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Our stepdad, a rare gem
Sisters, Colleen and Peyton Ruiz consider their stepfather, Razard Brahim, “a rare gem.” Brahim has assumed the role of their father for more than a decade and the sisters said it has been one of their most fulfilling experiences. Colleen and Peyton do not call Brahim “dad” but that is exactly what he is to them.
“We do everything like a family. We just don’t call him dad and he doesn’t have an issue with that.” They do, however, have nicknames for each other.
In May 2005, their biological father, Colin, was murdered. They were nine and seven respectively. Their last memory of him was on Mother’s Day, 2005. They begged him to stay the night but he refused. They never saw him after that. His skeletal remains were found on June 14, 2005. On June 9, this year, High Court Judge Devan Rampersad sentenced three men to 20 years in prison for kidnapping Colin, robbing him of $18,000 and burying him in a shallow grave in Central. He was stabbed about 17 times. Rampersad initially considered a 30-year sentence for the men but applied a one-third discount for accused people who plead guilty to crimes. The men have already served 12 of the 20 years in remand waiting for a hearing. Therefore, they will be out in eight years.
The Sunday Guardian reached out to the sisters who live in San Fernando. They said while there are times they miss their dad, their lives have been happier and more rewarding with Brahim. He met their mother, Rena, one day while she was attempting to cross the street after being offered $20 by their dad for their upkeep.
Tears in her eyes and overcome by emotion, she thought he was a taxi-driver and reached for the door handle. Brahim opened the door and the rest is history. Rena and Colin were already separated after claims of abuse and infidelity.
A rare gem
Last Tuesday, the girls spoke of Brahim, 41, in glowing terms. The sisters said nothing was ever too much for Brahim who does even more for them than their mother.
Colleen, now 21, said at first she hated him because she did not want anyone replacing her dad. “I was a child then but now, I cannot imagine not having him around. He is really a rare gem. I have so much love for him.”
Younger sister, Peyton, 19, said Brahim ensured he was at her primary and secondary schools’ graduation and her “prom night”.
She said, “I was so happy because he got to see me collect my certificates. He saw me in my (prom) dress and witnessed the whole experience. I grew up with him so I consider him my dad, in a sense.”
While they said they would not brand Ruiz as “a dead-beat dad,” they believed that even if he was alive, their lives would not have progressed.
They credit all their successes and accomplishments to Brahim, a parts clerk at Southern Sales Ltd.
“He has always been around for us,” they said together.
After she finished secondary school and was indecisive about her future, it was Brahim who encouraged Colleen to pursue a course in cosmetology. Not only did he pay for it, but also gave her an interest-free loan to open her spa.
“He opened my business for me and got me started and to think 18 months ago, he was still just our mother’s boyfriend.
“He did everything for my spa exactly how I wanted it. There was nothing I asked for that he told me no.”
She said Brahim also encouraged them to move out of Tabaquite and into San Fernando to get the opportunity to adapt to a different culture and learn new things.
“He wanted us to have a more comfortable life.”
Colleen said Brahim was supportive of anything she wants to do and is supporting her plans to go to the United States to pursue courses to build her knowledge in cosmetology.
She said Brahim has changed her perspective on the topic of dads.
“I had lots of issues with guys...daddy issues are real...because of him I got better mentally. He had a huge impact on me.”
Dad wasn’t ready for fatherhood
Now an adult with a thriving spa, Colleen, who has mastered nail art, said her dad’s mistakes have taught her great life lessons.
She thinks her dad was too young when he became a parent around the age of 20.
“He just was not ready. He was young and not ready to be a father and when he started to at least try to be a better father, it was then he died. He would have been 30 the year he died.”
She said while he was “definitely fun” and “goofy”, he was not a provider.
She recalled once when her mom was sick and they tried to contact Ruiz—they said he came home, saw her sick and said he would return with medicine but never did. Colleen also remembered him hitting Rena with a clothes hanger. She laughed. “Mom pelt him back with a chair.”
They remembered their last Christmas in 2004, waking up to a stack of gifts and being so happy. Another jovial time was when she and Peyton received Garfield colouring books.
Colleen still has her dad’s toothbrush and a shirt. Peyton has all the stuffed toys he bought for her as a child.
She said she would always question why her dad was not around or why he was not visiting.
She said their parents never truly lived together as one unit and as time went by and they grew older, their mother said it was not a marriage.
“I don’t recall much as I was quite young. I was in Second Year or so,” Peyton said.
Peyton has a passion for fashion design and works in her mother’s business, Stitches by Rena.
She said during pensive moments she would think about her dad and him not being around to see her walk down the isle or be a grandfather to her children in the future.
Peyton said, “Yes, I have a stepdad. Yes, I love my stepdad and he is a better dad but at the end of the day, my real dad is not here do things with me and that kind of hurts. And I know my stepdad will do all of those things without a doubt, but you grow up thinking these are the things your dad would do...the person whose last name you carry, whose blood flows through your veins.”
She said Brahim has always been around for her—picking her up and dropping her wherever she needs to go and calling her to find out if she’s OK.
“He has always provided us with everything we ever needed. People give us horror stories of their stepfather and he is the total opposite.”
Last year, Brahim married Rena. Peyton said he became her mom’s husband and officially became part of their family.
“He just was not good at that and I don’t hate him for that. It is because of his shortcomings that I know how to be responsible and make sure that I have myself in order. I have a job and I won’t do stupid things that will land me in bad situations,” she said. It is Brahim she goes to for advice on her business, life and even men.