior brother had left the house. He didn’t tell me anything about it. When I enquired, they told me he was living with my mother’s senior sister. I didn’t get it so I went there to ask why. He told me, “The woman Dad brought home doesn’t like us. If I continue staying there with her, one day I will beat her so the best thing is to leave the house for her.” I asked, “How about Maa Adjoa? Does she like her? If not then why did you leave her there all alone?” He had no answers. I guess he was looking out for himself than thinking about his younger sister.
I came back home and this woman started maltreating me and my sister. As early as 4am, he’ll come and wake us up while her kids were asleep. My dad won’t say anything. I was preparing to write my final exams so I woke up at 4am to study. This woman told me, “If you think learning is important, then you’ll have to wake up earlier than 4am and learn because at exactly 4am, you’ll have to wake up and work.” She hated to see me carrying my books or seeing me learning. She’ll give me work to do. My dad will watch her and not say anything, even when I went to him to complain, he still chose the side of his wife.
I knew I wouldn’t live in that house after school but I was thinking about my junior sister and what to do with her. She was too young to run away with me so because of her, I came back home after SHS and that was when the battle began. I knew the woman’s game plan so I decided to meet her squarely. I will wake up early and do my chores and do that of my sister. By the time she would wake up at 6am, I’d already completed the chores and had even cooked breakfast for her and her kids but this woman will comb through the house to get us something to do. Sometimes I fought her, sometimes I intentionally fought her in the presence of my father. One day she told me, “You think you’ve completed SHS so you’re a woman. Your results will come and we’ll see who will take you to school. You better start looking for a farm and begin working on it.”
My dad was there. He didn’t say anything. Months before my results came in he asked me, “Have you thought of any apprenticeship job you’ll be interested in? You’re a woman. You need to learn a trade. The rest will be handled by your husband. You need not worry.”
I was shocked but I knew where that idea was coming from. I spoke to my mom’s siblings about it. They called my dad and spoke to him about it but he maintained that I should become an apprentice. While he talked with my uncles and aunts on the phone, his wife would be by his side, wearing a mischievous smirk on her face and tapping on the lap of her husband. My dad didn’t change his mind. My results came and they were good. I discussed it with one of my aunts and she called a meeting with her siblings. They agreed to pull resources together to take me to school. I packed my things and left for my aunt’s house. I thought my dad will stop me but he never said a word. It was rather Maa Adjoa who was crying for me to stay. I told her, “Don’t worry. I’ll come for you soon.”
Before I started university, I convinced my aunt to also go for my sister. She didn’t want to. She felt she was denying my dad the opportunity to take care of his own children but my brother came in. At that time he was working. He told my aunt, “I can go for her and bring her to you. I’ll send money monthly for her upkeep. We just want her to be safe.” She agreed so my brother went for her and brought her to my aunt. She came with a huge scar on her thigh. She said my father’s wife intentionally used a hot bowl to hit her thighs resulting in that wound. I cried but I was happy that she was OK.
My dad never called any of us to check on how we were doing. When the going got tough, my aunt called him to contribute something and my dad was like, “I told you I had no money to take her to school and you didn’t listen to me. What do you want from me? I have nothing to give.” At that time my dad had two trostros and two taxis that worked for him. Apart from that, he had a huge farm and workers that worked for him. He was the headmaster of the junior high school I attended. His father left him a huge house he was renting to people. He wasn’t a wealthy man but people had less of what he had but were still taking care of their children.
I completed university without his input. I got a job and started working and my own dad didn’t know my whereabouts. He didn’t even know what any of us were into. Until I got a job and left town, I was living in the same town with him but I’d not seen him in ages and he didn’t care. I got a man and dated for three years before we decided to get married. That was when my aunts and uncles asked me to tell my father about the marriage. “He’s alive so no one can take his place. Let’s give him that honour. It won’t take anything away from your life,” They told me.
So one afternoon, I went to him with my husband-to-be and told him everything about our marriage. He hadn’t seen me in years but he jumped up, hugged me and said, “I’m proud of you. I knew you’ll bring a good man home.” I don’t know how he concluded that my husband was a good man. It could be the car he drove or the way he looked. Days before marriage I told him, “I don’t want your wife anywhere close to my marriage. She’s not my mother so she shouldn’t dare pretend she is. My aunt is my mom.” He answered, “Don’t mind her. She can’t even come closer. If she has shame, she wouldn’t even dare.”
They came together during the wedding but she was far away from me. After the wedding, she was coming to hug me but my aunt stood in front of her, preventing the hug. I heard my aunt murmuring, “Ayɛn! Don’t come and infest her with infertility.”
Now, my dad calls me every now and then asking me for help. I give him when I can. My other siblings are angry with me and I understand them, especially my brother. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with my dad. He got married and didn’t invite my dad. My junior sister has also said the same thing. I think they should just forgive.
My dad called days ago telling me he wants to divorce his wife but he’s scared he’ll lose the little that he has and it’s the reason he’s still living with her. He told me, “If you promise to take care of me and your brother and sister decide to forgive me, I’ll take the risk and leave her once I have you people by my side.” I told him to carry his cross because I had my own to carry. He called my brother telling him the same thing but my brother told him, “You didn’t ask our opinions when you married her, why do our opinions matter now that you want to leave?”.
I’m scared my dad will die out of sorrow and shame. I want to do something about it. My husband thinks we should rescue him if he’s that miserable in his marriage. I really want to but now it looks like I’m fighting a lonely war. My question is, what should I do to bring in my siblings to ensure my dad’s happiness? He’s 60 years old. He can have a lot of time ahead if only we rescue him. Is it even worth it considering everything he has done against us? Or I should just listen to my brother and leave him to wallow in the ditch he created for himself.