After 20 years in US, I have returned home a divorced man and to find that my brothers did not give me a share of my late father’s estate, arguing that I was “comfortable” in America. I have tried to convince them to give me my share since I don’t want to go and fight battles in courts which would open bitter wounds. I do not want them to see me as a failure hence my “it is alright” stance. My only problem is that deep inside, I seethe with anger and bitterness about my past and about my brothers. It makes me lack trust in people. What should I do?
You seem to have many issues that need to be addressed and it is difficult to offer an opinion as to where you should start. It seems that many of the things that you have “touched” in your life have turned against you.
Have you ever wondered if the fault lies in you and not in others? Is it possible that your wife, country and brothers were in reality not at fault and that you left the country, your wife and now your family?
Have you considered the possibility that it is you that needs to change long before you ask others to change?
This will sound very harsh, and indeed it could well be, but more often than not, people fail to appreciate their shortcomings, preferring instead to blame others. Let me explain.
Why, in the first instance, did you have to stay in the US for 20 years, and why did you come back?
Whereas many Kenyans live and work in the US legitimately and out of choice, a number live there on the edge of the law, basically existing out of status, which in reality means a life as an illegal immigrant.
Some get in by getting visitors’ visas, others go as students, while others enter the US through other countries. Most of these people are unable to get proper jobs and end up working many long hours in poorly paid menial jobs.
These economic refugees are, to put it plainly, poor people. Sadly, and perhaps like you, they pretend that life is “all right” and life being what it is, the family expects that such people are swimming in the American dollar.
Many people who lead this life will hide from visiting friends and family because they do not want to be shown to be living below the poverty line in the land of plenty.
What I describe here is in total contrast to a significant number of highly educated Kenyans who live a completely different life in the US, working in well paying jobs and enjoying legal status. This second group is loved by the American economy because they represent some of the brightest people to have come from Kenya.
Put simply, there are two types of Kenyans in the US; the rich, and the struggling poor. You sound like the latter and hence perhaps your decision to come back. Life is no better for you in Kenya, it seems.
Did your wife leave you? Did she perhaps find you unable to get sufficiently organised to manage the family? Was it because you led a chaotic life of hiding from the law or was it perhaps your uncontrolled anger that sometimes comes to those frustrated by unemployment in a foreign country?
To what extent did you contribute to the breakdown in your marriage? Even as you came back to Kenya, to what extent has the failure of your marriage and the embarrassment of coming back changed you?
You do not want your family to see you as a failure. If you are not a failure what else are you? Are you a success story? Is it possible that asking for your inheritance will lead to further wastage?
What evidence are you giving your brothers to persuade them that you have at last developed the capacity to make the right decisions for yourself? These are harsh words and it is possible that you now wish you had not asked the question. In your favour, however, you are courageous to ask.
Perhaps you could use the same talent and courage to engage your family and to seek their counsel on how best you could proceed, now that you have come back like the prodigal son.
First, don’t ask for the land/inheritance but for advice on how you could settle down in this country which has clearly changed so much in terms of physical features and the socio-political environment.
Ask for their help to show you round the city and how to navigate the exits to the superhighway, and engage them in conversation about the Constitution and the peaceful political transition in 2013.
Ask about the health and well-being of your cousins, aunts, nephews and grandchildren.
Ask to be admitted back into the family fold. Allow a measure of humility to become self-evident and show them how much you are willing to learn from them and others.
That done, they will offer you what you desire most— a life of respect and dignity with perhaps a portion of the old man’s estate.