My grandmother believes that there are two people in this world who will definitely never love you. These are, your father’s ex-girlfriends and his new wife. She says, as a child you are a threat to his ex-girlfriends because you represent the very essence of the love that exists between your father and mother, something that his ex- did not have with him. If only they knew that you are the reason why your mother married that abusive, ungrateful, and disloyal man. According to her, they should be glad that they never had human-proof of some temporary passion. Another person whom my grandmother says you should never trust to love you is your ‘step-mother’, the woman your father marries next. Your step-mother will hate you because she is afraid that she’ll never give him children as brilliant as you are. You remind her of your father’s supposed first and true love. A woman she will never get to know but your existence is reason enough to sprout that fundamental darkness that is envy. But, in her words, I should be thankful because there is definitely one person who will love me in the world, my mother. And as a child it is your duty to demonstrate your love for your mother so, it is all right to disdain your father’s new wife.
For a long time, people warned me about my father’s new wife. It took a long time for my grandmother to accept that my father had a new wife and that I would be making contact with her whenever I visited my father. She then instructed me to never eat food from that woman. She will poison you to death or madness. I never saw why she was a threat to my life because she was an educated, religious believer from a well-off family, just as my mother’s family were. In all truthfulness, I thought she was doing my father a favor by being with him. You know how schooled people always say they need to go back to the community and give back? For me, her being with my father was total charity work. After all, my father is only a high school graduate – a hard worker nonetheless.
The day we received the news that my father was marrying again, my mother was pretty calm but she gave a very concerned smile, as if to say, I feel sorry for her. My grandmother on the other hand, threw tantrums and was disturbed by the news. Usually, when my grandmother is under a lot of stress she will go to a tavern three blocks away from our house and drink down her sorrows, then express those sorrows, just to fill everyone in on what’s bothering her.
So, it was no surprise following the news that my father was getting married again, that gammy left the house early in the morning to go to the tavern, but this time around we were well aware of what was bothering her before she could even intoxicate herself to bravery. The only difference is that, she went to vent off not to us or her friends, but to my father’s new wife. There is no woman who knows how to fight her children’s battles the way my grandmother does. The mad thing about this is that, some battles she simply cannot win. AH! But what do you know, she went on and told father’s new wife to keep her hands off of other people’s husbands. Even though my parents separated a long time ago, following the close-to-murder incidents that occurred between them, my grandmother believes that even if you may separate, you should not further betray each other by marrying again. Yes, it is okay to have some fun with other people, but do not commit to another marriage, that is a disgrace to your former spouse’s dignity.
As with everyone else, my grandmother could not bring herself to understand why the young woman with a teacher’s college certificate was keen to marry my father. This was a young woman who grew up seeing my father chase my mother with bricks in his hands, and my mother chasing him with knives whenever she caught him with another woman in what used to be our house. What then made her go, I want me some of that? It is said that, during my grandmother’s confrontation with my father’s new wife, the young woman said, how can I keep my hands off him? He is so magnetic and everyone already thinks I must be made of steel to be attracted to him.
My grandmother did not win this confrontation and my mother showed little interest in being angry that my father had a new wife. My parent’s marriage left my mother in debt to a point where she got blacklisted. He left her with emotional bruises and physical scars, some of which remain imprinted on her face. She will never get another husband with that scar face, and he gets to move on? It is as though gammy was suggesting that my father could at least fix my mother first before moving on like that. Even though there was a way of fixing the scars on her face, my mother said, the man left me with a disease that I do not see myself recovering from. Distrust. I could never trust a man again even if he were to descend straight from the heavens.
As time went by, it transpired to me that gammy was mad at my father for taking a new wife because she had paid for the piece of land that my parents and I used to stay on, before my mom and I moved out. There is no way that she can reclaim the land because, for respect of the man’s integrity, the title-deed listed my father as the prime owner of that patch of land. Sometimes my mother jokes that gammy was more in love with my father than she was with him. Between gammy, mom and me, my gran seems to be the only one mad about my father’s new marital status. Some other night we were having one of our conferences with me and mom sharing a pot of tea while gammy had her two 750 ml bottles of beer beside her bed. I took to ask my mother what had attracted her to my father in the first place. She said, well he was the new boy on the block from a different country. He sounded respectful and worked three jobs. In those days this town had very few people and the land had plenty of gracing fields so I would watch him from a distance as he herded cattle around the field and in the evening I would watch him milking and then delivering litres milk to different houses including ours, and I guess it was through that interaction that I grew fond of him. Even at school, he was a very reserved and nonchalant boy. He gave other girls that I-am-not-interested-in-you attitude that made us all want him more.
It has been three months now that my father and his new wife have been officiated. I have been to their house several times, without eating her food, and for a newly wedded woman, she projects gallons of fear, always on the edge of her seat. My father on the other hand, he is always on a high, bragging about his educated wife. Since she came into my life, I can even eat cheese, polony and artchar in one sandwich. Your mother never bought us cheese, yet her father had plenty of cattle. This one, this woman spoils me. My father challenges gender stereotypes as we have come to know them. Sometimes I wonder whether I should be angry at him or be glad that he and my mom separated.
Currently, my father works as a janitor at the school where his new wife teaches. He has stayed in the house that my mother mostly paid for and his new wife recently bought them car, which he has apparently been seen in with other women. My mother says hearing what my father is doing to his new wife reflects what used to be her idiocy. She now knows what people used to say about her when she was the one in that situation of loving a gold-digger. My mother says, we are his sheep and he has been ready to shave us off our money since the day he put his feet on our land.
When I was little, I thought that my father was just a woman abuser who was insecure and used his masculinity to domineer my mother, but, now that I think of it, my father’s new wife will be a good case study to refer to in my next Gender Studies assignment on the argument that rich women are prone to stay in manipulative relationships because of vulnerability and the need to uphold their social status. My essay title will be: ‘My father’s new wife: A Threat, or Opportunity to the De-construct Women Education?’
Photo: Hazel Fasaha Tobo