When my father was hospitalised for heart attack, my mother was there and waited for him for days. When my father was in the ICCU for one week, my mother never went home, and she slept on the hall, on the bench outside the ICCU room with almost a hundred of families from other patients. When he was brought to Jakarta to get a surgery my mother waited patiently at his room alone, and had to control her garment factory only by phone.
When my father was taken home, she was the one kept reminding him not to go anywhere by himself at least until he is fully recovered. She was the one who prepared his daily medicine, put them together in tiny bags so that he wouldn’t miss any dose. Yet when my father forgot to take one he would complained that my mother forgot to remind him about his medicine. I thought at that time, my mother was not his nurse and he is an adult who doesn’t need babysitting. However, mum did not really say a word to him.
Grumpily ranted to me maybe, but never directly at him.
I thought for a second.
Has she been doing all these because of love? Or because of duty? Is it because she cared to my father? Or because she had to do her responsibility as a wife? Was she worried so that she waited all day and night in front of that bloody ICCU or was she there because she had to be there so that there would be anyone who could respond to any emergency call from the hospital?
I am not (yet) asking if my sisters, my brother and I were the product of my mother’s piety to her husband, her mother and father in law, and the family; or that we were the product of an utter and complete love? I would not go there because that is a little bit disgusting to discuss, especially in public.
I did question that.
My father is a proud Chinese Indonesian. I think everybody should be proud of their own nationality and ethnicity, disregard everything else. And I never blamed him for being proud for who he is. One of the things he kept saying, is his pride to the Confucianism he learned and been practicing for ages. He believed that everybody should act based on their nature. A man as a man, a woman as a woman. A child as a child, a parent as a parent. And somewhere between the lines, he’s trying to say “a wife to act as a wife”.
I remembered that when my mother was being hospitalised years ago in Singapore, my father was there too for her. He took the responsibilities at home and even went to my school to get my school report. The only time he ever met my teacher. But he did it without complaining.
Has it been my mother payback for him?
There’s never been love spoken between my mother and father. I was never been brought in a world of affectionate family members. I felt awkward hugging my parents, let alone kisses from them. I never saw my father and mother hugged each other, and for me, they are distant. At least physically. Wouldn’t it be scary if you start looking at both of your parents and start thinking whether whatever they did is because of love or duty?
And then if you try to look at this from a broader perspective, you would start questioning other things. Did your mother give birth to you because she was pregnant or because she wanted a child? Did she want a child because she wanted to carry on the family bloodline or did she do that because she loved your father? Did your parents feed you because they were carrying their duty as parents or because they passionate in giving you the love? Did they go to work every day because of their responsibility to support the family or out of passion? Did they take your grandparents in your house because of their filial piety to them or because they wanted to feel close to those who bring them to the world?
Oh that would be scary, and somehow you might be better not knowing the real answer…
I will close the entry today with a story from my friend.
Her mother was a successful career woman before she was married. She was the “dragon lady”, according to my friend. And she stopped working after she found herself pregnant and then did her job as a stay at home mother very well. Few years ago when my friends are old enough to get married, her mother said to her,” you can get married, but I suggest not to have child. It will ruin all your dream.”
My friend then asked me: “what does it mean then?”