I look at her as she is sitting, on the edge of her seat, filling up the little weekly trays for medicine, a physical reminder for her to take the right medicine on the rights days, while her concentration breaks and floats back to the episode of Masterchef playing in the background. She still manages to fill the trays without looking, a second nature. Was it always this easy for her?
I look at her now as she is in the kitchen, a bomb dropped in the shape of motherly need to provide comfort through food. Her cheeks are not a delicate tint of rose but are flaming red, igniting her whole face. Yet she ploughs through the various dishes she’s preparing to make sure everyone is well fed while she takes herself outside to cool herself down and catch her breath. I wonder if she feels full watching us all eat.
I try not to acknowledge her illnesses, letting them pass over my head while I lightly make jokes when she speaks about them, a hitch in her voice and her eyes searching my face. I don’t think I’ve let anything slip yet. But how can I not think about them, my mother, who used to once house such incredible strength now struggling to carry shopping bags. Maybe it would help if she didn’t buy so much, but that would be taking a part of her that makes her my mother. Her need to do things in abundance, to make sure we are always topped up on snacks that are the current craving, although usually by the time she has stocked the cupboards, we no longer like it as much, finding a new snack that will inevitably end up at the front of the cupboard the next week. Maybe it’s just a natural motherly instinct to go out and buy what their children want, even if it is said in passing, like when it was mentioned once amidst a bigger conversation that I always have to eat a sweet after having a meal, and the next day there was a packet of sweets on my desk for me to take to school with me. Although they didn’t survive the weekend, I found them finished in my mother’s room, as she guiltily handed the empty packet over to me, clearly unable to not give into her sweet tooth. No wonder she is missing a few. Although she proudly shows off her gold caps, the child in her relishing at looking like a pirate.
Countless nights I have cried myself to sleep, wanting to find solace in my grandmother beside me, pouring my heart out to her about what my biggest fear is, but it’s not entirely fair. To turn around and cry to her about my mother’s health, thinking my little old grandma will be able to take hearing about her daughter like this from her granddaughter, who hardly ever sheds a tear in front of others. I once had a dream. Of myself in a distant future, a life unlike my own, yet it was. There I was, married, and asked to cream my mother-in-law’s feet, yet all I can do is cry, yet I do it, to save my mother’s honour, while dragging the words from deep inside that I never once did this for my own mother. They say Heaven is under your mother’s feet, yet how am I unable to even touch hers. Maybe I am not quite fit out for Heaven.
I think maybe I should start showing my inner attention paid to her illnesses, she quite sadly thinks we don’t really care about them. How annoying of her to say. I sometimes think of what she told me once, about how my brother confided in his friend’s mother, that he also doesn’t like to acknowledge her illnesses because it is too hard to face, his mother that was once strong and didn’t need help with anything and was like an incredible moving force now needs to sleep strapped up to a machine to help her breathe at night. How foolish my mother is, thinking we don’t care because we don’t show it. But how can you accept that the centre point of your life is slowly but surely bending at the sides, trying not to fold in on itself for at least 10 more years, until we are all set up in life, only then will she allow herself to rest, eternally.