As I watched her slog on yet another day, looking after our home, managing a career and taking care of me, something inside me changed.
Actually, I think it was happening all along, over the years. This role reversal I’m talking about.
You see, when I spotted the first fine wrinkles right next to my mother’s smiling, watery eyes, I knew I had grown up. And I knew that my responsibilities had grown too.
Soon, this revelation was cemented further when she fell sick suddenly. It was just a seasonal flu but kept her on bed rest for a few days. As I sat by her side every night, stroking her hair and watching her sleep, I remembered how she nursed me back to health every time I went down with an illness as a kid.
Call it coming round a full circle, but there I was, keeping track of her medication. I was old enough to care for my mother the way she cared for me all this while. I finally felt like I wasn’t just her little girl anymore.
I was becoming her.
Honestly, I wonder. I wonder how she did what she did. How mothers do all they do for us. How?
As far as my memory goes, I have a lot to be thankful for. And I’m sure, so do you.
I’ve never slept hungry, even when I got back from parties at midnight, thanks to her. It’s shocking to realise how she studied my entire school syllabus with me, helping me from grade to grade. How she comforted me when I was hurt or taught me to fight injustice by being just myself.
Her invaluable values shaped the person I am today. Her relentless efforts gave me a good life. She made endless sacrifices so I won’t suffer. Her dreams were left aside so I could be the centre of attention.
From the moment she conceives a life, a mother’s whole life is only about her child. Everything else fades away in the wake of her ridiculously unconditional love.
We know this. We all know it. But the sorry part is that when we’re adults, we move on with our lives, even though it’s necessary and understandable. We’ve got to do our thing, go out, experiment, travel, work, find lovers, fail and succeed, and eventually, one day, start our own families.
We forget that a parent might be waiting for a phone call. Checking up on them becomes an occasional thing. Spending time together feels like a luxury, even a formality for some. We worry often but rarely show it.
I refuse to let that happen. In fact, something quite the opposite has been brewing in my head.
The older I get, the more I feel like my mother’s mother.
Is a mother supposed to give up everything so that someday her baby bird can fly off from the nest into the sunset, leaving her behind?
Maybe, but I don’t think so.
If my mother spent years toiling in the kitchen so I could chubby up eating my favourites, it’s my turn to cook for her.
If she saved up to take me overseas as a kid, my salary is a complete waste if I don’t surprise her with a refreshing vacation for her tired soul.
If she stuck by my side when I was broken, I can’t bear the idea of leaving her alone when she’s low.
If she loses her cool or turns cranky, I’ll stay shut, suck it up and let it pass because god knows I gave her hell as a child.
If she did her job honestly and dutifully for an earning, I want to give 100% to my profession too, so she can see that I learned well.
If she spent precious pennies on my lifelong demands and education, I'll shower her with gifts and comforts, a lot more than once on her birthday.
If she let go of her opportunities for me, I’ll make the most of mine and do her proud.
If she laboured to give me everything I needed, and more, I want to give her everything I possibly can, as soon as I can.
So far, I seem to be doing all right.
Our mothers are getting old after decades of round-the-clock duty. Our years are passing by in a blur but their time is running out. We might be taller than them now but remain their little ones. We can’t ever pay back what they did. That’s impossible. But we can do our share in this two-way journey. They deserve it.
My mother taught me how to walk so I want to be there when she starts stumbling a little, when she’s not as fast as she used to be. If she starts losing her teeth at 80, I’ll treat her to ice cream. I’ll spoil her silly. I’ll take her hand and show her beautiful things. I’ll talk to her till she falls asleep. Then I’ll wake her up with a hug.
As they say, when you cross a certain age, you become a child again. My mother is getting there. So is yours.
And I really, really look forward to being there for my ‘child’ in the making.