Sunday February 17, 2013
An open letter to a dear cousin
A photograph and memories are all one has to remember her cousin by.
YESTERDAY, I found an old picture of you. I canít remember how old you were then but Iím guessing you were in your teens. You had sent it to me from your hometown with the message ďyou will always have a special place in my heartĒ.
My eyes started to tear when I thought of you. How I wish I could show you that picture now, and ask you what happened to ďusĒ.
You chose to break ties with a few family members, and it broke my heart that I was one of them.
That picture brought back so many memories. How we used to love spending time together. We were always up to mischief and would gang up against our siblings whenever there was a chance.
School breaks were so much fun as there was always an outing in store. We would take a bus or taxi to wherever we were headed, and whenever we walked on the streets, we always held hands. We looked out for each other when we were out in public.
We were pretty well-behaved and obeyed the adults. We were just so happy to be together and shared so much laughter.We played masak-masak (cooking), dolls, had make-believe tea times, sang, danced and played board games together.
Your mum whipped up the most scrumptious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. She also made special treats for us like chocolate cake, custard and cream puff, and other mouth-watering sweets.
We use to love helping her in the kitchen. It was like a competition to see who was the most helpful.
We loved to compete with our siblings, and I must say that we were mean at times when we booed them or totally ignored them.
Do you remember the picnics we use to have in our auntís garden? We would sit on a mat together with a pile of junk food in the middle. I remember singing to the guitar and our story-telling sessions.
I remember you as a very funny person who could turn almost anything into a joke. You never failed to make me laugh. You were never pretentious, and I admired your strength and beliefs. You always voiced out your thoughts and feelings.
I guess Iím like that too. I felt so connected to you and when you left, I missed you tremendously.
The one thing I remember vividly is the birthday parties. Our older cousins always had something up their sleeves. We had fun with all the games they prepared, such as musical chairs, freeze dance and others. We were often bullied by them but we loved them anyway, and always looked forward to being around them. They were an awesome bunch and they still are, even now.
I was devastated the day you left. We hugged each other and tried not to cry. You promised to keep in touch.
Your calls came after a few months. You always sounded very troubled and spoke to me in tears each time. My heart went out to you and I cried too during those times. I know you suffered a lot.
My heart ached so much when you told me how you were bullied and how you had to hide your favourite foods in your wardrobe, eating them when everyone else was fast asleep. I truly wished I could have helped, but we were young then and had to follow the rules set by the adults. I thought of and prayed for you every day.
I wished you hadnít moved, that I could have hugged you and assured you that all would be well.
Our only communication was by phone. Whenever you needed to talk, you would call. There was no way of me contacting you, so I always waited eagerly for your call. I remember how excited I was to hear your voice each time.
Now, Iíd probably be in tears if I had the chance to hear your voice again.
Then came a time when you stopped calling. I was worried. I couldnít get in touch with you. I guess this was the time when you wanted your own space to discover yourself and live your own life.
You were constantly judged and criticised by people around you, and were always being compared to others. You were influenced by others and started rebelling.
I remember getting a few distress calls from you. I was so worried and didnít know how to help. I could only advice and pray for you. I could sense your hurt and hatred. You confessed to seeking for love in the wrong places. My heart went out to you.
Then, one fine day, you called to say that you were married and had a son. I was shocked but overjoyed to hear from you again. You gave a brief account of your life. I had so many questions playing in my mind which I couldnít ask. You sounded so different then.
Maybe you had matured, being a wife and mother. Whatever it was, you were putting on a good show. You didnít sound real anymore. Over and over again, I sensed that you were telling a lie. But I was just glad that you were back in my life. So, I listened to all your stories and laughed at all your jokes.
One day, you decided to introduce me to your husband. You came to visit and stayed over. I was very happy for you. I could see that you were happily married.
When you visited the next time, you introduced me to your son. Having worked with children for more than 10 years, I could tell something was not right. I voiced out my opinion, but I didnít know that it would upset you so much and I regretted it.
I was hoping that you would get him the help he needed. You said some mean things to me. But I was very patient.
After a few months, you called to say that your son was getting some help and that he was doing better now. Once again, your calls became infrequent.
Then, you started having marital problems. There were endless arguments and fights between you and your husband. You claimed that he was cheating on you. I could only console you, but deep in my heart I knew that you were at fault too. I guess the two of you just grew out of love. Somehow, after all the lies you told me, I found it hard to believe anything you said. I was actually more concerned about your son. I didnít want him to be affected by the whole situation. I would never know the truth, but all your troubles led to the two of you getting a divorce.
During that time, you called me often because you needed somebody to talk to. Again, I listened and tried to advise you as best as I could.
Again, my thoughts were of your son. I hoped that he wouldnít be affected.
One day, you told me about this newfound love of yours. I could only be happy for you. I felt it was not right for me to criticise or judge you.
I was happy that your son was treated well by this new guy. I hoped that all the stories you shared with me about how well he and your son communicated, and how they enjoyed each otherís company were true.
There were no calls for a time. I thought about you always. I prayed for you and hoped that you were doing well.
I asked your mum about you when she came to visit. It was said that you were ashamed to face the family. None of your extended family members knew about your divorce except me.
They didnít know about your new love interest either. I didnít mention a word to the rest of the family. In the end, it was your mother who had to bear all the guilt and shame.
You decided to marry your new man and cut off ties with us. Your poor mother came to visit and tried to tell us the whole story between tears.
I thought it was a little cruel of you to let your mother carry the burden. So now, the family knows. But you are still part of the family and we would welcome you back with open arms any time.
I miss you tremendously, my dear cousin. We all make mistakes. We often fall, but pick ourselves up and move on. Life is short. I wish you would come back.
I want to forget the past and not hold grudges. I want you to know that Iíll always be there for you. Iím waiting for that phone call to hear your sweet voice once again.