updated 22 Mar 2011, 03:15
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Sun, Mar 20, 2011
The Star
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Meet a mother who always took her responsibilities in stride
by Rita Lai

MY mother has been gone for more than 25 years but her image is still very clear in my mind. She was a match for my dad whom she did not know well. She used to say," Marry a chicken, follow a chicken. Marry a dog, follow a dog," a Chinese saying that meant to accept your partner without thinking of divorce.

She found my dad a hot-tempered man but quite responsible. She was sad that he was a workaholic who did not care much for her during her pregnancy. Her first baby was born on the floor with no one to attend to her. She was in tears when my dad went to work at the time she was unwell. In her anger she said, "Will you only stay with me when I am dying?" Neighbours advised him to stay back that day.

One day she had a miscarriage and nearly died of a haemorrhage but was saved with donated blood. My dad changed after this incident. He became more caring and looked after her well when she was pregnant again.

My mum learned to understand my dad, his character and how to please him as years went by. She learned to cook and sew and made clothes for all her children. To spend time with him, she learnt to swim and the whole would go swimming during the weekends. When my dad wanted to learn social dance because it would help in his business, my mum learned as well so that he would not have to pay for a dancing girl to dance with him. My parents went to movies and trips together. They looked like a loving couple.

My mother tried to advise my dad in many things but he never listened in the beginning because he thought women did not know anything. He considered my mum's work was looking after the children and the house. But when things happened as predicted by my mum, he started to believe in her judgment and decision. He would consult and share with her, and their relationship improved.

My mother was one of the few women who dared to drive in those days. She would take the car to visit friends but she brought me along so people would not talk.

My mother was a good counsellor among people with family problems. She was a peacemaker between couples, and mothers and their daughters-in-law. She was a good listener and understanding. She seldom lectured or criticized those who confided in her.

When my youngest brother had a fight with a neighbour, the neighbour's father, a big man, chased after him to beat him. We were scared but my mother came out and stood right in front of the man and asked what the matter was. She said, "When children fight, let me be the one to teach and discipline my own son. You teach and discipline your own. To avoid further fighting, I'll stop my son from going over to your place and I hope you'll stop your son from coming over here as well." The man was taken aback to see a fearless woman standing in front of him. He agreed with mum and took his son home.

Mother understood father very well. She told us children not to argue with him when he was angry. He would get angrier if we answered back. Mum knew how to pacify him and would wait until he calmed down. I marvelled at her way of making dad listen to her.

Mum was very good at taking care of dad when he suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes, and had a heart attack twice. She cooked special dishes for him. When he retired, he felt bored and played mahjong with his friends at night. Mum never liked gambling although she never complained about it.

Instead, she found something else to keep dad occupied, like movies. My mum was not a crazy moviegoer, but she just wanted to keep dad away from mahjong.

When I was a teenager, I lost faith in God. I thought that life was meaningless with only suffering in the world. When I was in lower secondary school, I suffered from headache nearly every day. I became pessimistic and depressed. I wanted to starve myself to death. My mum was very concerned. I felt guilty for causing her suffering. She did a lot to make me better. I thought that if I were to die, it would break her heart. I could not bear to see her in pain so I gave up thoughts of committing suicide. Motherly love saved me.

Mum knew I was in trouble when I looked sad or worried. When I was a teenager, I kept my problems to myself. Mum asked me about it and wanted to help. She thought of her children's well-being above her own. She would sacrifice herself for the love of her children. She helped my poor eldest sister financially even though she scolded her for marrying a poor man. She could not bear to see her own daughter in rags. She punished my elder brother for playing truant and gambling out of love. She was there for him to help him out of debt.

I could feel her loneliness in her old age. She was very happy whenever I went home for the holidays. We were like friends chatting and sharing our experiences. Sometimes I became her adviser, telling her the feelings and views of the younger generation. She even said, "I have to learn how to be a mother-in-law to please my daughter-in-law."

Mother loved to learn. She went to night classes to learn English when she was in her 40s. In her younger days, she had to learn to be a good wife and mother. In her old age, she had to continue to learn to be a good mother-in-law.

Whenever I am sick, I still think of mum who was the best nurse. Whenever I need counselling, I think mum was still the best counsellor. She sacrificed for the sake of her children. She was willing to give her time and service joyfully without any complaints. I pray that she is enjoying heavenly bliss now.

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