I have never met my grandparents on either side. My mother wrote a manuscript of over 20,000 words in the early Eighties when she was about to be hospitalized for an operation of some sort. She dreaded the process and was afraid she might not survive it. She had our father make copies of what was to be Part One of her memoir for all the five children. The memoir received mixed reactions from them who used to question some of the excruciating details it contained. Later on, she even asked our father to affix an affidavit to it to the effect that every detail contained therein reflected truth and nothing but the truth. I still keep it; and I might use it for reference for my own memoir if ever I decide to write one.
My mother survived that operation, and she lived until January 2000, just before Rosita and I set forth to Anaheim for the RI International Assembly 2000 for my training to be governor, and six years before my father died in February 2006. While my parents were still around, we had tried to make them tell us more about their parents, but we did not get very far beyond their names, which I needed anyway when I joined the Administrative Service, when I needed to complete a series of rather complicated forms in detail on my family and ancestral history. I had hoped that the very little bits and pieces they remembered about their respective parents might throw light on why they had parented us they way they did. But neither of my parents had too much recollection of their respective parents, who apparently were not around when they met each other. So much about parental influences!
It is probably cliché that every family goes about its day to day business in its own particular manner and fashion which could be rather difficult to explain to others in a very meaningful way. In my case, as long as I can remember, mother always made the major and important decisions for the household, while father would execute her orders and be blamed for any results that turned out not as favorable as mother had hoped for. Mother would also claim credits for any success stories in the family, big or small, and father would gracefully accept the consequences. My siblings and I grew up in the Fifties and Sixties when Hong Kong was very much an underdeveloped economy and when most families were not well to do. Typically, there was not too much food on the table or surplus cash for goodies such as a family outing to the restaurants nearby, not to mention those in high street. I cannot recall how Mother’s Day was celebrated in my teens, or if at all. Indeed, in moments of self pity, I would even say I lost my childhood. It was fashionable those days to talk about parents at school recesses, particularly about the mothers. Primary school essays typically had one on parents; and I recall writing about a loving mother who would take care of all my needs, who was always kind and loving, who would cook good meals and take care of our laundries and so on. In real life, my mother was stern and authoritarian; always giving instructions; never cooked or did laundries and was perceived as the household tyrant.
I recall we began to observe Mother’s Day when we began working. We would organize dinners and we would eat and drink and so on. Later on, when we had families of our own, the dinners became bigger, but the atmosphere sometimes got tensed up for various reasons, very often initiated by our mother. Typically, we had lectures on family values from mother, but even worse, we could not fathom what was going on, and we could not explain to the young children what went wrong. But just as Mother’s Day is to commemorate mothers and motherhood, mothers are always mothers regardless of how they behave. More important, it does not help to stereotype mothers or motherhood. Early in my life, I confided with a friend who knew my mother because she worked for her, that I would not shed a tear if my mother died, ad this friend showed understanding. When my mother died, I was crying like a river when my father was giving a short and convincing eulogy which he composed all by himself. It was so moving that even the priest who presided at the funeral was touched.
Rosita died less than five years after my mother died. Suddenly, there were no mothers in the household. I often wondered how my children got over it or how they coped with the irreparable losses. All I know is that it could not have been easy; and I have not been good at finding out what happened. Their situation was not help by our physical distances. Granted that the community has largely commercialized Mother’s Day and many families are simply going through the motion to mark the occasion, there seems to be very little left for someone like me to celebrate Mother’s Day, and indeed I have not been involved in any celebration of Mother’s Day for over a decade. Well, looks can be deceptive. The fact that I have not done anything that the average person would do conventionally on Mother’s Day does not mean that I have been lost on motherhood or mothers. As a start, I find it difficult if not impossible to forget my children’s mother and my own mother. For that matter, as I watched Su prepare tonight’s dinner, I perceived that the lady was mothering me and a striking example of motherhood, even though she had never been a mother and probably never would be one.
So on this note, I wish every friend out there, regardless of your gender or family position and status, a Happy and Mindful Mother’s Day. I wish you would be mindful of those who need your care and attention and render them your unconditional love. Ultimately, motherhood is not only restricted to mothers, or for that matter, women. I hope to talk to you again soon.