On the 23rd of September it will be four years since I lost my mother.
I miss my mother enormously. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about her, and not a night passes when I don’t dream about her. A year of grief counselling has given me perspective and closure, but the feelings, the loss, they will always remain.
As the days to her anniversary approach, the feelings rise in intensity. There’s a part of me that’s almost paralysed with a barrage of memories and regrets. One feels so inadequate when one knows one has failed someone so important to them.
I miss the mother of my younger years; the happy mummy, the one with life and vitality, who could do no wrong and knew everything. I miss my mother who had dreams and plans, who loved and was loved.
My mother changed when my father died. Following his demise, she struggled on, alone, for seventeen years. And as the years passed, she went deeper and deeper into depression. But my mother was a brilliant actress. No one knowing her would know the demons that rode her. Those were reserved solely for me. I was the child who failed her. I didn’t give her the life she wanted, I didn’t fulfill her dreams. I am so sorry that I was such a failure in her eyes. I wanted to make her proud, and yet, I couldn’t give her the things she truly wanted from me; wealth, comfort and children.
Living together for the last two years of her life was both a blessing and a curse. I so wanted to show her my joy. But all she saw was my, in her eyes, poverty. I have never felt so poor as when my life was examined through her eyes. I feel so blessed, so rich. Money is not the only thing that matters, I am loved and I love. I do things that bring me enormous pleasure. And yet, to my mother, all she saw was lack and poverty. But I know that I did my best for her. I gave my all to her. Until the last, I tried; until at the very end, I was as drained, as depressed, as broken as her.
I love my mother. As an only child born late in life, she was my dominant influence, our relationship was contentious, joyous, complex. I think what really upset my mother was that I had grown up away from her. When she came to live with us, I had already completed my PhD, I wasn’t the girl I’d been when I had lived in Sri Lanka. My mother could not reconcile the difference. She couldn’t understand who I had become, the choices I had made. And I think crucially, my mother couldn’t accept that I had forgotten and long-left behind the modes of behaviour expected of me. She pressed my buttons assuming I’d react as I had as a young woman, but my responses as an adult puzzled her.
I admit freely that I was never good at reading subtle cues. The art of my family and culture of saying things without saying them, of keeping score, of having to read between the lines utterly fails me. I am a terrible fibber, I can never keep stories straight, even when I fabricate them myself. I was such a social disappointment to her. But then, I was always the odd duck, and as time has passed I’ve gotten more so. I think that’s why I’ve fitted into English society so easily. My eccentricities are utterly in keeping with the people we live with, I’m understood and am able to contribute without bungling things up too much. Within the Asian context, I don’t understand the rules of the game, and so, I always play badly and upset the apple cart (and people) without meaning to.
Being disjointed from the cultures of my birth have meant that I’ve clung to that of my new home. I like being told very frankly what’s expected of me, upfront. No subtle hints for me please, I just don’t get the cues and then struggle to understand what all the fuss is about.
I wish I could reach across the expanse of death and tell my mother that I am happy, that I have chosen happiness above all else. I wish I could reach across time and space and apologise for being such a colossal disappointment to her. I wish I could say that success and content come in many forms and that I am thus, in my eyes at least, both successful and content. It may not seem so to the outsider, but I end each day in gratitude to the Divine Universe for all of the abundance in my life. I may not have a large home, or lots of money, but I have love. And love to me is the greatest treasure, the greatest wealth in the universe. Growing up surrounded by conditional love, having unconditional love now means more than anything else I could ever, ever gain.
I wish I could tell my mother that I love her, that I will always love her, no matter what. I wish I could ask for her forgiveness for not living up to her dreams and desires, and make her understand that I had to be my own person and follow the beat of my own drum, however unfathomable that was to her. I wish I could ask for her forgiveness for growing up to be so different to what she expected her daughter to be. It was not deliberate, mother, this is just who I am. I am awkward, I am a misfit, but I am me. Forgive me. Love me. I do love you.