If you truly love somebody, how far are you willing to go in terms of making a sacrifice to improve their life? In recent weeks, I find myself facing that question.
Over the past few years, I have become very close with one of my nieces. Her name is Nicole, and she is 6 years old, or as she would say “mag 7” (translated… will be 7) in January. Nicole is really a cute and sweet girl, and I love her very much. I am a sucker for kids anyway, but there is something special about Nicole. When she was much younger, I was not that close to her, as I already lived in Davao when she was born, and we just didn’t know each other well. A few years ago, Nicole came to visit Davao with her Mother (Feyma’s sister, Sally), and I started noticing her a little more.
When Nicole was approaching her 4th birthday, she came to our house during Christmas, and celebrated the holiday with us. During this time, Nicole took a real liking to me, and it was at that time that she started calling me “Daddy” instead of “Uncle”. I was OK with that, in fact I liked it. On her birthday that year, just 2 weeks after Christmas, Feyma and I decided to buy her a bicycle, something that she would never own unless we bought it, because her family cannot afford such a luxury. Well, it was not expensive, and the look of thrill on Nicole’s face was well worth the small price of the bicycle.
It was over that Christmas and birthday that really sealed the relationship between Nicole and I. Ever since then, she has been coming to visit us often, whenever there is a break from school. Every year since then she has spent Christmas with us, and she also usually spends the majority of her summer vacation with us as well.
Over the years, Feyma and I have talked between each other about the possibility of having Nicole come to live with us, and making her part of the family. We always said “No” in the end, though. Feyma and I have been there and done that… we have 4 kids who are all growing up, and we just felt that we were unwilling to extend our child raising years beyond the age of our youngest son, Jared. Taking in Nicole would add about 4 more years after Jared. I love my kids very much, but there also comes a time when you are starting to get older, and you start looking forward to the day when you and your wife can begin to enjoy life without kids. I’ve been married to Feyma for more than 20 years now, but our life is so wrapped around the kids that I do look forward to spending more quality time with each other. So, because of this reason, we have always ended up with the answer that we loved Nicole a lot, but we were not prepared to take her into the family.
One thing that we noticed is that every time that Nicole comes to Davao to spend time with us, she is sick. She has a fever, runny nose, or something more serious. About 2 weeks ago, it was Semester break, and the November 1 and 2 holidays here in the Philippines, so Nicole came to Davao to spend a week with us. When she arrived she was very sick. She had a high fever, and a bad cut on her foot which was badly infected. She could hardly walk, and with the fever she had no strength to do anything other than just laying around the house. Feyma spent about an hour cleaning up the wound on Nicole’s foot, and by the next day you could see a big difference in the way Nicole was feeling. She was getting her strength back, and the infection in her foot was clearing up. Her fever was about gone too.
I mentioned to Feyma that Nicole seemed to have a problem with always being sick, and that I felt it was caused by the environment where she lived. Feyma agreed. It was at that time that I told Feyma… “you know, I love Nicole a lot, and I am really struggling over the question of what we should do to help her. We have talked about this before, and we have always agreed, but I am feeling that we should let her come and live with us. If something happened to her because of her health, I would really blame myself for being selfish and not helping her.” I was surprised when Feyma told me that she had been thinking the same thing. So, Feyma and I talked it over, and we decided that we wanted to ask Nicole’s parents if we could take her in. We decided, though, that we would wait until after school finishes in March before we talk to her parents about it.
Our daughter, Jean, who is really our niece has been living with us for 7 years now. In every way, I consider her my daughter, and I am very close to her. In my mind, she is equal to our boys in every way. There was a time in the past when Jean was jealous of Nicole, and she even told me that she was scared that Nicole would “replace her” in our family. Jean even told me several years ago that she thought I would send her home, and take in Nicole instead. Jean and I are very, very close, and she feels comfortable talking to me about just about any topic. When it comes to things like boys and such (who she has a crush on at school and such) Jean will openly talk to me about it, probably more than she is willing to talk to anybody else. I could never “replace” Jean, nor would I even want to. I told her this many times over the years.
So, when Feyma and I came to the conclusion that we might want to bring in Nicole, I wanted to talk to Jean about it and see how she felt. I was surprised to see that she was not just OK with it, but she was actually excited. I could see that Jean had matured enough that she understood that Nicole would not replace her, but really just enhance our lives, and that such a move would be good for Nicole’s health too. Jean had also noticed that Nicole was sick every time she came to visit us. Jean was looking forward to being the “big sister” to a younger girl, and I was so proud of her for her new attitude. Our boys are also very happy with the potential for an additional little sister.
So, the question came down to the title of this article. How far am I willing to go for somebody that I love? And, the same question for Feyma. Are we willing to sacrifice a few conveniences, and delay our quality time together? Yeah, I think we are. Having another child in the house will make for quality time of a different kind anyway. When Nicole’s mother, Sally, came to Davao to pick up Nicole the other day, Feyma hinted to her a bit about such a move, and Sally was agreeable it seemed. We have not told her that we want to do it, but I am sure she suspects it. Giving up a child like that would be very difficult to do, even if you knew that it was a step toward a better life for the child. However, such an action is actually pretty common here in the Philippines.
It is possible that this won’t happen, but that, I think, is only a tiny possibility. I suspect that come March or April 2011, there will be another head in the Martin household.