Monday, 19 March 2007

Mothering Mak

I coaxed her to the TV room while I searched for a channel – any channel - with programes that would interest her. At first she seemed reluctant but I told her there was a Malay drama on RTM 1. I need her to be in the TV room so that I can keep an eye on her while I do my work. Everyone is out and I can’t afford to fail them the way I had several times before.

It is almost a week since I left London. This trip does not promise to be any different from the rest. And why would it be? As a freelance, I do not deserve a break. The word holiday does not exist in the diary of a freelance. That chance of a free flight comes but once in a blue moon and I grabbed it when it came, knowing that I will have some days with Mak. Just a few precious days and today is one such day.

With my track record of looking after Mak, none of my siblings are taking any chances. Still fresh in their minds is that episode when Mak rolled off the bed and on to the floor. I found her clutching her head and in the panic, I couldn’t find Kak’s room to get help. My excuse was I was jetlagged and Mak slept too near the edge of the bed.

They have also not forgotten the time when I couldn’t help Mak with her diapers when she was in hospital or the time when I nearly dropped Mak in the bathroom when she fainted. And how could they forget that night when Mak woke up and was thirsty. I led her by the hand to the kitchen when she reminded me that the alarm in the hall was on. So, not unlike Catherine Zeta Jones and the ageing Sean Connery in The Entrapment, we crawled in the dark to the kitchen, and all the while Mak was clutching her stomach, with tears rolling down her cheeks. She was laughing so much. The next morning Ton told us that the alarm was always switched off when Mak was around. Hmmm, now they tell me!

Today, I have got her right in front of me. Kak Cik said, “Don’t forget to serve her lunch at 12.30!” and with that she disappeared down the road. She had made some porridge and soup and crispy chicken that I had helped to dice. But Mak wanted rice. She must have her rice. Porridgy rice doesn’t count. So, she ate very little and when I was washing up, I poked my head around the corner and saw her walking with one sharp knife in one hand and a ripe mango in the other. There’s no way you can stop this woman. So, I had to stop what I was doing and peel the mango for her.

No one can tell Mak what not to do. One morning, at Lilah’s house, Lilah came to wake me up and told me to sleep with Mak as she was going for her Arabic class. I must have taken my own sweet time because when I came down stairs, I couldn’t find Mak. I had visions of Mak wondering down the road, broom in one hand. I searched everywhere – she was outside – hanging out clothes to dry.

The next day, I found her at the breakfast table, looking quite upset. And on closer inspection, I realized that she was munching her food with difficulty as she had misplaced her false teeth. So, we started a hunt for her misplaced false teeth; under her pillow, under the bed, in the bathroom and in the sink. I dread to think what she had done with it. Perhaps she had flushed them in the toilet. But we found them in a glass where she usually keeps them during the night.

Looking after Mak these days is not unlike looking after a child. Her memory is still great. She asks after my children,; remembers their names. She still mispronounces my husband’s name – well at least she is consistent! But she is also quite repetitive. She’d ask the same question about five times. And every time, you’d have to answer with the same enthusiasm as if you are hearing the question for the first time.
Lying to her is the cruellest thing that we have to do. Although she is resigned to the fact that she will never go back to live in the house that Pak built for her, she will still ask to be sent back to Alor Setar. "Mak nak balik. Hantar Mak balik sorang pun tak apa," she'd say.
When there's no response as my siblings had perfected the art of selective hearing, she'd ask what day of the month it was. She still has the mental ability to work out that the end of the month means that she gets her pension, and thus can pay for her own flight back to Alor Setar. Thus the standard answer would be, "Baru 14 haribulan Mak!" Every other day would be the 14th day of the month. Mercifully, she too forgets that she had asked the question several times before. May God forgive us for all these lies.

I was dreading the day I had to go to work. We had prepared her that I am back here to work and that I’d be away staying at a hotel for four days. I thought she understood. But that morning, she saw me packing and as I left, pulling the bag behind me, her face crumpled and tears streamed down her cheeks. Then she hugged me again as if she didn’t want to let me go. It was not unlike saying goodbye to a little child. In a desperate attempt to make me stay, she said,”Nanti balik Mak mungkin dah tak ada!” she said and I jokingly asked (for I had to jokingly do so!) “Mak nak pi mana?”

When I returned four days later, the look on her face was priceless! Like the look on my children's faces when they were small, when I appeared at the door at the end of a long day at work. Today, Mak is happy that I sat with her and ate with her. I was not too far away from her as she watched her drama Melayu. And when I last checked, she had dozed off peacefully only to wake up for her prayers.

Mak, oh Mak, how did you ever manage to look after us?











