Author Archives: Nadya Antoine

Debbian Antoine-Harris

My brother and I climb into bed with our bigger sister as she tells us about her life growing up in Grenada. She looks down at me and kisses me on my forehead while confidently assuring me that I won’t be attending any sweet sixteens or proms. I sadly pout in the dark, knowing she cannot see me to lecture me and complain about all the liberties she did NOT have growing up with my dad.–But these lectures…these stories…surprisingly are what I miss the most.–

Daddy Keith, is what she calls our dad. She tells my brother and I, this name had to be adopted because the amount of children in the house “back in the day”. So many of her cousins would attempt to call their own dads, that it was necessary to have some form of distinction.

Debbian Antoine is my big sister. Well, socio-biographically she is my “half-sister” but everyone believes us to be near twins. Oh yeah and for the amount of complete and utter nonsense she has had to deal with between my brother and me, she’s rightfully earned her familial label of “Sister”. From the stories I have heard, Debbie’s mom is what we call delirious, mental and a complete basket case. My sister was born in Grenada (West Indies) in the year of 1974. Yet till this day, her mother has denied the existence of any of her children. Thus, my sister has lived with our dad until they moved to the U.S and he married my mom. We are a family, her family. She moved out on her own once she was of age, and our sisterly bond was sealed once I was able to walk and talk. We would do everything together. From people watching, to shopping to making jokes, to straightening our hair to even “breaking day” watching Korean romance shows…my sister was me. Her apartment was my home away from home. Whenever she was missing in action, if you called my phone, you would find her. Her place was a sanctuary, away from my parents, my friends and all other distractions. We would order Chinese food and gossip about all the hypocrites in the Church. It became so bad that my mom had to almost ban us from seeing each other.

In 2005 it all changed. My sister decided to betray me. Betray us, betray the Antoine name. She got married. Instantly, like Joan Didion, I felt deceived. She didn’t ask me, she just did it. As she put purple flowers in my hair (I was the stupid flower girl), I couldn’t help but to think why? Is this really happening ? Was it something I did, said, didn’t do? She chose a tall lanky Caucasian man over me (Anthony Harris). And all of a sudden she became Debbian Antoine-Harris. He turned out to be fully Grenadian, quite a shocker, but still. Why? (One time she tried to pull the I’m-getting-married-stunt with another man and my dad completely nullified it..I was ecstatic) But this time around, the second time around, my spidey senses kicked in. It was clear she wanted independency, responsibility and autonomy. But what about me? What if I am not ready to add a wolf to our already perfect wolfpack? What if I didn’t request a wolf at all?

What is marriage really? Dictionaries describe it as “a relationship in which two people have pledged themselves to each other in the manner of a husband and wife.” However, it seemed to me to be a disunion from my family to this arbitrary construction worker she decided to wed. In my eyes she wished to train him. As a recovering alcoholic–not to mention Grenadian–, he is loud and ignorantly confident. These traits are not curable under the Debbian-stroke-of-love but rather, cured with time and experience. In the years following 2005 I learned to appreciate if not love my brother-in-law. We crack jokes daily and every time I show up at his door he comically closes it and claims he married my sister not me. Countless times he went out of his way to visit me when I was sick in the hospital (monthly at times) and even always allows me into his and my sister’s minuscule new apartment. He was here to say and whether I approved or not, it would not change.

The harsh truth has jus hit home a couple months ago as I latched onto my sister’s hip before she left church on Sunday. Rather than seeing her beautiful, cynical face every weekend (and Monday, Tuesday and whatever else days I could manage to swing by against my mother’s wishes), I would not see her again until the following Sunday in church only. My sister was not Debbian Antoine. She was now Debbian Antoine-Harris. Her first priority was now this man that has leeched his familial name onto our own. I love him, but frankly, it’s how I feel. He’s weighing us down. Why is he here? My sister and I are no longer the inseparable dynamic duo we once her and it’s his fault. Now her excuse every Sunday for leaving early is that she must go home and iron. Ugh. Forget him, let him iron his own crinkly clothes.

