What Was Missing

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| This is the 141st story of Our Life Logs |


I came into the world as the unwanted child of two teenagers in rural Bungoma County of Kenya in the 1980s. My mother was still a student when she had me and literally had to take her final exams with me crying my lungs out next to her. Life gave her a beating when her boyfriend disappeared with the knowledge of my existence. He could not afford to go through the wrath of his no-nonsense parents and just took the easy way out.

I spent the first four years of my life with my mother before she gave me up, but I don’t remember much of that part of my life. My childhood consisted of living with one relative after another. I kept to myself a lot. I believed that no one thought I had something worth listening to. I also learned not to get too attached to others, because I knew that I would soon have to leave again.

I was never able to blend into a family culture and sadly, remained lonely. I longed for a father and a mother in my life like a normal child, but that was a luxury I never had.

A forest close home
A forest close to home.

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I spent the better part of my life in Western Nyanza of Kenya. I started school in 1985. As much as I loved the learning environment, I dreaded going to class. My peers seemed to feed off my lonely life and would constantly bully me. I remember once in the third grade, a prefect took my sweater, rolled it into a male genital, and pushed it up my skirt. Other students laughed while I recoiled into a fetal position, scared and panicking.

My grades took a negative hit; I just could not perform well enough. My teachers thought I was the most stupid pupil and tried to beat out my stupidity with a rod. What they managed to achieve, however, was to make me bitter and plant marks on my body–a constant reminder that I was never meant to be here.

Every day I would endure torments. With each shift I made during my school years, I ended up with someone ready to torture me. It was like the world conspired to remind me that I was unwanted.

When I sat down for the final exams at my primary school, my joy knew no bounds. Finally. I wouldn’t have to suffer any more humiliation from schoolmates or beatings from teachers. It would soon all end.

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I thought things would get better in time, but I was wrong. I was outgrowing living with relatives. My stay meant that they had to pay for my meals, clothing and shelter. Because of the tough economic climate, most of my relatives didn’t have much to spare. With the little income they had, they chose to fend for their own progeny. I realized that I had to forget about any further education and instead, concentrate on how to make ends meet. I was just 13 years old, not yet an adult to support myself, yet I had to.

When it rains, it pours. I saw my life slowly painted with dark clouds. I did every odd job I could lay my hands on. I pushed wheelbarrows at construction sites, lifted bricks, tilled farmland, fetched water, and sold stuff on the streets. The only job I didn’t do was probably prostitution, and that was only because I didn’t think I could attract any potential client. If I could, I probably would. I was desperate to make a living.

I went to live with my maternal grandmother when things became too thick. She had not heard from my mother since she left me at four years of age. I did not waste my time brooding over it. I had toughened myself to the point that I considered myself an orphan. My focus in life narrowed down to mere survival. When I went out and came back with something to eat, I considered that a success.

My income was meager, but I shared what I had with my grandmother. In return, she would let me have the little milk she’d fetch from her goat if I returned home with empty hands. For the many years that followed, we lived together like this, tackling each day as it came to us, one at a time.

What Was Missing-Hawkers
Street vendors | Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Then my fate took a turn. One day in August 2017, while still living with my grandmother in Bungoma County, I went out as usual to weed a client’s farm. I was walking through the bushy footpath when I suddenly fell into a ditch. A sharp pain pierced through my right leg up to my brain.

It’s amazing how the mind can go into an overdrive while in pain. I literally saw my entire life passing through my eyes. Not that it was worth much, it was actually depressing. But for the first time, I felt like I had turned my hell life to something bearable.

I couldn’t move from the spot and stayed there for an hour before a woman passing towards the river saw me and shouted for help. I was rushed to the hospital for treatment. I had passed out, and when I came to, my grandmother was sitting next to me, sobbing. I noticed my injured leg plastered and hanging on some kind of wire. I was in a lot of pain. But the fact that my grandmother was here meant that I could not drop a tear. I couldn’t let her feel like all hope was lost, although it seemed like it was. Things looked bleak and I did not want to think beyond that moment.

What was missing (2)
Image courtesy of Pixabay

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While still in the hospital, something else happened. During one of the visits, my grandmother walked in with a man in a three-piece suit, perhaps in his 40s. Something about his face looked familiar, but I could not recall. We just stared at each other, with me doing most of the staring. The moment was awkward until my grandmother cleared her voice.

“Your father has been kind enough to clear your bills.”

“My fathe…father!” I gulped.

I looked at the man, and all those emotions bottled up inside came crushing like sea waves. I could not hold them, yet I couldn’t say a thing. I still don’t know if it was shock, bitterness, or anger. I only realized that whatever emotions I was pushing back finally found a vent and came as torrents of tears. I didn’t stop them, but my father surely misinterpreted them as tears of happiness, as he sat by my bed and hugged me. If only he knew I was avoiding an avalanche!

For the next several days as I regained the strength of my leg, I tried to see where in my life my father would fit. I did not find such a place. I kept him outside of my heart.

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Now, almost a year later, I have fully recovered (though I now walk with a limp). My father and I are still trying to get to know each other. The major emotional turmoil I am dealing with right now is whether this missing puzzle of my life still fits or not. An absent father is not uncommon in the world I live in, but when it actually happens to you, the feeling is more painful than you’d imagine.

My grandmother said that with my father back in our lives, things would look up for me. She is aged and wise, so maybe she is right. I am trying hard to work through my feelings. Although there’s still a lot of hatred and disappointment in my heart towards him, I want to be ready for that moment when I can finally forgive him and accept him.

Life has always been fuzzy to me. I’m one of those people who believe in either white or black, but life often doesn’t go that way. Sometimes we have to stay in the gray area and figure things out.

Section Break

This story was told to us anonymously by a girl in Kenya. When abandoned by her birth parents, the storyteller lived most of her early life as a rejected child moving from one relative to the next. She tried her best to survive. She was bullied and left to fend for herself until she became immune to her predicament. An accident led her to her birth father and despite the emotional pain she harbors for being abandoned, she is working to heal and repair her relationship with him. She hopes to accept him and catch up on their lives eventually.

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Photo of the storyteller captured in 2018.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on July 23, 2018.

| Writer: Opondo Maureen | Editor: Colleen Walker |

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