When Aishah says she wants a McDonalds toy for Christmas, here’s what she means…

I’m writing this one for Aishah’s family and sending them a link…

You might be a little confused when Aishah tells you she wants a McDonalds toy for Christmas, and it’s pointless asking Megan, since she won’t know either.

Aishah has several YouTube channels she likes watching, one of which is called Toys and Colors. This channel features videos, mostly of two girls named Emma and Jenny, playing with various toys and their aunties and uncles.

So when she says a “McDonalds toy”, she doesn’t mean the toy she gets with a happy meal, she means something like this one. That’s not exactly what she wants, but basically, she wants a toy shop-front, where she can pretend to make food for your orders. (The channel features toys that are made to look like a McDonalds shop front with logo, but I don’t know if you can get them in this country.) Her other favourite toy, sadly left here, was a toy cash register. She likes to play shopkeeper, and you go to her and pretend to order things from her shop, and then pay for it, either with toy money that comes with cash register toy, or Monopoly money.

It’s a fun and interactive game, and I was trying to teach her to add and subtract the play-money properly, so she could work out how much change to give, but we never got that far.

She also loves playing Monopoly, but you need to be the banker for her. She can read some of the Chance and Community Chest cards, so give her a chance to see if she can work things out for herself. But watch out for her cheating… she will manipulate the dice to “throw doubles” if you aren’t paying attention, and might sometimes cheat when moving her piece and doesn’t like where it will land. Also please buy her a deck of cards – she can play Solitaire. And encourage her to play properly and not to start by finding the aces since she likes cheating there too.

Some of her other YouTube subscriptions from my account:

  1. 123 Go!
  2. Troom Troom
  3. The Rybka Twins
  4. Shot of the Yeagers
  5. ToysPlay
  6. Brent Rivera

A year of despair

I’m shaking all over and feel physically ill. My stomach is upset and my whole body is tense, and I’m worried about my blood pressure, because, thanks to the overwhelming debt due to Megan, I haven’t had enough money to get more hypertension tablets, so I’ve rationed them, taking one one day, and then going two days without to allow me to wait until the end of the month to get more. And today I called in sick to work so that I can go to the doctor and get myself checked out. Hopefully it’s not too bad.

This time I am not going to write this and delete it, and this time I am going to write it all. It’s time to burn this bridge.

After my mother died on December 7th last year, I was struggling with depression. When I heard that Megan was in trouble, I naively thought that having her here might help. She could help with Josh’s homework and maybe finally make some kind of bond with her son. Aishah could be in a stable and secure environment, and go to Josh’s school. We could be a family. I was wrong. And I should have known.

I paid for Megan to come here from Cape Town. Four times, I paid, and she didn’t get on the bus. Eventually her mother informed me that Megan was locked up in a police cell for five days (which didn’t explain why she missed the other three busses and I should have realized something was wrong). There was a case against her, for stealing someone’s phone. Under the impression from her mother that the case had been dropped, and having been promised that this time would be different, I allowed her to come here, with Aishah who was then five years old.

They arrived in late March, so she was in time for Josh’s birthday on April 2nd. And things were good at the beginning. Too good. In the first week, she persuaded me to take out a loan, for R120 000, with a company called Direct Access. The repayments are steep, R5 500 a month, but I thought that if I used it to consolidate my debt, that would be OK. But that didn’t happen.

Late in the first month, I was told that she had a court date, in Cape Town. (1400km away. We live in Johannesburg.) Again, I was assured that this was a formality, that the case would soon be dropped. “What if it gets postponed?”, I asked. “No, that will never happen. Van Graan (the lawyer) says it will be dropped”. Of course it wasn’t.

I ended up paying for her flights, four times up and down to cape Town, each time leaving me with both children to take care of alone. The last time, she stayed for a month, and in that month, I paid for two flights back, where she failed to get on the plane. Each time… a story. A ridiculous lie about why she didn’t catch the plane.

When she finally returned, she showed up with Jenna, from her her previous relationship. Jenna who was on the run from the police, apparently because she stole a car. Jenna who used to abuse her and pimp her out. Jenna who she had run away from. Needless to say, I didn’t let her bring that person here.

Eventually that case was settled, but she has to complete a NIKRO program to avoid getting a criminal record.

In those four weeks, and the various other times when she left Aishah alone with me for days at a time, we ate takeout. Yes, that’s my fault. We blew that money on food, flights, dentist bills of over R10000 for Megan and her new dentures, Aishah’s bicycle for her birthday in May, watching movies, going to Gold Reef City with her cousin who came to visit for two weeks, my new phone, and various other things. That money is long gone, but the debt isn’t. With my bond, the loan repayments, and my other expenses including old debt that I’m still paying off, I am struggling to pay my bills. Actually I can’t pay all my bills.

