The Pursuit of Happiness

She smiles because she has known and felt the pain. She laughs a hearty laugh because she’s not new to sorrow. She is a champion ready to narrate the story of her life. This is a tale of a secondary school teacher who has lived amidst alcoholism for over three decades but made it out smiling with the love of her five children.

Suzan (not real name) was born in Kabale in 1963 as the last child of eight children. Despite his illiteracy, Susan’s father was one of the richest men in a 100 ft radius. He owned forests, land, plantations and the biggest asset of them all, an industrious mind which he fortunately transferred onto his children, one of the lucky ones being Suzan.

“It was a family of hard workers” she says. From her tone, you can tell her journey has been full of trials and tribulations. “In a time where female education was not as prioritized as male education, few of my sisters managed to go make it to school”. Her other sisters, she says lived the cliché that was a 16th century African woman.

Bare children, grow them and wait on their husbands. Suzan wanted none of this. She craved an independence that this life couldn’t offer her. She wanted to be educated and to bring her parents much joy and happiness. Only her father didn’t see it that way. School wasn’t her priority.

Through hardship and strain, she eventually made it to Makerere University, at a time of prestige and graduated with a degree of education in the year 1988. She left with her transcript and two babies. A boy and a girl. The joys of her life. She loved her man and above all, she loved her children.

She loved her job and her life was good. Despite having such, The world wasn’t. It was just all about being the target of so much hatred, jealousy and antagonism from relatives. For most did not appreciate the man she had brought home, and most of the others were jealous that she had not lived down to their expectations. . She was living the Kampala dream.

“I met Jim when i was eighteen years old in my final year of secondary school”. Susan narrates like a young lady in love.  “He taught literature and English. A very handsome man, brilliant, well-spoken and extremely chivalrous. Unlike the rest of the arrogant and intimidating teaching staff, Jim was kind, patient and excellent at his job which he executed with utmost passion”. Soon after she had finished her secondary education, their affair ensued. He was loving, he was kind and generous.

The most amazing person she had ever known. When she had their first child two years later, he was more hands on than even she was. He was perfect. He had no flaw… oh she was enchanted! Three years later she had another child, a boy. He was elated and life was beautiful. She worked hard, voluntarily counselling with TASO at Rubaga Hospital and at the same time, teaching Geography and History at Mengo Secondary School trying to make the perfect home for her husband and her two little angels. He worked even harder teaching and pursuing his higher education. They were not rich. Not even close. But they were happy.

“What began as an outburst of anger turned into a pattern of abuse”. She recalls. Suzan cannot clearly point out the day the sun set on her marital bliss, but the details are vivid in her mind. Sometime in the late 1990’s, all hell broke loose. What started out as a little insult and rude answer to an honest question turned to huge fight that lasted hours and sometimes days, to physical violence that involved shoving, hitting and more hitting. That wasn’t enough. Emotional violence ensued. Insults on her, insults on her fidelity. Torments on her background, her education, her physical appearance and everything she was. There were those days.

Where her precious Jim had been taken over by something else. She did not know what it was. She was in shock. After almost a decade of happiness, she had forgotten what it meant to be sad. She wept. Now she knew. And she was scared. Jim had developed an alter ego. Alcohol was the catalyst for his alter ego. And he was losing control over it.

Charming and angelic by day, violent, abusive and bitter by night. He would apologize. Make up for it. After all, even Paul was once Saul. She was quick to forgive. She knew the man she had married. He wasn’t this monster that would come out at night. She wept. She forgave. She forgot. Until the next time. He was sorry. She wept. She forgave She forgot. Until the next time.

Ten years later, several fights later, several threats of divorce later, several jobs, moves, embarrassments and tears, 3 children later, Suzan worked hard, she prided herself in being the best mother for her children, and even better wife for her husband. Jim worked hard too.

He was a perfect father. But that wasn’t enough for alcohol still had control of his mind. He drunk and lost his mind. He had good and bad days. His children, 3 daughters and 2 sons adored him. He adored them. He adored the bottle too. Suzan still wept.

Cause alcohol derailed each and every aspect of their lives. For a man of his means, they lacked development, they were merely getting by. But she couldn’t live like that. She made the decision to focus on her children and their livelihood. She wouldn’t let her husband’s inadequacies control their lives. She would live.

Loan after loan, she paid school fees, paid tuition and gave her children the best life she could. Jim worked hard, he provided as much as he was able to. And as far as the bottle took him. Suzan diligently created friendships with heads of schools, matrons and teachers so her children could live comfortably at school as she fought the battles at home. She supplemented their school education with her own. Coached in algebra and geography. Did homework and made sure her children were never lazy.

“Jim gave into alcohol completely and his body became a host of so many illnesses and he ailed so much that work became an option to him”. Suzan stated in a melancholic tone. But never once did she complain or pawn her children on other relatives like she had seen several people do over the years. On the few occasions that she felt defeated, she turned to God. Ignored the village gossip, the bitterness that years of verbal and emotional abuse had created and chose to live happily and raise happy children, despite the scars from their father.

Now she sits at home on her freshly mowed lawn, surrounded by books and papers to grade, with nothing in the air but the sound of birds, content and elated. Blissful like she was 30 years ago. Her children, all graduated, some married and some parents too. She spends her days mostly alone, in her vegetable garden looking forward to those days her children come around to visit.

“I have no regrets in life because am now a victor”. Susan says with a smile of a champion. “My beautiful babies have all grown into respectable men and women. Even when i was down, i never gave up because i knew suffering was temporary. I  go to church every Sunday to thank the good Lord for how far he He has brought me. I still work hard teaching thrice a week at Kitante Hill School and keeping my home as homely and comfortable for me and my children when they do come back home to visit me.”



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