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When mothers die a little every day

 | May 13, 2017

Mother's Day is less about gifts and fancy meals and more about spending quality time with your mother in heart-to-heart conversations.

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I woke up Thursday morning with my face tattooed in saliva and stepped out of my bedroom to find my dad in our living room with a cup of black coffee in his hand, watching a classic Hindustani movie.

As it turned out, while I was still sound asleep in bed, my 72-year-old dad had been pottering about in our orchard, watering the plants, painting the walls, as well as washing and vacuuming my car. He even had taken it for a service.

“Your power steering oil needs to be changed every 20,000 kilometres. Your car has been driven some 90,000 kilometres already but how many times have you brought it for servicing?” he asked.

“Err…never?” I answered while rubbing my eyes.

“I’ve got it done for you. Make sure you do it after the next 20,000 kilometres driven,” dad ordered.
Like an obedient little girl, I nodded.

Stepping into the kitchen, I came upon mom at the dining table, very much engrossed in her daily game of Sudoku.

“Capati and kheema are in the warmers,” she said.

Everything in the kitchen looked organised. The dishes were all washed and arranged. Pots and pans were on the stove, a sign that lunch was ready. I peeked outside – washed laundry was drying in our backyard.

“Do you need the drain scrubbed? I can do it right after breakfast,” I said, feeling somewhat guilty for waking up late.

“Everything is done. Go brush your teeth, take your bath and eat breakfast,” said mom, her face still glued to her iPad.

After breakfast, I made myself a mug of Kopi O and sneaked back into my room to get some work done. A while later, mom stepped in and started nagging.

“Look at your feet! So dry. No wonder your eczema gets worse.”

She sits on the floor, pulls my legs from under the table, placing them on her thigh and starts applying lotion onto my dry, flaky skin.

I smiled. My heart started to balloon with warm thoughts. It is truly a joy to be surrounded with so much love.

As mom slowly massaged my feet, I observed a slight change in her face.

“Aunty Sakinah called me the other day,” said mom as she started her story.

“She told me that she could not wait any longer to be called back to Allah.”

“Things are still not getting better?” I asked, worried.

Mom shook her head.

Aunty Sakinah is mom’s childhood friend. She often calls to have a heart-to-heart talk. And most times, she would cry on the phone.

She had a wonderful life when her husband was around. Their home was always filled with so much happiness. But with him passing away one tragic evening, Aunty Sakinah was advised to sell her house and move in with her children.

In the beginning, she lived with her eldest son but things did not work out between her and her daughter-in-law.

After years spent raising her three grandchildren, her son made the decision to send her to his sister’s house.

With no other option, Aunty Sakinah packed up and moved out.

It has been five long years that Aunty Sakinah has lived with her daughter. She cooks, cleans, washes, sends and fetches her grandkids to/from the school bus and looks after them at home. While her daughter and son-in-law work from 9-to-5, Aunty Sakinah is put in charge of the household.

“How old is she now, Ma?” I asked.

“75, I think. And lately she has not been feeling well. Often she falls sick, but even then she has to drag herself out of bed and do the chores.”

“Why doesn’t she tell her children that she can’t be in charge anymore?” I asked, feeling angry.

“She says these are not the things for a mother to tell her children, for a loving son and daughter will never treat their loving mother with such cruelty.”

“Why the stubbornness, Ma?” I asked, wishing Aunty Sakinah would just tell her children off.

“She is not stubborn. She is just broken-hearted,” said mom with tears in her eyes.

The balloon that expanded in my heart a while ago, began to deflate. And my heart began to ache.

“Do I break your heart, Ma?” I asked slowly.

Mom smiled.

“I mean most of the time I wake up late. And by the time I am up, you have almost done everything around the house.

It’s not that I don’t want to help, but all these years I have been on my own and I do things differently according to my timetable. So I need time to adjust my lifestyle to yours.”

Mom continued to smile.

“Say something Ma,” I pleaded, worried I was breaking my mom’s heart.

“You moving back here after all these years means so much to us,” mom said.

“It’s not about needing someone to help with the cooking and the chores. It’s about showing love and care. It’s about having meaningful conversations. Those are the things Aunty Sakinah is missing. And those are the things I am enjoying with you being here,” said mom, her eyes filled with love.

As my heart started ballooning again, I thought of all the Aunty Sakinahs out there who have been taken for granted by their children. Those mothers who die a little every single day without feeling loved or cared for.

After all the years spent nurturing and giving guidance to their children, they now suffer in silence, having nowhere else to go.

On Mother’s Day this weekend, I hope you make some time to sit down with your mom and have a heart-to-heart conversation with her.

Forget about presents, flowers or fancy lunches and dinners – instead, ask mom what you can do to make her happy, for she deserves all the happiness in the world (and even more).

Everything we have today is because of our mothers who loved us even before they took us into their arms. That is the kind of love we will never find elsewhere. Let us cherish our mothers and not leave them in despair.

Fa Abdul is an FMT columnist.

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