Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Well this is what is on my mind today. The first 11 years were spent with  brutal christian zealot foster parents. I was in childrens homes from 11 to 18. At 18 I was given a letter marked 1968 from a file. It was from my mother pleading for my return. I was also given my birth certificate and I was placed in a small flat in poets corner Atherton Lancashire. Number 21 Cowper Avenue.

Here’s some of the tale.  She, studying in England, approached the social services for
short term fostering while she studied. It was 1967, the social services had no intention of doing this for her and the social worker, named me after himself and found foster parents many miles away. He then disallowed her from visiting. Just as you would with an adopted
child. The foster parents, put me into care at 11 telling me the devil was inside me and then the social services held me until i was 18 and then let go.  Giving me my birth certificate was a legal obligation.

The most penetrating and horrific earthquake that happened inside me was a growing awareness  that I was the only proof of my own existence. My own echo. That nobody i knew, knew me for longer than a year.  The foster parents never got in touch with me after they placed me into care. So I have hardly any memory below 11. And between
11 and e18  I was placed in five children’s homes, all which had a turnover of new children each week. And each children’s home had new staff who worked in five hour shifts.

It was a really difficult concept to articulate; that all family does at the bottom line is confirm the existence of its other human beings. It is so primeval  that most do not even see it.  This is what birthdays, memory, weekend outings, family gatherings, funerals, weddings, holidays are, that’s all. They are a set of systems to confirm the existence and relevance of the human beings within the clan. And with the skills one learns within this complex set of behaviours, you then go out to the world.

IF I hear another person say to me “yes but family is not all good” I think I might explode. Whether family is good or not is not the issue here.  In fact as one who never had a family I would say that the whole evaluation of “family” as good or as bad is a privilege that only someone with family can have. You are afforded the right to simplify, by the fact that you are part of the complex equation.

So anyway, I spent most of my adult life searching for my family. I found my mother at 21 and my late father at 28 and I found my fathers and mothers daughters and sons (by different partners) between 28 and finally my sisters on my mothers side at 32. I found my uncles and aunts within the same period.  It’s a search that began at  18 years old when I left the children’s Home and discovered my real name. And it continued for   Fourteen years and stretched over three continents. It bled me financially, professionally and emotionally.

Most of my new found family have continued the pattern of their lives set by the trajectory of their pasts. They are great people with great pasts. They have all of the difficulties and triumphs that happen to  families that are split by revolution war  and survival. They are
to a man, all educated. This is one thing that families do for each  other – especially Ethiopian and Eritrean  families. Education is, with all peoples in  the world, a passport. But its not just the education, its the fact  that someone wants and encourages  you to pursue it.

Having not been part of their pasts I do not really “figure” in their future other than the “we have a relative in england”  conversational piece.  I forget to say to my family that having
searched for  them my entire life I would have liked them to search for me. One visit
does not a family make.  On the other   hand I don’t have the tools to slot into a family.  I  find  myself   “wrong” and a threat to a status quo that has, by each family  member, has  been hard fought for.  They’ve all got their own  stories.  And though my story is horrendous (to me) I am aware   that it’s all relative. There’s an irony in the phrase “it’s all

Maybe what I want is  something they could never give me.  My aunt Alemash said to me
“you will never be alone again”. That was seven years ago. And she   has  called me every Sunday, since then.   Why am I sharing this with you. Well, why not tell the truth. Not a
day  goes by that  I am not reminded of all of this.  I am not   angry and noone is to blame. However, someone once said of the illness   “depression is anger turned in on the self” and how right they   are. Be well.

Writers Log:

Stardate six eight two zero zero six. The enterprise. Captains  Log.  No creative writing today. Oxygen bleeping on number five,  before critical.

6 thoughts on “Lazy Sunday Afternoon

  1. Hello there,
    I was reading BBC and saw you Article on the main page. Your story was one of the most touching story I have ever seen and I was truly touched and couldn't stop crying. I am an Ethiopian who lives in the us, I was raised by my parents and I could just imagin what you had to go through. Ethiopian parents always wish thier children to have a better life and give thier children away to another culture specialy to western with out realizing the negetive side of it. I think the situation is better now beacuse our parents know more about the western culture now than before . Our country might be poor but our culture and values are very rich and as you said, money is not everything and defenetly doesn't replace someones's identity. I am so glad that you spoke up about your experiances and I am sure we all will learn from your story. Congradulations on your success! and wish you the best.