47 comments:

Hi&Lo said...

Kak Teh,

Moved by your beautiful moments with your mak. Comical, yet with a touch of sadness.

She has very strong will power. Unfortunately, we cannot turn the clock.

Manal said...

I think la dia terus jadi almost sehat once her babygirl (kakteh) is back.

A holiday packed with so much activities but it's always great to know how devoted u r to care for ur mak.

After all, (a good) ibu is the queen of our heart. (ibu, engkaulah ratu hatiku).

may said...

stories like these make me miss my mom. it's only been 4 weeks, but it seems longer that I've been away from home...

Kak Teh said...

hi&lo,
If only! If only! So we have to make the best with whatever time we have.


Manal, kalau tengok dia memang nampak dia sehat. But she feels so helpless and she feels that she is such a burden. Yes, ibu is certainly the queen of our heart.

may, where are you? Have we just crossed paths again?

Ibu said...

Kak Teh,

Your last sentence, the same question my siblings and I always ask ourselves. She always seem to have time for us. We all pulak lazimnya kena take turns among siblings to take care of mak, if she needs us. Sedih la pulak ....

Hope your visit, no matter how short, dapat mengubat rindu kat mak.

Sri Diah said...

Kak Teh;
Dapat bayangkan gembiranya hati mak, bila Kak Teh balik menziarahinya... lama ka balik M'sia?

loveujordan said...

Kak Teh,

I'm so touched by this entry but I think you have proved to her that you are her evergreen princess no matter where you are..... everlasting love :)

Rugi I tak dapat intai kak teh...jealous jugak dengar ramai bloggers get to meet you , nanti buat middle east gathering pulak ye :D

X-Matters said...

Kak Teh
You keep a hectic schedule every time you come home? Good to have met up with you the other day.
Take care, my salam to your Mak.

Kak Teh said...

ibu, we are in a similar situation - siblings take turns and also it depends on whose house she feels like going. Most often than not she would prefer her own house - yang tu yang susah nak handle.

sri diah, kak teh tak balik lama. campur dengan kerja - tak banyak hari lagi. Lagi pun, hati ni pun dah berbelah bagi - anak2 dan suami dan kucing di sana tu macam mana pulak, kan?


loveujordan, kak teh tak jumpa ramai bloggers - cuma dua yang datang ke hotel kak teh malam tu. Kalau mereka tak datang, tak tau apa kak tehnak buat. nak keluar sendiri dari hotel pun takut sesat. Insyaallah jumpa mama rock - dan ada dua tiga pelancaran buku dan bloggers/writers meet nanti -pasti akan jumpa ramai. Insyaallah.


x-matters - yes, more often than not, I come back with some work to do. Aaaah, am waiting for that day when I can just rest and take the family on a real holiday - tak payah pikir tentang kerja, kan?

Tunku Halim said...

Kak Teh - pity we didn't get to meet up. Your mak is very lucky to have you, even if so far away.

Mama Rock said...

kak teh, mak will always want to be kat rumah sendiri...i guess it's a cycle as we often ask, macam mana lah dia jaga kita semua dulu, the same goes she might have asked before how her mum took care of them too.
hope to see you before you go off, take care.

Typhoon Sue said...

bohong sunat tak pa kakteh.... :) and I'm sure the mishaps are unintentional and already forgiven.

I'm very moved by this story of yours. It almost breaks our heart to see them old and frail, eh? My own mother is still quite strong despite her dependence on the cane after her knee replacement surgery, but in her weakest moment, like when she's down with flu or something, I see her for the human being that she is, unlike the superwoman that she was before.

LiNaLaNi said...

salam kak teh,
i had similar experience of looking after my sick mum years ago..she passed away in 2002. i dont know if i had done enough for her then, but if i could turn back time..just for that moment alone...i strive to do better:)

cherish these moments...

Nazrah said...

kakteh: Allah dah susun begitu kan?I still remember her kiss, for me, a perfect stranger, how much she exudes love and affection.

You are indeed very lucky to have long long years of undying love from your Mak.Make the best with what you have from where you are. InsyaAllah, all will be well.

Kenny Mah said...

Your tenderness and honesty in relating your hours caring for your mom is, well, I can't find the words for it. This is how we love the ones who love us. Time and age may erase some things, but not the important ones.

I stare dry-eyed at the screen but can't help sniffing a little nonetheless. :)

thewailer said...

reminds me of my mother... :( I miss her...

Kak Teh said...

