the mudpond

It's good to let things breathe in your imagination because often your initial response to it is not the best thought-through response. I savour little glimpses of life. Mine and those of people who turn me sideways and around. Friend or stranger. Even a child. (the world looks different from down there) Sometimes an author, photographer, artist. I let things saturate and incubate here. Hopefully, deeper meanings can percolate up and flower.

Name:
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A stray cat.

5/12/2005

Priceless Treasures: 2xMoms

THERE REALLY OUGHT to be a special award for 2xMoms.

No, I’m not talking about mothers of twins, though I imagine double trouble (happiness notwithstanding) must be quite challenging. Nor do I mean your everyday wonderful mother of two, especially when the kids are in their terrible twos, though it must so want to make you climb the walls.

I am referring to those grandmothers who literally relive motherhood all over again, raising their children’s children.

No, not those with all the creature comforts of nice house and assistance of maids plus the company of a spouse. These are comfortable doting grandparents who are enjoying the autumn of their lives. Like Raeven's. Though we cherish them and they certainly have a special place in our hearts and in our lives.

I’m talking about the widowed grandmothers. Those in their late sixties or perhaps early seventies who live in simple, rented accommodation. Those caring (cook, wash, feed, worry, cry, plead … ) and raising perhaps, a hyperactive and rebellious pre-teen plus a raging-hormones teenager or perhaps one on the angst-ridden brink of adult hood. Kids whose world naturally revolve around only themselves, and as such seldom seem at all grateful for all that toil.

Last night I ran into one of these treasures. Single mothers of a different breed.

It was the end of a long and pleasant evening with friends that began early with sun-downers on the balcony of their small but tidy apartment, that progressed to a superb smackeroo meal and ended with the best Kopi-O I have had for a long while. Peppered with wonderful conversation that at times… oh, I digress.

I was nearing the guardhouse when she came right at me, a schoolbag on her shoulders, literally on her last legs – you know, like after you’ve been walking for miles and somehow can’t manage to slow down your pace because you’ve been walking for so long?

Well, half past 10, and I was so looking forward to a shower and bedtime with my new book. No plans whatsoever to stop and chat to strangers, even nice old ladies.

But something about this little woman; her tired but eager face, crumpled sweat-stained blouse and breathless, shaky voice made me stop. She was simply bursting to tell someone, anyone about her long day that wasn’t anywhere nearing its end.

She had just come back from UMMC where her 12 yo grandson was undergoing surgery after an accident at school. She was just going up to her unit to drop the schoolbag, and pack some overnight stuff, make arrangements for her other grandson... And then she was going back to the hospital. Despite my eagerness to get home, something made me interrogate her:

ME: How did you get to the hospital earlier?
SHE: One Chinese lady gave me a lift to Old Town. Then, I took a bus to the hospital.
ME: So how are you going back to the hospital?
SHE: Don’t know. I go upstairs first. Pack some things, then, I see how.
ME: Auntie, I send you.
SHE: Ah, Ok! Ok! I will be very fast. 10 minutes time, ok?
ME: Oh, take a shower, have some food first, auntie.
SHE: Aiyah, can’t eat lah, I will be very fast ok?
ME: Auntie, don’t rush, I will wait. It’s going to be a long night. Take your time ok? Don’t forget some water, biscuits, a coat, toothbrush, toothpaste… I rattled off.

I sit on the park bench to wait. Slapping at my legs because the mozzies are biting. I am imagining her scurrying around her unit, gathering things, stuffing things into a bag... like a little squirrel. Despite the mozzies, I feel an uncharacteristic but pleasant patience.

Half an hour later, she rushes down (she didn’t seem to have lost that walkathon pace) in her multi-fold talcumed neck and clean but talc-stained shabby red blouse saying “Aiyoh, sorry, make you wait so long”. Lugging a few shopping bags stuffed with… well, the stuff I mentioned, I guess, and a pillow AND other grandson in tow.

"He has an interview tomorrow morning. Nobody in the house to wake him up,
so he’s going to his friend’s house to stay. Just drop him off on the road, can?”.

On the way, I asked and she recalled excitedly, the call from school, the rush to the hospital and the long, tiring walk home. To my reckoning, she had walked from a bus stop 4 km away. An uphill walk that must have taken 45 minutes, at least. She spoke cheerfully, affectionately of being mother to these two kids since infancy. The kid’s parents live in Penang. She had made time to ring to tell about the kid’s accident, the fasting, the surgery, ICU and all.

The apartment buildings were a good way away from public transport and shops

Q: How does she shop for fresh produce?
A: Once in 2 weeks she gets a ride from kind neighbours.
Q: What if someone needed a doctor?
A: Ask neighbours for a ride.
She goes to the bank to draw her pension the same way

She said she worried how he was going to handle fasting before surgery. "this one, sure cannot fast wan. He, ar, always eat non-stop. If dinner is late, his knees start knocking". The kid also asked her if it will hurt when they "cut his leg". She assured him he will feel no pain, because he will be fast asleep. And when he opens his eyes, it will be all over. And, "promise you, Ama will be here, don't worry".

Why do they do it, these parents who have kids, who weren't gonna raise the kids, themselves? Why do they have kids at all?

She smiled and said when the kids were little, she had just retired. She agreed to look after them so her son and daughter-in-law could go to work. Several years later, the kids (the grandchildren’s parents, I mean) found better work that paid better, in Penang. But the kids, (hyperactive preteen and angst-ridden adult-to-be, I mean) would not follow. Home was with Ama. Ama, though frugal, takes care of everything. Who needs parents. So the parents rented them this apartment to live in. With Ama.

A mother whose love truly knows no bounds.
She walked miles for the kid.
When the going got tough, she got going.
I believe there are quite a few of them around.

No cards, no tributes, no cantors singing "Tell Me How I'm Gonna Live Without You" to make you cry, neither flowers, nor presents. No Mother’s Day parade. No Mother’s Day Blessing.

Unsung heroines. Priceless treasures.

Whose loss is it?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Lucia Lai said...

there should be a grandmother's day then. :)

just kidding. actually i'm one who is not too for all these mother's day, father's day, valentine's day hype.

well said about grandmothers. i recall now long ago when my sibling and i were just kids, twice when my mother was hospitalised for days, my grandma came to stay and take care of us. she was ever willing to take care of 'my daughter's children' and love us so much. and she came all the way from the mainland on her own using the ferry and bus.

grandmothers are gems. while we remember our own mothers, we should not forget our grandmothers too.

5:29 PM  
Blogger percolator said...

Yeah, single grandmothers running the motherhood mill again. The remarkable thing is, they rarely ever whine/complain about ingratitude, hardship etc.

Yes, there is way too much hype on Mother's/Father's Day.

Oh, I have parents too, and believe in being filial too. But like I said somewhere else, it's a choice. Children are not born to make parents happy, they are born to make parents, parents. It's as happy a vocation as one allows it to be. It's these 2xMoms, who've done it twice-over that really show us the joy and how.

I salute this nameless, precious Ama.

9:44 AM  

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