Aishah was in school. We found a good creche nearby, and Megan’s aunt paid for it. Again, I asked her, “What if your aunt stops paying?” and she assured me that would not happen. of course that was not true as well. her aunt stopped paying at the end of July, and I didn’t know straight away. After two months of unpaid fees, the told us she can’t come back to that school. It broke my heart because Aishah was doing so well there. I dropped her off every morning, and collected both children from the two schools in the afternoon. And Aishah would pretend that, like Josh, she also had homework. She ask me to help her with it, with her Abacas maths.

In around June, Megan asked me to buy drugs. (Meth, our preferred drug from the past.) When I refused and reminded her that I was almost six years clean, her response was “Who gives a fuck?” (I do.) So she found a friend in the area, and started going out some nights. Other times, she had a friend further away, and would stay out for four to five days at a time, again, leaving me with both children. I have never known where she goes or what she does.

In these six months, I’ve build quite a bond with Aishah. We’re close, not as close as her brother and I, but close all the same. And even when Megan was here, she never spoke to us or interacted with us. Also has the headphones on, always singling along to the same songs in that awful flat voice of hers, leaving me to attend to both children. Aishah loves to play hide and seek, or Monopoly, which she’s got quite good at for a six year old, although she prefers using the board and the paper money to the Xbox version of the game.

The last time she stayed away was at the end of August, and she returned on September the 2nd, a Monday. I remember that Sunday before clearly… Josh was at a friend and I’d taken Aishah to the shop with me. She chose a toy, and I let her take it but insisted I can’t buy her anything else. The she picked up this powdered milk…. called Nespray Fortigrow and cried to get that too. Eventually I relented, and she put the toy back,asking me if she can get it for her birthday next year. I agreed, but reminded her it’s a long time until then.

After that last time, I wrote on Facebook about Megan being away for a few days, she returned on a Monday. That night I went to an NA meeting and announced I was six years clean. When I returned, I heard Aishah’s excited voice as I closed the car door, shouting “Jerome’s home! Jerome’s home!” We then called Megan’s uncle who had tried to call me when I was at the meeting as he wanted to speak to Aishah. Then Megan went out with her local friends.

Aishah has nightmares, and she had a cramp that night. She insisted on sleeping next to me, which is fine with me. In my room, we have two beds, my queen size bed and Josh’s old bed. Normally myself, Megan and Aishah all sleep in the same room, and Josh has his own room. After Aishah went to sleep, I got up and was busy on my computer. I recall being on there until after midnight and Megan had still not come home. I heard her return and make a lot of noise at around 4AM.

The next day, although Aishah wanted to go to school, Megan complained that she wasn’t feeling well and Aishah could “take care of me”. Josh was also not feeling well so he stayed home, but I went to work leaving all three of them there.

When I returned, I complained as I walked in the door that I was low on petrol. “You’ll lose everything because you touched my child!” Megan accused. Aishah was sitting in the lounge, looking afraid, huddled next to Josh on the couch. I didn’t know what she was talking about so I pressed further. “Aishah told me everything!” she shouted, as she waved the knife around that she’d been using to cut vegetables. That also doesn’t mean anything to me. Eventually it came out that she claimed Aishah had told her something (I still don’t know exactly what) and that I had exposed myself to her on the bed, and told her that if she told Megan, I wouldn’t give her a birthday present the next year. No such thing ever happened, and the only conversation I had with Aishah about her birthday was the one I wrote about earlier, where she had to choose between a toy and powdered milk, and asked that I give her the present next year. Wen Megan asked Aishah to repeat what she’d said that morning, it became clear that the child had no idea what Megan was talking about.

But that’s not all… Megan was moving around nonstop. Twitching, scratching, twitching some more, then turning her head from side to side. And mumbling to herself, “Mmmm, mmm-uhmmm”, then singing. I heard her later that night, as she did fuck-knows-what in the kitchen around midnight… In between the mumbling, and singing, she exclaimed “Aishah!” as if the child was there in the room, but Aishah was fast asleep in bed.

The next morning when I drove Josh to school, he asked me if it was his imagination or if Megan was making strange noises throughout the night. I answered him honestly… Megan was probably high. I asked about the things that Aishah had supposedly told her the day before and he remarked that he was in the same room as Aishah all day and no such conversation had taken place. Aishah confirmed this to me as well.

This is what I honestly believe: Megan is using. I don’t know when she started and I have not found any evidence of drugs here, but she must be. I think that was the only day she used here in my flat, but that night when I got home and she was acting strangely and accusing me of molesting Aishah, I am convinced she was high. And hallucinating. I am certain she hallucinated the whole conversation and she actually believes it – she doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what she has hallucinated. I believe Aishah is in danger and I don’t know where she has taken the child.