Tunku, Insyaallah one day. I cant describe this feeling - being with her. When I go back, the image that Ihave of her is one that is strong and dependable. Perhaps I am still in denial.

mama rock, as KLCC is always a must in my plans, I am sure we will meet up.

sue, God knows all the bohong sunat that we have been feeding her. This morning again, I was all alone with her. We had lunch and when my sister came back, she said, she had not had anything to eat. She also spoke of death and I just dont know how to cope.

Kak Teh said...

linalani, I am sure the feeling of not having done enough will remain with us forever. Esp so with us living so far away. I will cherish these moments that I have with her, I will document them and relive them when I am thousands of miles away. That i will do.

Nazrah, Insyaallah. And for you my dearest - she is always with you.

kenny, some time, I need to do this, write abt her because I suppose it is a way of pouring out what i feel, my inadequacies as a daughter. I have lost out a lot.

the wailer, call her while she can still hear you. When I am back home in London, I couldnt do that because she cant hear me any more.

pokmang said...

kak teh,

tersentuh baca kisah kasih sayang seorang anak kepada seorang ibu tua.

percayalah, allah akan membalas segala kebaikan yang kita lakukan kepada orang tua kita.

Pi Bani said...

True, more often than not mothers prefer to stay at their own house. Which was why 15 years ago when my father passed away I quit my job in KL and balik kampung to stay with my mother. Bujang trang tang tang bolehlah buat macam tu...

I am still staying with my mother. And I cherish every moment. I consider myself lucky. VERY lucky.

NJ said...

Dear Kak Teh,

This is so heart-warming, I can almost sense how she might have felt every time she sees you off. I think the fact that you don’t get to see her very often makes every moment you spend with her priceless. All the best Kak Teh!

p/s: I can almost visualize the scene where you and Mak were crawling in the dark so not to trigger the alarm, with Mak laughing so hard. Hahaha!!! This can definitely make another award-winning movie by Yasmin Ahmad. I wonder whether Yasmin Ahmad reads your blog.

Clark Gable of Pulau Duyong said...

Dear Kak Teh,

The story from the depth of your heart.
I didnt get to meet you for Mee Rebus Maria last week ...they still talking about your visit when I went for mee rebus today.

Have a safe journey and salam to my dear Sir AG

Kak Teh said...

pokmang, insyaallah! tak terbalas budi mak kita kepada kita, kan?

pi bani, she brought up that subject again just now. she said she has no shortage of people who can look after her there. Here, she said, people are always busy...just what can i say to that? But there's no way any of us wld let her go.

nj, i dont think yasmin reads my blog...she must be so busy.

cgpd, aaah, i missed you too last tuesday or else the mee rebus wld have an extra flavour! Insyaallah kak teh akan sampaikan salam kpd AG.

MakNenek said...

So beautiful. Funny. Touching. There is love everywhere in this entry. :) May Allah bless your Mak, kak teh.

wonda said...

Your mom is a strong and capable woman. For a person like you living far away, they are precious moments. Have a good trip and eat all that you can for me. Don't miss anything. :)

mawar said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Aahhh...what a sweet entry.

Like the saying 'seorang ibu boleh menjaga 10 anak tapi belum tentu lagi 10 anak boleh menjaga seorang ibu!'

Our family experienced that recently when MIL was very ill. Kelam kabut semua orang dibuatnya. Punya kalut sampai bicker sama sendiri...sigh!

Making mental notes of your 'half-truths'..ehem..white lies. Might be handy...

Theta said...

On all fours in the dark in stealth mode - what a very funny sight!
I'd get teary-eyed too! =D

IMHO, the special bond you shared with your mother is the true measure of your love for one another - that neither distance nor span of time could diminish.

wanshana said...

Dear K.Teh,

I just can't describe my emotions when I read this entry, but you have somehow captured exactly how I feel about my Mommy and Abah in M'sia.

If only they can stay young and healthy forever...and if only we have more than 24 hours a day to take care of them - which in fact would still not be enough to match their tender,loving,care and sacrifices for us.

Take care, K.Teh.

Sunflora said...

Glad to hear that you get to spend some precious moments with your Mak.

Has said...

Kak Teh, 14 hb tu cute. I don't think it as cakap bohong, rather a therapuetic way of talking to her with cognitive impairment. Gambar Kak Teh kat Rub's blog tu cute and steady.

mama irma said...

Kak Teh,
It's a challenge mothering our mum, ya! It's a brittle feeling sebab kita lebih takut berdosa, unlike bringing up our own kids, we have the luxury of the trial and error.....With my mum, it's always "OK mak!" but with the kids, "No, because I said so!!"

JoKontan said...

:-) & :-(

My prayers are with your Mak.

Arena said...