But now I guess is a better time as any to confess. I am now 20 and after 8 years I’ve realized it’s not just my sister but it’s me. Like every other deprived friend in my life, my sister has not moved from the spot she holds. I am welcome to visit her anytime I wish. Yet once college started for me, our bond still existed but became less frequently acted on. Trivial visits to her home have become harder to create around studying, internships and part-time jobs. Could it have been me who has also married? Have I subconciously married the educational-societal factors in my life?

Just like my beautiful sister, it was time for me to become independent as a college student and as a woman. No longer did I require my sister as a baby-sitter to give me baths and feed my continuously hungry stomach. Although my name did not change, I was now also in a new relationship in the world, that is the relationship that brought along (not a recovering addict) but maturity and sophistication in preparation for the real obstacle of life. Thus, the ugly truth was, my sister entered a new stage and I followed closely after. It hit home quite rapidly but it served as a great complement to our already great bond. Now in addition to gossip and Korean romances, we converse on philosophical, marital and even religious morals, ideas and teachings. Our bond now, might be even stronger than it was before she married. As individuals married to physical and metaphysical aspects of life, we connect on levels that were otherwise incomprehensible for my young mind before her wedding in 2005. My sister is now a graduated, married, registered RN with a driver’s license (something my older brother and I got before her) with an enriched perspective on life.

I truly love Debbian Antoine but I adore Debbian Antoine-Harris even more. She is the woman who adopted the name of a new life but retains and cherishes the memories of her old life. As for me, I too have rebelled. My own marriage has disconnected me at times from my sister but for the better. Just like our past where I constantly followed in her footsteps, I too married and became a professional in the obstacle we call Life.

Where are you God? It’s Nadya This Time Not Margaret

“One, two, three, four..”  “Make sure you have 18 altogether Nani”, my mother interrupts my thoughts as I exasperatedly drop my pills into my medicine holder.  “It’s important that you take these meds Nan.  You don’t want to end up needing a kidney transplant like Kereece.”  Kereece is some really angry adult in my church–who I think probably, hates anyone who’s happy–who has a kidney problem just like me.  She kind of reminds me of the crazy scientist villain from The Incredibles. She’s the woman you wouldn’t allow even your worst enemy to have the “pleasure” of meeting.  I shun the thought of needing a transplant–and the blunt affirmation of how sick I can become–and decide to lie down.  Maybe it will help with this arbitrary dizziness I’m feeling…

When I wake up I’m told I had a stroke.  Huh?  I mean last time I checked I was barely eleven.  I think back to the salty Ramen I remember eating the night before.  Great.  Thanks Ramen noodle I nearly died.  I try to speak but they’re tubes everywhere: an oral, a naso-gastric, a urine catheter and a ventilator.  I’m talking places I didn’t even know tubes could go in.  I’m told that I had been in a coma for almost two days.  Jesus Christ, I think in my head, Ramen can do this to people?  It wasn’t until 10 days later was I discharged from the hospital.

Ok so maybe the Ramen was an exaggeration.  A turn out Ramen makes killer salty noodles, but they are free of charge when it comes to what sent me to the hospital…

In July 2004, the start of my middle school year, I was diagnosed with a disease called Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN).  Yea I know right.what?? The fuck is that?  Believe you me, to this day, I still can’t pronounce it let alone explain it’s horrendous role in my body.  From my doctors (and a little WebMD) I’ve conjured up the most watered down version of my crappy disease.  I have a kidney disorder where the cells in the kidney become inflamed and allow blood and protein molecules to pass through into the urine instead of being retained in the body for use.  I was put on medication after medication, which challenged me physically, emotionally, academically, and most important religiously.

At the onset, I was taking 18 tablets per day.  The medicines made me listless and the steroids in particular caused me to gain weight.  I’m talking swelling of my limbs, tightness of my skin and a weight gain of 15 pounds kind of weight.  Emotionally, it wreaked havoc on my self-esteem.  For months I only wore loose fitting clothes to hide the giant I was slowly becoming because of the steroids.  The disease impacted my education because monthly (or anytime I felt dizzy), I had to miss classes for doctor’s appointments or even hospitalization.

I guess I can say High school proved productive and rewarding.  I joined the cross-country and track teams that helped me to shed the excess pounds and to gain control over my weight.  To this day I cherish running any chance I get, just to ensure I don’t slip into the blimp figure I once was.