I need to get to my doctor’s appointment and then I need to get some rest because I feel ill. So I’ll have to stop writing this now.

But to end off… Megan was away with Aishah for the whole of September after that week.  She only returned last Friday. Then she stayed for the weekend, and left with Aishah yesterday while I was at work. Josh was here; it was his last day of school holidays. She told him she was just going to give away some clothes that were too small, then she left and didn’t come back; taking most of her clothes but leaving all of Aishah’s toys.

This breaks my heart. Every day Aishah told me what she wanted for Christmas. I love her as much as Josh, even though she isn’t my daughter. To be accused of molesting her… It’s unthinkable. To think that Megan actually believes this? It kills me inside. I am broken, deeply hurt and in despair.

And to top it all off, I didn’t notice until I got home yesterday that money was missing from my wallet (and laptop bag where I hid it from Megan). A little over R3000 altogether… There was R2000 in my wallet and there’s R700 left. And there was R3000 hidden in my laptop bag; with R1000 remaining. The rest is gone. And she did this knowing I drew the money out before my debit orders could go off, knowing how much I am struggling. And this is after I bought her a phone on Saturday – honestly that is all she cared about. I went to the police, and they won’t let me make a case because I didn’t witness her stealing the money. That’s crazy – there was no one else here.

So that’s it… I haven’t written everything because there’s too much. But it’s enough. Everything I have written is 100% true, and I’m going to share it to my Facebook and hers. I know her password, so I’ve changed it, locking her out of her Google account and both Facebook accounts, and I wrote a status on both of them last night asking that if anyone knows where she is, they contact her mother. (You can reach Heather on +27 84 795 1607.) Maybe she can have more luck at the police and Child Welfare… whatever it takes.
[Edit: She has the main Facebook account back. And she deleted my status there. I can’t share this to her wall.]

I’m terribly worried about Aishah. We only applied for one school for next year, Josh’s school, and I don’t know if she was accepted because Megan would have received the message. I don’t think she has any plan, any thoughts about getting Aishah into school even though she legally must do so next year. I don’t think she is thinking at all. Also, her mother was supposed to come here and help, so I heard, but we have been waiting for three months now, and now maybe it’s too late. We don’t know where Megan and Aishah are, or how much danger Aishah is in.

Hey friends, I am still alive and well!

One of my friends asked what was happening because I had seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth…

I’m fine, but was dumb enough to share a screen shot in a comment explaining why I got a 7 day Facebook ban, which then got me a 30 day Facebook ban.

In the meantime, I’ve done quite a bit of writing on my other blog as well as one or two posts here.

I’ve also been growing my beard for a joke… the intention is to post a new profile picture with status something to the effect of “Looking rough after a month in Facebook jail”. But to be honest, I don’t know if I can hold out without shaving for another eleven days – it feels like someone attached a lawn to my neck.

Here’s what it looks like now: (Normally I Photoshop the rosacea off my face but it’s too much trouble now. Anyway, it’s been worse.)

IMG_20190810_120329

IMG_20190810_120341

My beard has only been growing for about a month and nearly a half, and already had to trim it away from my lips a few times. Plus it’s so grey the little one above says I look like Father Christmas…

“I think they’re having a brother’s day at my school”, she said.

As I drove Aishah to school this morning, just after dropping Josh off, she remarked, “I think they’re having a brother’s day at my school.” I had to explain to her that brother’s day is not a thing.

Kids say the darndest things? It’s become something of a cliché, but they really do…

What happened was, her creche celebrated both mother’s and father’s day on the preceding Friday, with some activities to involve the parent. She insisted that I attend the father’s day celebration even though I am not her biological father, and it was good.

So… since she loves her brother, she assumed brother’s day is a thing too. This makes me happy. Megan and Aishah have been staying with us for about five months now… and it’s been up and down. Josh still doesn’t love his mother. But maybe he likes her a little, although he won’t admit it. But brother and sister, Josh and Aishah, are getting along well. They have grown into a normal sibling relationship and that is all I could have hoped for.

Here’s my two cents on abortion

I’ve been seeing this subject trending for weeks, and since everybody else has shared their opinion, here’s mine. It’s simple, and this will probably be one of my shortest blog posts. We men should have no say whatsoever in what women do with their bodies. That’s all.

There. That was easy.

To clarify, we don’t have to approve of abortion. We don’t have to support women’s’ choices. It doesn’t matter what we think because abortion involves a woman’s choice about her body. It is literally none of our fucking business. (Regardless, I do support abortions.)

In a perfect world, that’s how it would go down. But in this sick patriarchal world, men do get to make the laws and control women’s bodies. A couple of proposed laws in a couple of American states have prompted me to write this. It’s gotten to the point where women are being punished for having abortions, while men get off scot free, even rapists. It’s gotten to the point where I have to write something about it because I feel that not doing so makes a statement that condones taking away women’s bodily autonomy.