Kak Teh,

I always felt so touched with, what you wirte especially about your mum. My parents pon tak sehat sangat ni, I pray that Allah pelihara dan mudahkan kehidupan mereka. Kak teh balik London bila, I'll be there from 26th-30th.. Kalau Kak Teh dah balik, maybe we can meet up..Take care ..

Kak Elle said...

kak teh it reminds me of my arwah mak now.Glad you are spending time with her.

Taufan said...

Kak Teh,

Saya sungguh minat blog Kak Teh. Saya rasa kita pernah bertemu di Penang dulu.

blossom said...

kak teh..

"Mak, oh Mak, how did you ever manage to look after us?"

I guess, more or less, like how you're looking after yours now. But maybe tougher for orang2 dulu2?

maR said...

Oh kak teh...
Terima kasih sbb share cerita ini dgn kami semua....
Tahu kak teh takkan berada lama di tanah malaya, tapi sampai bila?
Kepingin mau ketemu....

Chet said...

Dear Kak Teh - I have been there myself with my mother, but you are doing a much better job than I am. And I wish I had taken the time to record such moments with her, or maybe I have, but not in the same funny yet touching way that you have.

Ms. Blabs said...

How heart-warming this is. made me feel sad, giggly (the 'crawl' of course), pensive, and missing my Mama, all at once.. KT, you're already doing so well for her. You can't measure yourself to your other siblings, you are YOU, and your Mak knows that & loves you for that!

Bila KT balik UK? I'm leaving for London early tomorrow morning and will be there & in Dorking till 2/4. Drop me an email ya, would be good to meet up kalau sempat!

missie said...

Kak Teh, this entry reminds me of my grandma. She is bedridden now. It always touches me how my mum looks after her. You can see the love that emanates from the both of them when my mum brushes my grandma's hair and powder her face. Sometimes she'd touch my mother's face and kiss her.

tokasid said...

Salam to kak teh.

Your entry summed up most of our feelings towards our mother.
I'm feeling very syahdu at the moment and teringat mak di kampong.

A timely reminder for me.
TQ kak teh.

edelweiss said...

Kak Teh dear,

Glad u r back here and able to be with ur Mak. She must be very very happy.

Hope to see u before u leave. U know my number.

Kenny Mah said...

Dear Kak Teh,

It was lovely to have met you in person yesterday at Dina's book launch, along with so many other bloggers. You are as disarming in "real life" as you are online. :)

Thanks for taking care of the drinks; next round on me, yeah?

P.S. That was the first mamak we kena halau from cos they were closing (albeit politely), a scant 10 minutes after you left. Don't they want business?? :P

Lydia Teh said...

Kak Teh, lovely writing as usual. Look forward to seeing you Sat.

Kak Ainon of Kg Raja, Besut said...

Asmk Kak Teh
Looking at the comments, you had really touched everybody’s “soft-spot” with your Mak’s posting. I’m going through something like that now with my Mak, but more of Being With Mak (back in the kampong where she prefers to be).

Alhamdulillah, although quite frail (she’s 82), so far she has no major problems. She can move about, waters her favourite pokok, still can do whatever housework she feels like doing (I still cant match her fried-fish, kerabu and sayur pedas), has good appetite, reads Quran regularly, etc. Only that she doesn’t like to go out and will only do for important reasons like collecting her pension (every 2-3 months) or ziarah kematian. She gets very bored (orang Terengganu kata “puah”, you can check with AG ) if we were to take her back to KL for more than 2 weeks. Memang ta’ sampai hati tengok dia ‘puah sunggoh’.

Since my eldest brother and me have retired (the others are still working), we take turn to commute from KL, every other month, for the past 1 year or so (just a few months before my father passed away). We are still able to persuade her to take short vacation in KL every 5-6 months. Initially, it was pretty boring for me too since I seldom put up that long in kampong (having left home after primary schooldays). It got better after a few months and it’s much better now after I subscribed to Streamyx last December. Itu yang giler dok baca Blogs. MY only concern is the extra pounds that I gained past few months with all the nasi dagang, nasi kerabu and kueh2.

Your posting and readers’ comments serve a very good reminder to me, to be thankful to Allah, for being able to be with Mak now.

So sorry, don’t mean to be too lengthy. Have a good and safe trip home (?). I’m sure you are missing the family. Take care. Wassalam.

nyonyapenang said...

i felt a tug in my heart reading this beautiful post. momma left us when i was 15 and i really wished i have this opportunity to 'mother' her too.

take care and have a good day. :)

BinkyBlogging&Such said...

Kak Teh,
Indeed very lovely and touching moments - my eyes actually went teary a bit reading that.