  2. It was a really difficult concept to articulate; that all family does at the bottom line is confirm the existence of its other human beings. It is so primeval that most do not even see it. This is what birthdays, memory, weekend outings, family gatherings, funerals, weddings, holidays are, that's all. They are a set of systems to confirm the existence and relevance of the human beings within the clan. And with the skills one learns within this complex set of behaviours, you then go out to the world.
    I find this profoundly moving. I think everyone has their own story of family. My story is that my mother passed away when I was 25 and I lost my family or what I thought of as my family. My mother was the one person that seemed to hold all the factions of my family together, when she passed away the pieces came apart…some immediately and others more gradually….since then I have tried to sort out what makes a family and if your family does not want to be or act as a family what is it as a human being that you need to simply cope.
    This has been compounded by the fact that I am trying to raise my daughter's whose African American father has not been able to participate in her life. She does not see herself reflected in me…her skin colour, hair texture are the same as her fathers so even though physically we have some similar features…for many people it is not apparent that we are biologically family. I grew up with parents who had huge extended families and my current family consists of as my daughter said “you, me and the cat” when she said that I realized that it was absolutely true for both of us we are the only two people that know us our life together.
    I appreciate your honesty and deep understanding.

  3. hello,
    You have made me cry twice today, once with your beautiful poem about love and once with your story.
    It hit a note because I never got on with my father and often wished him away, thinking the whole family would be better off without him (he was quite cruel) and now I have split up with my son's father I am starting to feel very sad that i have taken from him the experience of having his dad around while growing up (luckily he still sees him). I thought having a bad father was something to be avoided but yep you're right, family gives you a frame of reference and real sense of who you are. The more the merrier, good or bad.
    You seem like an amazing person. I am sad that happened to you but glad you are the fantastic writer and thinker you are.
    Mary xx

  4. Hello Lemm,
    I have never ever written a blog to some , but I read your article on the BBC website and i was deeply touched by your story. I cannot truly tell you i totally understand what you went through as a child but what i can say is that, even though you had some really really bad experiences as a child, God still loves you very much and he is nothing like your parents. I am Nigerian, and i grew up knowing both my parents. I had a part time dad, and we only saw him once a month. As a child i didnt even know parents lived in the same house. I learnt that when i went to school in my social studies lessons. My mother worked very hard to put myself and my siblings through school and she was and sometimes still is a very angry woman. I remember as a child i was always sooooooooooooooooo tired in the class always sleeping and know i realise i was just just so tired emotionally rather than life was a living hell, my mother was always angry, and her anger was written all over her. i grew up with a lot of hatred towards both my parents especially my father. I always thought of killing him because i blamed him for everything that went wrong in my life. I was filled with soooooooooo much hatred and anger. everything i did was motivated by hatred and anger. but that all changed I became a christain last year and i found something i had been searching for all my life. I found my true father, God. I remember walking into my church and sitting down right in a corner. I sat there and i cried soooooooooooooooo hard,( i wished i would die ) and these young ladies who i didnt know came to hug me and and prayed for was amazing that people actually wanted to hug me because no one ver hugged me as a child. i found quite embrassing. My friends at church told every time me God loved me and for a very longtime i struggled with the idea of a God who could love a nothing like me. i felt i didnt deserve it and how could God love me if my father didnt. It took God a long while to convince me that he loved me and a great deal of that love was expressd through friends at church. My entire family lives in Nigeria, but i have found my true family (God's family) because i know i am loved and accepted. I know deep down inside you somewhere there is a part of you that wants to be known, accepted and loved by someone, that true hunger can only be satisfied by the one who truly loved us first ( God). I wake up now and i know who i am, i have purpose and a truly deep understanding of God's love. So deep so wide so gentle and loving. God cleansed me from all the unhappiness of my past and gave me a new one. and even though i know all the things that have happened in my past actually happened, i dont remember it and even when i do, it has lost the power to hurt me. God helped me to understand why the things that happened actually happened and he healed me. Now I am free as an eagle and i actually have the thing i always wanted a father and a friend. I am not trying to convert you to christianity even though it looks like a classic case, i am just telling you my story and stating the facts, that somewhere out is a arm so open so wide so loving that once you know you will never ever leave, because i cant think of a better person who deserves to be loved by God. I know you have meet a few fanatics, and all this sounds like mumbo jumbo, but the truth is you have a father, who wants you and who loves you. ( THAT IS A FACT). Dont worry one day you will come to understand Just keep an open mind. and yes God is real

  5. hi lemn you won't remember me i doubt but i will always remember going toyour flat on poets corner when my mum veonica baked you a rasta cake and, you made us all welcome from what i remember and i was only young you were always a cool guy who i loved to see walking past our window on everest road, my sister emma has all your books she likes to potrait to the university types that she knows you very well, but in all honesty you have done so so well my dad is very proud of you cheers lemn and always take care paul sharples son of barry sharples

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