First of all, I hope everyone who celebrates Mother’s Day had a fabulous time yesterday. For those who couldn’t spend it with their mum, for whatever reason, I get it. I do. My mum isn’t only in a different country but I couldn’t really talk to her as, well she’s not entirely herself. While I did have a rather nice Mother’s Day here, in Australia, my mum is in hospital being treated for her bipolar disorder. Something that I thought could have been avoided had she been taking her medication and yet was a long time coming because her condition has worsened. It’s a sad situation and I know she will always have this mood disorder no matter how much or what medication she takes. It’s sad to see someone who depended on her mind to succeed now losing it because of some things beyond her control and I could wallow about her condition in this post, but I’d rather not. In fact I’d rather try and remember her the way she would want to be remembered as – headstrong, ambitious and focused. All traits that are admired if you were ever a male but frowned upon when you’re a woman.
My mum wasn’t a traditional mother. She wasn’t the sort to cook you her special dishes to make you feel better, nor is she the type to sit and chat with you about your friends or any boy trouble you might have. She wasn’t the one who would take time out to be there when you received some sort of award in school. But somehow, I accepted that when I was growing up. I accepted that she needed to work, not saying that I have never wished for either of my parents to be there, I did, but sometimes you just have to accept your circumstances.
What I did take from her was the way she encouraged me to write, always entering me in some writing competition when I was younger. She was always pushing me to do my best in my studies, plodding along and giving me nightly revisions until it went beyond her ability. My mum was also the one who introduced me to the love of books. Books had (and will) always been a part of my life. She used to read to me whenever I was home with her during the weekends, when I was a lot younger. Being a librarian, I remember feeling like some kind of celebrity each time my mum brought me to the area where only staff were permitted at the library where she was working at. Yeah…that was some kind of special. She introduced me to Judy Blume and to Malay cultural performances that she loved so much. I always looked forward to those events, until I decided to grow up and be a teenager!
I was struggling to remember the “real” her the other day and even wondered to Mr. C if I ever did know my mum? As I’m writing this post I realised yes, I do remember her doing some “mum” things with me, like teaching me to cook rice on the stove, helping her prepare a feast for our guests when I was in primary school – we made Nasi Lemak (coconut rice) and some other dishes to accompany the rice – I even remember her sharing some family secrets about some of the men in my family; call it our bonding session 😉 . Or the times when she kept Mr. C and my relationship a secret from my father – that was a huge deal, imagine keeping it from him for over 4 years!
Life with someone living with bipolar disorder wasn’t easy, but that was life. I’ve never been ashamed of her mood disorder, just felt sorry for strangers that she might have “talked to in codes” with while I was out with her. They just looked confused whenever she tried to communicate with them in her colour and number codes. That was when her disorder wasn’t even that extreme yet.
I don’t know where her mind is at right now. I don’t know what goes on in her mind, what she hears and what’s she’s thinking right now, but on that odd occasion, I see glimpses of my mum. Like when I sent her a message wishing her a Happy Mother’s Day yesterday and she thanked me and even sent a smiley face! Or when she says she misses me, out of the blue. I might not be able to have my “regular” or “normal” mum ever again, but I can hold on to the good memories and whatever sort of normal she gives me right now. I can’t undo the things that I’ve done while growing up and even during my adulthood, but I can now focus on trying to make things a little bit better.
So, what does it mean to be a mother? I guess it’s about making the best of what you can, doing things you feel or think is the best for your child, no matter how small it is because it’s usually the small things that matter the most. She might not read this post but thanks mum for being there when everyone else turned me away. If I could change things I would and if I could fix you I would.