5 years ago, my mom died. We didn’t get along very well, unfortunately, because, well…i didn’t understand her and she didn’t really understand me. We were very different kinds of people, at least i felt as much. In the end, knowing what i do know now, we’re actually very similar to each others and if there are two things i regret in my life, it’s that we couldn’t really connect when she was still there and now can’t connect anymore because she’s not.
Here’s the thing: my mom was the best person on the planet. Not objectively, not in a general sense and for sure not in day-to-day dealings between her and myself. But she was the best person for me.
My parents divorced when i was five years old- since then, i’ve rarely seen my father. He came by to congratulate me for a couple of birthdays and christmasses, but then, he kind of disappeared. I know that’s probably not only his fault and that my mother probably had a hand in it, but the fact remains: i grew up without a father.
My mom…well, she didn’t take his money. Not for herself, that is. He had to pay aliments for me, but that didn’t amount to much. My mom fought. My entire life, up until the thirties, i knew what it was like to be…well, not poor, we’ve never been really poor, but struggling. Of course, i was the child, so i didn’t do no struggling, except not being able to buy as many toys as i would’ve liked. My mom struggled.
To find a job where she could financially support both of us while keeping enough time to be around me when i returned from kindergarten/primary school. Cleaning jobs at first, later adding being a secretary into the mix. When i was a teenager, she became a full-time secretary. She was unemployed a couple of times and worried beyond measure, i’m sure. I didn’t get to see much of that, though; she tried to be positive around me- she didn’t succeed all of the time, but she tried. Another struggle.
Her greatest achievement that really made her proud was buying me a digital camera for a birthday, i think back in 1999 or 2000, when they weren’t in everyone’s hands here yet. I was the first in my circle of friends who had one and it made my mother incredibly proud- and rightly so- to being able to give this to me. Years later she would still recount that tale as one of her great successes. It’s a symbol of her struggles for and with me, for the fight she fought for me.
With her jobs, we were able to spend the entire summer holidays in Italy when i was aged between 6 and 13. So i’ve been to the same village in Italy for almost a year in my life- i learned the italian language as well as the culture. I got to make friends in Italy who looked forward to meeting us again the next year. I had a great time there and even nowadays, i always try to convince my wife to visit that village again. 6 years ago, i succeeded and in we went. Imagine the look on our friends’ faces when i, never giving them advanced notice, gave them a phone call telling them i’m close and would want to visit them…after 20 years. Yeah, it has been great.
Fortunately, i was able to show my mom these photos. Fortunately, she was still alive when i visited China for the first time. I kept a blog up, mainly for her, describing my adventures and impressions. We returned. Two weeks later, she died of cancer being only 58 years old.
58 years. Believe me, more often than not, i think about my contribution in this. She had to fight for us, for me, to be able to provide me with something, anything really. I wasn’t a good boy from age 16 on and gave her lots of trouble, i guess up until almost in my thirties, when it got better between us.
While cancer got her in the end, sometimes i think that she also had no fighting power left in her. She gave it all.
Now there is our son, and i would so like him to meet her- i’d so like her to hold him, take care of him, see him walk and grow. I don’t think there’s anything i’d wish more for right now, and it’s one thing i can’t have.
I saw my father shortly after my mother died- he attended the funeral; many attendees found that to be offensive; not me- i thought it to be a nice move, but i told him he couldn’t expect me to contact him right away. After our son was born, i thought it was time- i wanted my son to have family in germany, and my father is all that’s left. So we went and met him.
There’s a picture of him holding our son. It’s a nice photo, but it’s also the reason i found myself unable to stay in contact with him afterwards. Because all i could think of was: “why him? Why does he get to hold his grandson while my mother, the person who literally gave everything for me doesn’t?”. He didn’t do anything wrong. Instead of happiness, this gave me pain. Then we moved, and there is the possibility i’m really hard on my dad; that he wants to see his grandson and i’m denying both of them the joy of being a family.
So where am i going with this? Well, first of all, remember this: there is literally no-one in this world who is as capable and willing to love you, fight for you and give everything they’ve got like your mothers. Sure, fathers do a lot as well, and we’re getting better at it, too, but in my experience (small wonder, eh?), it’s the mothers you can count on.
Then: be nice. Try to be. Stay in contact. I’ve never in my life felt so uprooted as i did when my mom died. I lost my home and have never found it back. There’s no reason for me to be in germany; when it comes to family, we- and especially our son- would be better off in China. Anyway, all these boring christmas-days or thanksgiving or whatever you celebrate in the circle of your loved ones and “endure” them? I’d give everything to experience that again- with our son and my mom.
Maybe i should take my own advice and call my father.
I’m not religious, but at funerals, i tend to say something to the deceased. To my mother i said- and i’ll repeat that now, 5 years after her death:
I’m sorry, mom- and thank you!