Wednesdays with Nesa

I struggled with typing this entry because I certainly did not want this to be a feel good, self-praise kind of post. But I also felt the strong need to share about this book I just completed and how it has convinced me to keep doing what I am doing.

“Invisible Thread” follows the story of Laura Schroff, a busy and successful sales executive, who meets 11 year-old panhandler, Maurice. All his life, Maurice had lived in neighborhoods that were rampant with drugs and crime. He could have very well followed his mother’s footsteps and engaged in a life of drugs and misdemeanor, until that first Monday when Laura decided to buy him dinner at Mac Donalds’. His life was changed forever. What followed were weekly Monday meetings that went on for years where they both learnt so much about life from each other. 

Reading that book reminded me of my relationship with Mel and family, and in particular, her youngest daughter, Nesa. I met Nesa when she was 10. She didn’t leave much of an impression until I saw how broken she was each Sunday when she had to go back to Gracehaven, an institution she had to live in until her mother could earn her custody rights back. [Nesa came back home for good in Jan 2016]  

Since I live a stone’s throw away from Gracehaven, I would make it a point to stay until 10-ish pm whenever I was over at Mel’s place on Sunday, so that I could give Nesa a lift. That was how we bonded. (*Gonna issue a caveat here – don’t get me wrong, Mel (her mother) is one of the most amazing human beings I know and respect, and while it sounds like she is neglecting her daughter, she isn’t. She made poor decisions in her life earlier on, and now has seven mouths to feed. She is trying her absolute best as a mother to provide for her kids, in whatever ways she knows, but just does not have enough resources and time to devote her all to each individual.) 

Over the years, I would try my best to be at events that mattered – whether birthdays, dance competitions or school orientation. This year, Nesa and I spend every Wednesday evenings together. Our evenings start with me ferrying her for athletics training at CCAB and then dinner after that. Her other sisters question me at times and call me out for favouritism. I feel bad but I don’t want to over promise and under commit to the rest. It would not be fair either. 

Our relationship, and its dynamics, is fluid and takes on many forms. Some days I am Bernice jie jie (sister), other days I am the disciplinarian; the guardian (that meets her teachers in school); the secret keeper; the savings banker; the youtube songs downloader and occasionally the naggy old folk. 

On our way to Nesa’s first SportCares CareRunners training at CCAB, she was feeling nervous. Things she has told me included : “I am very nervous, can I go home now?”; “My stomach really very pain.”; “Got so many people, I am so scared.”; “Bernice jie jie, if they never come today, you run with me ah.”; “Can you tell them don’t come?”; “Am I the only one running? Or a lot?”; “Butterflies in my stomach. My heart is beating so fast.”

We’ve had simple Wednesdays, but we’ve also had exciting Wednesdays. Most exciting being her meeting her track idol, Shanti Pereira, and even receiving a pair of shoes and autographed polaroid of them together (more in another post!). We’ve also had a rainy Wednesday when I waited one hour for her thinking if she would show up! She did. All drenched, no less. 

I can’t say for sure how long this Wednesday commitment would last. I do get weary and discouraged at times - why doesn’t her school attendance improve, is she learning anything at all, etc. But after reading this account of Laura and Maurice, I would definitely like to make each Wednesdays together count and become a memory we can reminisce and laugh about many years down the road.  

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