It is another Sunday afternoon. My father and I have just returned from the gym. I can barely feel my legs as I lower myself onto the floor, by the sofa where my mother is seated. She is perusing the newspapers for the day- her morning ritual, reading out parts of articles that amuse her.
It is the 8th of May 2016.
This time last year, my mother was fighting for her life in the CCU Unit in a derelict hospital in Varanasi. I was away at that time, traveling through the less explored parts of China. I only knew about her condition when I landed in Singapore several days later. I still remember receiving the call from my father, telling me to make the necessary arrangements to come down as soon as possible because he didn’t know if my mother was going to make it.
I was 24 years old, and my mother was dying in a hospital very far away from me.
There are some moments in your existence where life makes sure that you are aware of your priorities very, very quickly. It is like a shock to your system – a violent, tumultuous shift of tectonic plates somewhere deep inside your soul that forces you to remember exactly what is important in life, exactly what matters most.
My life has been filled with those moments, and most of them have to do with my mother. To cut a long story short, I made it to India in time, my mother eventually made it out alive, and here we are today, her methodically reading her papers, and me sitting on the floor after a hectic morning workout.
My mother mispronounces a word and I quickly correct her, my voice laced with irritation. This is not an unusual occurence.
I wrote several days ago that I am very unforgiving of home. What I really meant to say was, I am very unforgiving of my mother. I expect perfection from her, in her deeds and in her thoughts, because to me, my mother is the pinnacle. She’s it. If she falters, then what more can one expect from mere mortals, random strangers, friends?
(A deeper fear is, if she falters, then what more can I expect from myself, her daughter, who is so far removed from all that she is?)
I don’t know how to rationalise these expectations. So instead, I unleash my derision on her. Picking on her for little things. Getting angry when there is no reason to be. Etc. Etc.
You would think that as someone who has nearly lost her mother several times in her life, I would have more perspective (what happened last year is just the tip of the iceberg that is my mother’s fantastical, almost miraculous life). But, I forget. It is easy to take for granted someone who gives unconditionally. It is easy to take for granted someone who is so good at what she does, and who she is – be it keeping the house clean, managing the finances, having excellent aesthetic sense, giving advice, etc – that it is easy to forget that she too is human, with her mood swings, her good and bad days, her insecurities, her infinite human complexes.
It is easy to let the little things cloud the bigger picture.
This period since I’ve been back home has been an exciting, sometimes turbulent, mostly joyful experience of getting to know my mother as the woman she is. It has been a journey of rediscovery, and a renewal of a relationship that has seen its fair share of wear and tear. It has been a journey of detaching enough to understand that my mother is her own woman, as much as I am my own woman. Our personalities are very similar, and yet, so different. Acknowledging the similarities and taking pride in that has been my journey. Acknowledging the differences and accepting that her daughter is her own person, has been her journey.
On most days, we meet in the middle, and laugh at each other. On other days, we yell at each other, our quick tempers rising to the fore and abating, with one of us eventually conceding and raising the peace flag.
And so life goes on, my mother and I walking our paths together, yet separate.
And today, there is only gratitude, that we have both arrived at this together, and that we will both continue together.
What more can any daughter ask for?
Happy Mother’s Day, dearie. For everything that you are, and for everything you’ve taught me to be.