It was a morning like every other morning. I crawled out of bed to the sound of the alarm, 5 am to prepare for my 35-kilometre journey to work. At the time, I was working in Bangkok and though I didn’t start until 8:30, the traffic and the distance necessitated an early start.
After a quick shower I dressed and prepared to leave when I decided to check my email.
And there it was as bold as brass. Title : Mum has died.
It took a second or so to register. I wouldn’t say disbelief, for it wasn’t totally unexpected she was 86, but a surreal feeling of being momentarily detached. My mother was dead, full stop, end of a story.
I spent years wondering how I would react when one of my parents died. The moment had come and to be blunt it wasn’t the way I expected. After the initial surprise ( my brother sent the email and is always direct and straight to the point) I gathered myself and went to work as usual.
Never being close to my mother, I had over the years minimal contact. When I lived in Adelaide I would go visit my parents maybe 3 to 4 times a year, for half an hour or so. Anything longer and we used to get on each other’s nerves, never seeing eye to eye. Arguments broke out easily, the visits were literally short, sharp and shiny. We just never connected as adults, let alone mother and son.
Anyway, I found myself spending that day thinking about possibilities. What if we had been close? Would my reaction be different, how different? What if she had died 30 years earlier? Does your own age dictate the way you react? Lots to ponder and reflect on.
More importantly, that day I thought about my childhood, when I was young and my mother wasn’t an old lady. I remembered things I hadn’t thought about for years. Little things that don’t really matter, but reminded me of the tenuous link we shared as mother and son. She wasn’t a natural mother and in hind sight I think she struggled with her 4 children’s upbringing. Not to say she neglected us, we had more than adequate food, shelter and was looked after, but she lacked an emotional connection with us all – empathy. She was mechanical in the way she did things and that extended to the way she brought up her children. I assumed she loved us, but I never felt it. Nothing was ever said or done to demonstrate it or if there was; I just don’t remember.
The reflection only lasted a day and then life went back to normal for me.
As the old adage goes, we are a product of our upbringing. I look into a mirror these days and see my mother’s face as I get older. I notice the way I act at times is the way my mother did; the way I detested as a youth. We should all learn by our life’s mistakes, though fighting powerful inherent forces that lie within is not so easy.
It’s interesting to talk to others about this. Some feel it’s strange that I never grieved about her death, in fact I was and remain rather neutral in my feelings; somewhat empty. She occupies my thoughts only when something reminds me of my youth. Like all of us, unless we become famous we are only remembered through living memory; children and maybe grandchildren then forgotten for all eternity. In the grand scheme of life, individuals mean very little, the specious propagates unabated through numbers until itself is eventually replaced by something more adept to life.
And circle of life continues on.
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on a carousel of time…