I stayed with a friend recently. Her grandmother resided with them, a lonely wispy figure in white who you saw moving about, wordless. She was quite healthy for a woman her age, and would take part in the household chores. I often saw her in the kitchen when I went to get a glass of water, silently fixing a meal. Would you mind if I cooked gourds for lunch? Of course not, I’d say with a cursory smile, anything was fine. At other times I would notice her watching television in the hall, repeats of soap operas, translated serials. In the mornings watering the plants as we sat studying outside, inadvertently drenching us in the process, every time.
I noticed the questionable indifference often demonstrated by my friend in her presence. Slight but tangible. Disregard for an innocent inquiry, usually about the meals. Maybe an exasperated tone of voice when something was misinterpreted. The roll of eyes when the hose missed the orchids and watered our books. I felt sorry for her, the wispy silent widow in white.
I kept sensing a foggy familiarity in those gestures, the impatient wave, the irritated frown. I knew someone like that, someone who treated a relative less than perfectly. I groped for the face among the cobwebbed rooms of my mind, trying to discern those discrete clues, till one day I saw the culprit in the bathroom mirror, wide eyed, recognition finally washing over my reflection.
Now I remembered all too well. All the times I waved aside my mother’s questions when I traveled, the exasperated sighs when she asked about college, the nonchalant replies to her many concerns, the apathetic glance I gave the sweet kheer she prepared for my birthday one time.. Mirrored in my friend, I saw the ugliness within me.
I have since been trying to wash them clean, those stains of habitual disregard for the little things I take for granted, the naive show of affection I’ve been blessed with and the endless chatter that I am sure to miss one day. One hug at a time.
Love you mom.