Her First Day
February 6, 2012 § 3 Comments
How I spent the last busy 2 weeks of Jan…
She could be very annoying and stressful and emotionally draining, but…and that’s a big but…I’d always remember who she also is and has always been for me, and pretty much all of us. In no small measure, we’ve all survived, and we still subsist because of her. I also know how difficult life has been for her, especially in the past 20 years. She’s pushing 58 and works 60-80 hours a week. I’d always been comfortable living on little, but all that changed about 13 years ago when she was tasked with supporting her four kids, their varying needs, a new mortgage and all the bills you can imagine all by herself. I wanted to become rich enough to make sure she never had to work again, and also to make sure her grandchildren never had to struggle the way we all have.
Before I go on, let me take a minute to explain a bit about America to every Ghanaian who’s never lived abroad. If you aren’t holding a sought-after advanced degree, partnered with someone with similar educational pedigree or in a job that fully supports your life, living in that country (I can’t say for any of the European countries because I’ve never lived out there) can be very, very difficult. I was paying $1500 a month for rent, not counting utility bills, and general living expenses that come with life in New York City several years ago. Then the bubble burst and most companies went into panic mode. This meant I’d lose my job, downgrade on housing to Harlem and Inwood, and as unemployment lingered for months eating into a lot of my savings, it was another downgrade to a share in Hoboken, and eventually back to mom’s to regroup until the storm weathered. She on the other hand had and still has: a car payment, a mortgage, high energy bills, car insurance, municipal tax, state tax, federal tax, property tax, food, maintenance costs for the home, food, tv/internet (even though she barely gets to enjoy them), credit card bills, and just about every hiccup that pops up be it in New Jersey or down here. How many Ghanaians pay any taxes in Ghana? Most people spend 80% of their time outside the homes and the apartments they’re paying for, and for the most part are living paycheck to paycheck. That is the immigrant life in America and even those on six-figure incomes feel their own pinch. So when your cousin, friend, sis, or bro flies down for a week or two, do them a favor and fuck off. I’m not kidding. Let them breathe. Leave them be unless they ask of you. Most often these people return having burned money they saved up for a year or more, or worse… they go back to overwork themselves to pay off that $900-1500 plane ticket, all the gifts you didn’t deserve, and that $1000 or so they spent making themselves look like kings and queens, and you always the true Ghanaian, never failing to expect more without shame. I’ve even heard stories of some of you having the nerve to complain about gifts not being brand names. I can’t wait for the day someone does that with me.
So, even though my stress level had gone up, I was willing to do whatever I could to make her time at home as peaceful as possible. I was even looking forward to spend the remainder of her two weeks away from the house as living with one was stress enough, the thought of living under one roof with both coupled with the ick factor from all that doting and awam chivalry was too much for me to bear. That idea was short-lived, though. By 4a.m. they were both up and he was busy harassing her with his escalating voice delving into a place I didn’t want. He hasn’t made any money in more than a dozen years, but here he was expecting her to allow him to decide how she spent money and on what during her stay. “Who Am I?” wasn’t about him, btw. But I cannot stand men who control their wives, nor do I like anyone controlling his/her partner. I’m easily turned off by men who do that, especially when I know what nobodies they are. Don’t eat this; you can’t go there because I said so; don’t buy that; don’t this/don’t that. Like who the fuck are you to boss anyone around? Especially when we both know you’re nothing without her. Again, I’m not referring to him, but to just about every Ghanaian adult male I’ve met with caveman mentality, which happens to be nearly all of them! I’ve even met women who find this behavior attractive. I know a girl whose boyfriend has a lock on her text messages and he’s the only one who knows the code to access them- and she likes it that way. Would you like it when he starts hitting you because you wouldn’t give him nookie in bed, too?
Anyway, it didn’t take but a few seconds before I was standing in their bedroom doorway shirtless and very irritated. It was a bit funny thinking back on that scene. Here they both were trying to tell me each other’s side and how the other was wrong as I scolded them both, and after several no’s, it was “no, you’re not buying this or that. No, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear you two again!” before I shut their door behind me. Most often they forget that I’m over 30 and imagine I’m maybe 3 and need taking care of, then there are moment like that morning when I wonder who’s the parent and who’s the child. Suffice it to say, there wasn’t going to be any 2 weeks away from that house. She might be a nag, but she’s first and foremost my mother, and I wasn’t going to let anyone bother her, least of all him, especially after his mini tirade where I now knew I couldn’t leave her alone with him. First, he’d neglected to call me and let me know her flight had touched down when he’d long picked her up, and then all this- and not even 24 hours after she had arrived.