I wouldn’t say I’m shy, but I once was. My friends who’ve known me over the years have seen this and thought that it’s just a part of growing up. If anything I’d say my outspokenness has come from years of watching my loved ones get hurt. I’ve been through my own obstacles in life (and that in itself is it’s own story), but watching the struggles and abuse of the people you love the most can really change you.
Ive seen a lot happen over the years; physical, verbal, and emotional abuse is somewhat common within the Caribbean culture. Sometimes it’s so accepted that whenever some form of abuse occurs, it could be in front of people who aren’t family! Many people might argue that this isn’t abuse, rather eso como es or that’s how it is, but does it have to be?
Whenever my uncle would punish my cousins, I’d feel guilty and try to cover for them. It wouldn’t work, since I’m a terrible liar, but I’d often try to keep myself close to them so that maybe they wouldn’t get hit later on. I would try to help but my parents would often say that there’s really nothing I can do. Thankfully, my mom and dad never did this with me since they both had endured punishments themselves and felt it was unnecessary.
Or when my grandma would have to cook and clean for my grandpa, knowing that he had to have things a certain way in order to avoid problems. This meant having a four course meal every night and that he dictated the menu, when we ate, and always had at least a good few insults or “jokes” on my grandmas weight or eating habits.
In both cases, my grandma and cousins never seemed to like what was happening… but they never seemed to care either. If anything they seemed numb to it, like they accepted it. It wasn’t till my grandmothers first stroke that I broke the pattern of silence.
This woman who has only done everything for my grandfather, who had no money to her name, was sick. My grandfather on the other hand, decided that rather than be there for her, he would go off and find another woman to “occupy” his time. My uncles and aunts? They were too busy to really be there for her and she was then left alone.
I spent weeks with her, begging my parents that at 13 I was more than capable of being her caretaker, that I can learn everything I could to help her. And after a few months of working with her physical therapists, I took her home and took care of her for the next nine months.
Day-in and day-out I would work with her (before and after school of course). I had to teach her how to move her body again due to the stroke and teach her how to feed herself again too. Bathing, medications, you name it I’ve done it all. And even with all of this work… she would ask about my grandfather.
He never called, never bothered to talk to anyone else, he had a girlfriend and was content.
I was done being quiet. I understand that this is considered normal but it was WRONG. No one deserves abuse like this for years and then gets thrown out like trash. No one should be a slave to another person just to be walked over or live in fear that you won’t have a place to stay after. No one should feel like they are in danger in their own home if they made a mistake. Yet, it was more than too late. I have missed my chance to speak up when this was going on, for both my cousins and my grandmother. They had grown past it and my grandfather was long gone. I was too young to know better, and felt that I didn’t have a voice strong enough. I know now and will tell you that this is what everyone should remember.
Everyone has a voice. You shouldn’t watch from the sidelines if something is wrong. You shouldn’t condone that behavior.
I have many regrets over this, but I have grown to speak out against this kind of treatment. To find solutions that can help others who need a way out. I’ve reached out and became confident in my voice, no longer a shy person that just watches from the sidelines… and I urge you to also speak out.
Don’t let the people you care for suffer in silence, if they can’t help themselves then you should find a way to help them. You can call for help, talk to them in private, anything that really shows them they are not alone. If you are afraid for yourself then be an anonymous help. There is always a way.
To end the curiosity, my grandfather died whilst my grandma was in my care, and she did still ask about him even after that. My mom had gone to visit him and see if he had any regrets… he didn’t. I’m not bothered by this since I expected it. My cousins are okay now, they seem normal and don’t act the same with their kids, but I would say that they are at a distance with my uncle and numb with him.
I worry that people only imagine what they would do if it happened to them, and never consider what they could do for people around them. Please, don’t condone this behavior, don’t just watch. Be confident.
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