I wonder what it was like for her, the day when my Mum stopped being a child. Was it one of those merciless events where you feel choiceless and coerced, as if your arm was twisted and the cruelty of reality whispered into your ear, ‘Succumb or die?’ Or was it less brutal, a push perhaps, an overly padded push that tried its best to ease the weight of what was already happening? Did the Universe cushion you from the hurt that would inevitably find you?
I believe it’s the latter.
Being a child is easy. It’s easier. Easier than being a mother to a child. Let me tell you a story: My Mum is a crier. A shamelessly open crier. But crying isn’t only about sadness or bad days to her. Crying and shedding tears (there is a difference, thank you), is about a feeling so deep in your bones that the only way to let it out is to accompany it with a few loose tears.
My Mum tells her funny tales in-between bucketfuls of laughter. It’s so much laughter she can barely complete a sentence. So you’ll be like, ‘Sorry, I didn’t hear that. Ati what happened?’ You will laugh because she is laughing. Like one of those guys who tell a joke then slap your shoulder really hard to force you to laugh. Or they grab your hand as if to shake it then squeeze your palm real tight to squeeze the laugh out. Heehe. Si you know those guys? (I still think you rock, Chris.)
The joke in her story will be so strangled amidst her laughter that it won’t come out breathing. Oh well, who cares about jokes when she’s already making you laugh, anyway?
But when her own Mum passed away in June 2008, I didn’t see her cry. Not even once. Had my granny’s long-drawn battle with blood pressure prepared her for the inevitable? Had she cried as she sat helpless at my granny’s side, her withered hands in her own? Or she did on the day she and her brothers went to the mission hospital in Sotik to confirm the news of the loss? When had she cried? When had she shed those tears?
She had wept so openly for all other losses in the family. But she wept in private for this one. In the shower with the water running down her face. I suppose. When the rest of the household was asleep, including my Ol’Man to her side, she wept silently into the pillow at the height of the Devil’s Hour. Maybe. She wept in church, alone, when she was on her knees, surrendered in prayer. Probably. Two, three tears may have carelessly rolled down her cheek as she diced the steak for the family’s dinner. That’s another possibility. A fond memory may have sneaked up on her when she bent over the sink to brush her teeth and she found herself choking in emotion. I imagine so.
She put up a face of stoicism. Literally. But the child inside her was dying. I could tell.
So the day she walked away from my granny’s graveside, a few moments after the casket had been lowered and the gravediggers were filling it up, she was defeated. She threw in her handful of soil, held her breath then she walked away. She walked away anew.
My Mum stopped being a child in that instant.
My earlier belief was misguided.