Saturday, July 13, 2013

Not all hope is lost

Marnie came from a middle class family. She got pregnant at a young age, but fortunately, her parents loved her so much that they still made sure she finished her college education. She and her boyfriend eventually married when their son was almost 2 years old. Since Maria had just finished college and her husband Stephen was still in school, Marnie's parents took them in to live with the rest of the family. After the birth of their second child, Maria's father was diagnosed with cancer. Devastated, Marnie took on the care of her father so that her mother could continue on with the family business and keep the family afloat. Nine months later, Marnie's father succumbed to the disease.

Stephen decided it was time to get their own living space. The family rented a small apartment and shared it with friend who also had a small family. This was the time that Stephen started to show the uglier side of himself. He was a "mama's boy," calling long distance to his mother in the States asking for money. He told his mother that his children were growing and that we needed help to support them. His mother sent money regularly, however, it never got to where it was meant to be. Instead of milk formula and doctor's fees, the money went to drugs and alcohol. Marnie was left struggling to make ends meet, taking in odd jobs while the children were asleep. Marnie was very patient with Stephen. She made herself believe that Stephen was not yet ready for the responsibility of raising a family, and that eventually, one day, he will wake up and be the ideal husband and father that Marnie dreamed of.

WRONG. Marnie was very wrong. Stephen never woke up. He never had the initiative to find a job. He relied heavily on his mother for money. He would give Marnie one or two thousand pesos and sternly warned her that the money should be budgeted to last for a month, while he kept the rest of the money for himself. Now with three growing children, poor Marnie had to find ways cut down on things she usually enjoyed when she was still single. Unable to bear this "poverty," Marnie would often times take the children and spend the day with her mother. Here, Marnie would be able to rest and eat decent food, and the kids would be able to romp around and play in the yard. Marnie's mother asked her, "If Stephen does not want to find a job to feed his family, then why don't you? You have a college degree. It won't be hard for you to find one. If you are worried about the kids, take them here, I will look after them while you are at work.  You can pick them up on your way home."

And so she did. Marnie found a job as a clerk at a small office. The salary was not much, but at least there was some cash flow, enough to pay some bills and buy food and medicines. Stephen resented this so much. He thought that he was being mocked and that Marnie wanted to show the world that he is an irresponsible person. Despite logical explanation, Stephen never accepted the fact that he is and will forever be a bum.

Since then, Stephen was almost always out of the house, spending more and more time with his friends. He would come home in the wee hours of the morning, drunk and angry at everyone and everything. He picked a fight with anybody he would come across with on the street. 

And then the beatings began.

Marnie never had a day without being physically and emotionally abused. She suffered bruises all over her body. Her head was not spared. It hurt terribly from being banged against a wall or a table. Her lips were busted from the blows. On the days she was spared from this brutality, it was the children who got their share of beatings. This went on for months. Marnie could not tell anyone. She was so ashamed and did not want to accept that she and her children are being abused. She knew in her heart that it was just the drugs and alcohol that made Stephen crazy. She knew that there was still that love in his heart.

Many times she thought of killing herself, but she could not bear to think what would happen to her children if she did it. She learned to be strong, not for herself, but for her children. She wanted her kids to have at least one sane parent who cares for them and would protect them from being hurt. She decided that she cannot put up with this anymore. Marnie had to find a way to stop it. During one of Stephen's sober days, she told him that they would be moving back in to her mother's house. Her reason? To give her mom half of the rent money they are spending now and save the rest so that the family could have a little extra spending cash. It worked. Stephen gave in. The sound of "extra spending cash" was music to his ears.

In her mother's house, Marnie felt safe. Her kids' laughter returned, they were no longer anxious and scared. They had good hot meals everyday. Stephen as usual was more out of the house, escaping the responsibility as a father. For a few months, they were okay. And then the beatings started again. 

Stephen was deep into drugs this time, getting to be more and more paranoid about the people around him. He hated Marnie going on overtime, thinking that she was seeing somebody else. Marnie kept on explaining that the office she works for pays good overtime money. Stephen would respond to this with by hitting her. A slap across the face, a punch to the belly, a kick to the back when she down on the floor buckled up in pain. All this happened when Marnie's mother and siblings were asleep. They knew nothing about what was going on. Marnie wanted to let her mother know, but she was so scared that aging mom might suffer a heart attack. She opted to keep her silence and suffer alone.

Marnie turned to prayer. She stormed heaven for answers. She wanted to know the reason why a dream turned into a nightmare. She asked God for forgiveness. She asked God to show her the right path. She accepted and surrendered everything to God. "Thy Will be done" was all she said as she finished off her prayers. 

An opportunity to work abroad. Marnie was so excited. She was more than qualified for the position. She needed this. Her children were growing and educational fees were way beyond her budget. Her meager salary from her job as a clerk could no longer support the needs of the children. Actually, Marnie had another purpose in mind. Maybe her plans to go abroad would make Stephen realize that it is him that should be working and supporting the family. Maybe, Marnie thought Stephen would beg her to stay.

Another mistake. Stephen acted strangely. Waiting for the approval of Marnie's work contract abroad was a big issue to him.  The beatings would go on every time Marnie would come home from the recruitment office without a work contract. Stephen really wanted Marnie to leave and was preparing a list of things that he would ask Marnie to send him once she starts earning money abroad. 

Marnie eventually got her contract. She was scheduled to leave in two weeks time. She spoke with the children. She made them realize that she is only going to be away for a while and that she is doing this so that they will have a better future. Marnie told them that they will be safe in their grandmother's home and that she will always call and write. Young as they were, Marnie's kids understood.

The night before she left, Marnie could not find sleep. She sat up looking at her sleeping children. It seemed like she was filling her soul with memories of having her children beside her. She cried silently. She feared for her children. She prayed that nothing would happen to them in the 3 years she will be away. Her husband was not home yet, probably out with friends, celebrating his upcoming "freedom." 

Marnie was crying all the way to the airport. Her mother kept assuring her that she will take care of the kids and that all Marnie has to do is to pray and stay healthy. Marnie was inconsolable. This was going to be the longest time she will spend away from her beloved little ones. She was not the strong woman she always thought she was. There was no turning back now. Her heart was breaking when she hugged her children before boarding the plane. Marnie was a mess. 

Nine months and countless phone calls, letters and emails after, Marnie received a phone call from her mother. She told Marnie that Stephen took all his stuff and moved out of the house. Marnie was overjoyed! The biggest thorn in her life was finally gone. She asked how the children were doing and Marnie's mom said that the children are okay, that they were actually relieved that their father was no longer a threat to their safety. Marnie was so happy that she worked even harder, looked around for overtime jobs and rest day jobs she could do. She could save more money and not fear that it would be squandered by one worthless being. She thanked God endlessly for clearing the path for her. 

NAIA, 2008. Marnie arrved in Manila. Her children were there to welcome her back. Oh, how they have grown! They exchanged hugs and kisses and endless stories all the way home. This was a happy moment for Marnie. She was finally with her children again. On her first night back, Marnie woke up to find her three children awake and sitting on the floor by her bedside. They were watching her sleep! Marnie asked them why they weren't sleeping yet, her eldest son said.. "Mama, don't ever leave us again." 

Marnie cried and said "Yes, my children. I will never leave you again. We will go through this life together and we will make it. Just us. Just mama and you." 

And they all got in bed, snuggled together and fell asleep. A most heart warming, peaceful sleep they all had in years. 


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