Men should have no say in a woman’s decision. Unless you are helping her after she already made her decision, you need to shut the fuck up.

Prayer was the most insidious part of my religious indoctrination

Last time I shared a prayer that I printed out for a certain someone who doesn’t want me to write about her here. I hope it helps her. You might think sharing that was an odd thing for an atheist to write about, but I don’t. I think it opens the door for me to share what prayer meant to me when I grew up.

First of all, excuse the simplistic format and words… I came up with this when I was around eight or nine years old. This was more or less my standard prayer every night:

God,
Bless Mommy, Daddy, Christopher,
Toby, Honey, Cheeky and Chirpy,
And me, if that’s the way it should be.

Thank you for [this changed every day]
Please can I [this changed every day]

There’s one thing that jumps out at me from those words: I did not believe I deserved to be blessed. And that’s a problem. (But that’s what Christianity teaches. We are born in sin and shame and are unworthy. That’s precisely what makes Christian beliefs harmful and that’s why so many humanists call Christian indoctrination a kind of child abuse.) My format was based on a book I’d heard someone read aloud at school – the name long since forgotten… In the book, a boy prayed in this format where he blessed everybody and left himself for last. Something like, “And lastly, bless little old me”. But I changed it and added the bit about not deserving to be blessed. Also I changed the words slightly over the years, but those are the ones I remember.

Here’s what I take out of this:

  1. If you look at the prayer I printed for my partner, her Christianity must be quite different to my former beliefs. I would never have considered reading a ready-made generic prayer and inserting the subject I wanted in it, like a template. Never. Everything always had to be in my own words, and I’ve been comfortable expressing them in writing since I was seven years old. It would not feel sincere to read out someone else’s words.
  2. I never did get my head around praying to Jesus, let alone infant Jesus.
  3. Toby was the family cat. He was a kitten born to a cat we had when I was five years old and he died when I was sixteen. In fact, I took the day off school because he wasn’t well, and my father was meant to come take him to the vet, but he died, in my hands, before that could happen. Honey was a golden Labrador, obtained from a school friend’s parents who emigrated when I was eight years old. Cheeky and Chirpy were budgies, and I don’t remember exactly what year they lived, but I am guessing at around my ninth year.
  4. Cheeky and Chirpy were the first pets I remember dying. (Cats like Toby’s mother had died before then, but those don’t register as memories for me. Maybe I hadn’t gotten my head around death and mortality until then.) I changed the words of the prayer, but their names stuck in my head because I’d been saying it that way for over a year. Thereafter changing the names in each prayer required conscious effort.

My prayer wasn’t just a religious thing. It was my link to my childhood. It kept those pets alive in my heart and mind. Also, this is a reminder of something else… Christopher became Chris sometime in high school, because other people called him that. If it had been me, and people called me Jay instead of Jerome, the name would not have stuck. My brother was always different to me in certain way related to peer pressure and outside influences. There was a phase where he went to someone else’s church and picked up their ideas, which upset my mother. I, on the other hand, even used her religious belief as an excuse (when I was 12 years old) to avoid going on a school outing to other churches. In truth, I would not have been influenced by other churches. More likely I would have rejected them all sooner. I think I knew that deep down. Catholicism, and prayer, had sentimental value to me. They kept me childlike and helped me not to forget my love for lost pets, and kept Chris as Christopher in my mind.

I didn’t want to let go of my childhood. I didn’t want to grow up. But also, I felt guilty if I didn’t pray at night. Now this might not make sense, but I continued to pray for several years after I stopped believing in god. It’s hard to explain, but the guilt kept me from being able to stop, even if it meant that absurdly I prayed to a god I didn’t believe in. Just like, for whatever unknown psychological reason, it took me over ten years to begin thinking of my brother as Chris, it took even longer for me to let go of prayer.

Maybe it isn’t only about indoctrination and guilt, but also about my own reluctance to change, but I found it especially difficult to let go of prayer. It was the most difficult part of my personal journey into atheism.

My brother is my only link to those days now, since all those pets are long gone and both parents too. Funny how it works… my changes and my journey through the years feel natural to me, so I still feel like the same person – I am the same Jerome who was the child who remembers all these things as an adult. But it’s different now and I don’t perceive others as being the same. My brain has compartmentalized Chris and Christopher almost as if they are two different people. Christopher is my baby brother, the one I would lay down my life protecting. Chris is… someone else. It’s really difficult to explain, but at least we are closer now than we were a few years ago, since I (rightfully) lost his trust in my years of addiction. And then got it back, but it took some time longer than I expected. Maybe that’s a subject for another day… when we stop using drugs, we expect too much of those who know us, we expect them to know that we have changed long before there is any way they can possibly know.