Long before there was Tiger Mom, there was my mom. Her style of mothering antedated a whole generation of control-freak mothers.
Mommy ran our lives—controlling, enforcing regimen and structure. I didn’t know there could be any other parenting style until I became a parent myself and swung to the opposite end—an ultra-liberal mom. (But that’s another story).
Mommy was such a presence even and especially in our adult lives, that when she was already incapacitated, we thought and felt as if she was still in charge. We had been programmed into thinking so. We didn’t know of a world where Mommy didn’t make the decisions which we, including Daddy, followed.
It was that way even in her dying days—and beyond. Mommy controlled. We believed so.
The day after she slipped into a coma (she suffered a heart attack, flatlined and was resuscitated but reduced to a comatose state), the doctor asked us if we wanted to sign a “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate) in the event that she suffered another cardiac arrest.
Without batting an eyelash, my brother and I told the incredulous neurologist: “Don’t worry, Mommy will decide.”
We had to explain to the “neuro” that whatever it was Mommy wanted, she would find a way to tell us. Such was our faith in and dependence on her. Or it still hadn’t dawned on us then that the Mom-in-charge was really no longer in control.
Or wasn’t she?
‘She didn’t like’
When she was still able and felt no hints of mortality, she would tell us that she didn’t want any tubes into her body should she get sick.
When she slipped into a coma, she had to be intubated. A trachaetomy procedure had to be done.
She was being wheeled to the operating room from her room when, all of a sudden, one of the wheels of the hospital bed broke down.
“I told you she didn’t like,” my brother turned to me, a look of foreboding on his face. Even in her comatose state, she still instilled fear in us.
After two months in the hospital and she still showed no sign of waking up, the doctors finally allowed us to take her home where she could be under the care of private nurses.
That night, as the nurses and paramedics prepared to move her into the ambulance from her hospital bed, the ventilator that would be used during her transport ran out of battery—a sudden malfunction that both the hospital and ambulance staffs couldn’t explain. They had to operate the oxygen bag manually as she was being moved from the room to the waiting ambulance.
I had this inexplicable urge to speak to her aloud: “Let them move you, Mommy, we can’t stay here. This is not a hotel. We had to go home.”
We could just have been reading too much into these incidents, believing firmly at that time that our mother remained in control, or at least remained present in our daily struggle with her critical condition. We could have just been imagining her hand in those odd circumstances.
However, her final goodbye was something we couldn’t ignore.
We never told our ailing father that Mommy had died three days before. On the last night of her wake, Daddy, who was at home alone with his caregiver and the househelp—the rest of us were in the memorial home—inaudibly told the staff that a woman was standing at the door, holding an umbrella. (The umbrella was the trademark accessory of Mommy.) Why wouldn’t you let her in, he asked the help.
The household staff, overcome with fright by then, could see no one at the door.
Then Daddy said, okay, she’s already inside. And his glance fell on Mommy’s rocking chair, which, at that moment, began to rock slowly as if someone was sitting on it.
Daddy fixed his glance at the chair, his lips moving as if he was talking to someone, as his tears fell.
Our household staff swore that this went on for more than an hour. Daddy couldn’t sleep until past midnight. Mommy had said her goodbye to Daddy.
We tried to hide her death from him, afraid that his fragile heart couldn’t take it. But, in the end, Mommy had her way, as always.
Why have I jogged my memory about Mommy’s passing two years ago? (My dad died within the same year.)
It’s Mother’s Day. Those hard-to-explain instances—hokey perhaps to some—have shown me how a mother’s love and caring, a mother’s need to control, if you want to call it that, go way beyond her breathing moments. It goes way beyond the grave.
It is not until “death do us part.”
Not even illness and death could break a mother’s bond with her loved ones. A mother will always find a way to communicate, even as her body has long given up.
A mother’s love will always find a way.