I could say that my life is normal and that MPGN is no longer a factor.  I could say life is great and enjoyable but it would be untrue.  I am reminded of it by the now, nine pills that I take every day.  If I bend or stand too quickly, I feel light-headed and must take a few minutes to recover.   Oh and the worst, you know those salt and vinegar chips?  Yes I know you know, the UTZ flavored bags of joy?  Yea I can’t eat those.  So much for those killer Ramen huh?  Actually, I can’t eat staple kid’s foods like chips, French fries, cold cuts or anything with high sodium.  The salt will cause me to retain water and to increase my blood pressure, which is already elevated due to that long M-word disease.

Now I could babble and ramble on how screwed up I am and how much I wish I could start over, a new slate, new body, new life, the works.  But it wouldn’t change a thing.  You know what they say, if “wishes were horses, beggars would surely ride…” What has really been on my mind is the role religion has played in my life after I found out about my disease.

See I grew up in Church.  I mean eat, spit, write and read kind of Church.  My dad—oh you’ll love this—is a pastor.  Yea so parties, those cute sweet sixteens in High School, boyfriends, a life?  Um, yea no.  Completely non-existent in my house until your at least of age.  Yet no matter how many times I’ve gone over the answer in my head, I’m still dissatisfied.  When I was in the hospital, with a tube escaping every opening…I asked him, “Daddy, why does God want me to die?  Can’t he just tell me why he hates me so much?”  His answer was a typical Tyler Perry cliché, “God is not trying to kill you.  And remember, he would never put you through anything you can’t handle”.

But see this is my problem.  Because guess what… this, this I can’t handle.  I could handle the accident you put my mom and I in, 2003, I could handle breaking my arm, I even handled my grandmother’s death—quite well if I can add–.  But this, is too hard.  Every morning when I shove four pills in my mouth (for blood pressure, protein calcium and who knows what else) I talk to him.

Now I’m not going to deny the presence of a higher being.  I surely believe in God.  I’m just so lost on his reasons for picking me.  The Christian God is said to be “omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good”.  But from the day we learn to read and write, we are able to distinguish good from evil.  More importantly, we are able to realize that the amounts of evil in the world hold a stronger presence than the amounts of good.  Things like Haiti’s earthquake in 2010 or even New Orleans’ disastrous hurricane in 2005 cause me to question my own faith.  MPGN is a chronic disease with no known cure.  It is not hereditary or caused by anything specific.  It just appeared, out of nowhere, that summer before I started middle school.  I can either outgrow it, or in its degenerative state, I will need kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant.  This means I have no timeline of what my life will entail.  I just long for a little more information.  I am well aware of the delicacy of life but many times I simply wonder if God is on vacation in the Caymans somewhere when certain events occur.  People like my dad would like to clench on the Soul-making defense that God has good rewards for us in a distinctive afterlife.  Now if this is true, why torture us so much on Earth?  To the starvation in third-world countries to the newborn baby born into the world with Down syndrome to even murders that happen everyday.  If this is what I have to experience on Earth, then quite frankly, I’m not too sure I want to go to Heaven.  I know any individual can easily identify a time period in their life where they lost hope, confidence and faith in what people call God.  If God were truly trying to show his creation that they are enduring pain to experience joy in the afterlife, there is no reason for the pain to be so vast.

MPGN has ignited my rising doubts in my religion.  It’s made me asked many “why” questions now that I’ve grown older.  Church and religion were things that I accepted to past time on Sundays.  But now, that I’m older, and an evil has hit me personally, my faith, sad to say, slowly dwindles.  When I greet Kereece with a crooked smile every Sunday, I can finally understand her anger.  She’s already had her kidney transplant but her daily life is almost worst than when she had her own kidney.  Her questions in Church, to my father spark questions in my own mind.  If God is such a good God, there is quite a lot of fixing that need to be done in his world.

I am ever mindful that life is subject to change without notice so every day is precious to me.  I live my life to the fullest by participating in as many activities as I can and generating smiles anywhere I go.  I surely don’t want to become a spit-image clone of Kereece in the latter years of my life.  But forthrightly, I can now understand her.  Through this condition, I have become even more positive and determined.  But when it comes to religion and God’s hand on my life…boy do I have a few questions.  Matter fact I’m sure, me Kereece and the rest of the world have a few questions.