I was born into a Malaysian-Chinese household where the parents were your typical Asian parents who doted on their children but had a problem physically showing their love and affection towards their loved ones. My mother seemed so cold and stoic on the exterior because she grew up in the old country and carried on the old traditions and way of life. She was the epitome of a good mother and loving wife. She never complained about the hardship of having to raise me and care for her husband even if it meant never having time for herself and always being tired because the house work never seemed to end.
Growing up, I did not realize how tired she must have continuously been because she had to cook three meals a day and making sure that I was always presentable. All the while keeping the house in the manner that my father had instructed her to adhere to no matter how hard it was. She was my first teacher who taught me the alphabet and how to read basic words and tell time on the paper clock that the two of us worked on in the afternoons after I woke up from my nap. I remember how patient she was with me even when I was being stubborn and refused to follow her requests to help her around the house.
I was already old enough to be given simple tasks that could help her finish her jobs faster and possibly give her some time to rest but all I wanted to do was play. When I did help her, I would only do the task for a while before I would end up back with my toys or playmates without telling her. Later on, I would come home to see her working on the task I left hanging and she never reprimanded me for being so irresponsible. When I entered my teen-age years and started developing feelings for the opposite sex, my mother was always there ready to listen to my heartaches every time a boy broke my heart.
She was not the kind of mother who would take me into her arms and hug or strokes lovingly just to let me know she was there for me. My mother would be slaving over a hot stove preparing dinner or cleaning something and I would be sitting across from her or helping her with the task while I told her my problems and worries about love and life. While she did her tasks, she would simply look up at me and then tell me “There are many boys out there who deserve to have you in their lives. You will find him in due time. Do not hurry” or “Life is like that.
You will eventually learn about what the right things are for you. I cannot teach you those things. Some things, you just have to learn outside school, books, and the family. ” When I was younger, I imagined my mother as super human. Nothing could ever slow her down and she never got sick. I never knew her to even catch a common cold. But when I was fifteen, my mother’s body had finally had enough of her hardships in life. She was diagnosed with colon cancer. I was devastated. Mostly, I believe I was afraid of losing my mother so early in my young life.
Like I said, Asians are not showy when it comes to their emotions so I was not really sure about how to deal with my mother at that point. I wanted to hug her and show her I cared for her and loved her but she would have none of that western culture bestowed upon her. Being the only child, the duty of seeing my mother through her medical treatments fell upon my shoulders. The day my mother was diagnosed and my father and I were told that she would have to undergo aggressive chemotherapy, my father told me “I will earn the money. Your task will be to care for your mother and the household. I was not sure that I would be able to pull off the seemingly insurmountable task set ahead of me but I knew I had to do it.
Mother had told me from the very start that she would “help me deal with the situation as best as she could” but I was not to cry because crying never solved any problems. So, in between her chemotherapy and recuperating sessions, she and I managed to develop a close mother-daughter bond. She knew her time on this earth would be cut short at any momenr and this seemed to give her a sense of urgency regarding how she could best prepare me for a life without her to lean on for support.
As her treatment progressed to no avail, I saw my mother transform from a strong woman who never complained about anything to become a shell of her former self. Constantly in pain, she would often scream for me and beg me to help her end the pain. But I could not help her in any way. The most I could do was try to talk her through the suffering and pray with her that it would soon be either better or over. Whatever was God’s will to be. During the times when the pain would subside and we could talk while she rested, she would often tell me stories about her childhood and early life with my father.
These precious memories she shared with me towards the end of her life helped me to understand my own culture and traditions and why the family values it so importantly that I must keep it alive in my own way now that my mother has passed on. Sometimes, she would also share the wisdom of her parents with me and would often tell me to remember those words for they would come in handy in the future for me. Eventually, everything my mother told me would happen did happen just as she predicted. I met the man who would become my husband and we now have a loving family with three children.
I am 37 years old now and have become the woman my mother predicted I would always become. I am successful, happy, and content in life. In my mother’s honor, I continue the traditions of the old country and share that part of my heritage with my children. So that they will understand their roots and remember to honor my mother’s legacy throughout their own lives. And those words of wisdom she shared with me? I am beginning to see the logic of it now that I am raising my own children and trying to have a career while being a responsible wife and mother. Just as my own mother told me I would be doing once I got married.