“Speak into the microphone, dear,” my mother said.
My father handed me a small microphone, which was directly connected to my mother’s hearing aid. I held my breath, it stopped spinning dizzy, and then rubbed the back of my head, hoping to calm the pain. What kind of couple we are, I think, because my heart, in this new performance of myself, has become so fast. Both of us were deprived of the right to inherit the world we were once familiar with. The two of us, as I imagined, were both scared and lonely. Of course I am. But my parents are British, and we don’t talk about difficult or unpleasant emotions unless we are forced to-and we can bear a lot of pressure.
I focused on the menu.
“Penne pasta with pesto sauce,” I started.
My mother tilted her head and focused on things in the distance, like the way a cat follows the light in the shadows.
When she was young, my mother was fierce-digging gardens, camping in the mountains, and spending the night in her church to help the homeless who took refuge there. Growing up in London during the war, this gave her a mentality that you can bomb us but we still go out and dance. But now, besides that, she is deaf and blind at the same time, and I have moved back to Michigan and become her eyes and ears. Or I hope so.
Inheriting the spirit of my mother, I traveled the world, boxed, danced until four in the morning, mentored prisoners, married a little rock star and divorced, lived in the Lower East Side for 25 years, taught in the community in some tough environment, Those in need came forward. But now back in Michigan, an old head injury that didn’t fully heal hit my life unexpectedly. I feel extreme pain, dizziness, memory loss, waking up for several days and insomnia, etc. Suddenly, I did not return to my mother, but desperately needed to take care of myself.
But my mother can’t help me, just like I can’t help her.
There are only 41 miles between us-but unless my father drives, we cannot reach each other. We call every day, and everyone tries to encourage each other, but I think it also disappoints each other. Frightened by what happened in my body, I wanted a mother to study the latest findings about head injuries and talk to the doctor on my behalf. Similarly, she wants a daughter who can take care of her when she is young-she can come over for a cup of tea and chat for a long time, can take her to go shopping and manicure with her, because cooking is now a challenge, so she can Bring food.
“I’m a bad daughter,” I cried to a friend on the phone, stretched out on my brown velvet sofa, my mind wet with the ashes that enveloped my head. “My mother needs me.”
This is an undeniable fact: she did it.
This is my instinct, but I also know it because she often tells me.
“The church is turning over and reselling,” she would say. “I need to sort out all the clothes that no longer fit. I hope you can come and help me.”
Or: “My nails are a mess. Your father can’t take me to Lisa’s house this week. I hope you can drive me.”
Or: “We are going out tonight with Uncle David and Aunt Zena. If you can join us, that would be great.” Her voice was full of desire and love.
I listened, my chest tightened and my belly tightened, trying to control my disappointment with the injustice of life. My mother is waiting for me to get better so that I can help her. I’m here, waiting for my cousin to drive me to the store so that I can store toilet paper because I can’t drive, or ask my neighbor to take me to my doctor for help on the nerve pathways of my brain.
“I’m sorry,” I said to my mother countless times. “I wish I could do all these things for you. And more.”
“Oh, my baby,” she said, and the obvious disappointment disappeared. “Of course you know.”
At that moment, I knew that my mother loved me with a deep wildness. I doubt the love I deserve.
One day, when she and my father finished, I apologized again for not being able to reach their home, my mother said, holding my hand so tenderly and lovingly: “Don’t worry, dear. I also let my mother disappointed.”
When my parents immigrated from London, they left behind her beloved mother. After settling in the United States for a few months, after writing a few letters and a few phone calls, her mother died of a guilty conscience.
“I shouldn’t abandon her,” she often lamented when I was growing up because her mother’s death has been haunting me.
“Do you think you left England and killed your mother?” This kind of reasoning felt amazing in my young mind. The potentially lethal force of the daughter’s negligence.
“She needs me,” she said, blowing smoke rings over my head, her nails always glowing perfectly red. “She needed me, and I failed her.”
Here, I finally proved my own original truth: I am the daughter my mother loves, but not what she needs.
I redoubled my efforts to heal, exerting amazing pressure on my body, causing my anxiety to soar, and trying to speed up my doctor seems to only push me towards something: health. I did improve. Eventually the pain disappeared, the dizziness eased, and I started to sleep for more than three hours every night. But the neurological deviation of my view of the world and the way that wet weather thickens my brain is still driving at full speed, so driving is still difficult.
In difficult times, I would send a card every day, each with a special blessing to my mother. When the weather is good, I will go to see my parents first. Once there, through the thick haze in my head, I sorted out whether the clothes injected by Chanel No. 5 were stained, made sure her makeup matched her skin tone, and sorted her jewelry box so that she could find it by touching Things, do my best to make up interesting stories from my troubled life and listen to her stories-including the stories she embroidered to conceal sorrow, and stories that tell the truth about sorrow.
When it was time to leave, my mother stood uncomfortably close so that she could see part of my face. Her hearing aid hummed. There was gratitude in her eyes.
“I had the most wonderful time,” she said, like the way a mother treats a healthy daughter. “Thank you dear.”
“Come back anytime,” my father said enthusiastically, as he did to a daughter who can jump in the car as he pleases.
I was relieved to be able to help, but there was already a pressure in my heart to do all this again. Can I? Not being able to consistently put the love I feel into action, it breaks my heart.
A few years later, when my mother’s death was approaching, my health improved further, but driving was still difficult. In the last few weeks, we arranged her bed with my family in my parents’ restaurant, and I and I worked on a 24-hour shift. When I couldn’t drive, my friends voluntarily drove me. At that time I knew that I could let my guilt separate me from my mother’s urgent needs, or I could wrap it up with branches and twine, and then nest it until it became my own trouble. I chose the latter. Once at home, I bathed my mother, boiled eggs, massaged her feet, read her stories, and danced with her while she sat in her favorite comfortable chair and listened to her views on the impending death.
The day before I went home, I kissed her and said goodbye, “I am leaving now. But I will keep you in my heart.”
Her eyes opened wide.
“I will take you in my heart too,” she said very happily. Then she stopped. Then: “Are you my daughter?”
Of course, this is a drug talk. But when I tucked the blanket on her shoulder and then closed the curtains, it stung.
However, on another day, this was another thing my mother said to me. She combed the hair on my face and her nails were perfect French manicures: “I am glad you are my daughter. I will not change Anything about you.”
Finally, I found my mother. I woke up my father, prayed for her, then bathed her, and anointed her when my father called friends and family. I was alone with her, in the hazy morning light, when I washed her white, shrunken arms, and then put on her floral pajamas—the one I helped her choose during a rare shopping expedition a few months ago Piece-When bathing her legs, I felt the ropes around the lair unravel, preparing myself for my postponed confession.
But it did not come.
Instead, a flood of love overwhelmed me—for myself and my mother: we both worked so hard. I did not disappoint my mother. I may not be able to provide everything she needs and desires, but what mother can do omnipotent? If I am healthy, can I meet all her needs? Oh, my love, the mother who now lives in my heart repeats it-finally this sentence becomes a cell: I am glad you are my daughter.
Sometimes, unexpected forgiveness is hidden under the greatest despair. A pardon so sweet and so intense, it erased everything before and replaced it with grace. When I combed my mother’s bedding for the last time, I felt that our common failed daughter bloodline disappeared; I felt that our troubles were relieved.