Family is Everything?

Taiwo Ajuwon Stories May 26, 2020

“At what point would this stop, Fimike? When will you stop working yourself to the bones just to satisfy these people?” Tola said heatedly.

“Those people are my family, Tola!”  I snapped. “I don’t exactly have a choice here”

Shaking her head profusely, “Of course, you have a choice. Just cut them off, even if it’s for a while.”

“You don’t have to die just because you share the same bloodline with people who don’t care about you. And family is not always blood-related” she ended more calmly.

I understand Tola and I know her concerns are valid. After all, we have been friends for over a decade and she knows the kind of problems my family is giving me. If I am being honest with myself, I have not liked my family very much for a while now, and if we were not related, I would not want to have anything to do with them.

“Fimike, you need to do something. This whole situation is already taking a toll on you, and I’m afraid it will destroy you” Tola said taking the seat directly opposite me.

“I don’t have the heart to do it. I just can’t cut them off, Tola.” I said resigned.

“And this whole destroying me talk, don’t you think you are being a little too dramatic?” I asked with my face scrunched up.

“Dramatic? You can’t be serious.” She responded, rolling my eyes.

“Anyway, maybe you are just a better person than I am. You know me, I would have cut them off a long time ago, and when they have learnt their lesson, we will consider continuing our ‘relative’ relationship with a new set of rules”

But it’s your decision to make, Fimike.” She continued, standing up.

“Maybe you can’t cut them off, but at least teach them a lesson” She added walking away.

I watched as she walked away from the living room of our two-bedroom flat apartment. I know Tola is worried about me, and my financial situation is also taking a toll on her too, she’s been paying more than half of the service charge for a few months now.

“What do I do?” I thought, sighing deeply.

My father has turned himself into a thorn in my flesh. All he cares about is himself and my brothers have followed in his footsteps.

“Gosh, I miss Mummy” I thought, as I walked to the balcony. If only she were here, things would be better. Like every day, for the past 5 years, I remembered how different things were when Mummy was with us. She was the force that held our family together.

Daddy has always been a big spender, giving no thought to our education or needs, but Mummy was always there to caution him and make up for his excesses. But since she died, everything changed and my Father’s habit became full-blown.

It started small. He would demand small amounts of money, even after I’ve sent his monthly upkeep. He never said thank you. In fact, he never calls to check up on me, only to ask for money, but I didn’t mind. Besides, I have always known the kind of person my father is, and I also understood that it was my duty to take care of him.

Then, it became excessive; he would promise people money, and give them my mobile number, without pre-informing me. He would rant, and call me all kinds of names, from ungrateful to useless, every time I refused. A few times, he even reported me to his brothers, who always supported him.

“I am so tired of living like this,” I said out loud, snapping out of my trip down memory lane. I could barely keep my head above water every month just because of these demands. Tola has been the one helping me out.

“It would have been okay if he was even putting the money to good use. All he does is drink, show off to his friends, buy expensive gadgets, and live largely. Here I am, living as if I’m not working at all. I don’t even have a single kobo saved.” I thought.

Sometimes, I wished I was more like my friend, Tola; bold and outspoken, I have never known her to be shy or afraid to stand up for herself and say exactly what’s on her mind. But I’m not like her at all. I’m quiet and often a goody two shoes. I just hate confrontation and any kind of trouble, and people have taken advantage of me for as long as I can remember. But …

My phone suddenly vibrated, alerting me of a new message. I picked it up and immediately saw a WhatsApp message from my youngest brother. “Sister, what’s happening now? We are still waiting for the money o, Daddy said you must send it today”

“Tola!!!” I called out in frustration, as I walk into her room. “Help me. I need to put a stop to all this, especially now that my brothers have joined our Father’s bandwagon” I said showing her the message.

“See, he couldn’t even say a simple hello. Daddy must be teaching them well” I said shaking my head sadly.

“What have you decided,” Tola asked raising her head from the phone.

“I don’t know. I can’t cut them off, you know. They are family. But I need some space, and peace too. I deserve it, but with the way my father rants and go on and on whenever I say no, I think cutting them off would just make things worse”

“What about starting slowly?” Tola asked, immediately catching my attention.

“What do you mean?”

“Keep sending them the monthly allowance in your budget, but don’t pick up their calls or respond to any of the messages we know he will send, no matter how nasty they are.”

“What if there’s an emergency?” I asked, biting my lips. “You know, if they need money for any emergency, how will I know, if I don’t pick up their calls and none of them knows this house?”

“Believe me, they will send you a message if that happens. And it’s a good thing they don’t know this house, I wouldn’t put it past your father to come and blow this place up.” Tola shrugged.

“Let’s just do this for a few months and see if they adjust. And in those few months, you would have a chance to breathe and just be, for the first time in forever. And maybe save too. You deserve it, Fimike.”

“And sometimes, we have to make tough decisions to keep our own sanity” she ended.

I sat back thinking about her suggestion. It seemed reasonable and it would give me a chance to take my much-needed break.

But, the nagging question in my mind would not leave. “Would this make me an ungrateful daughter?”

Taiwo Ajuwon

I am a story teller with a wild mind for creating worlds and bringing ideas to life.

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