It's all about making time for someone else. If living so very far away from my family - on opposite ends of the globe - has taught me anything, it is that people matter. Naturally it helps if one actually gets along with members of one's family. The relationships may not be that close nor tight, but at least it's close or tight enough to make me miss the people that raised me and that I grew up with.
From what we understood, our father didn't get along with his mother. No stories have really been told so no details have been learnt throughout all these years. At least, I don't think so, or I may have forgotten. All I know is that he and his mother (and his father as well, perhaps?) didn't see eye-to-eye. I'm not sure what happened. He looked comfortable enough in the old family photographs. But most of them were taken when he had already become acquainted with my mother. That was after he had decided to come home again instead of leaving his family.
He came from a large family, second in line after his older sister, and the oldest of the boys. A few of his siblings either died during the Second World War or they died as infants. My grandmother was known as the Holy Terror. She was also known to punish her children - or was it only the boys? - by rubbing chilli into their mouths if they misbehaved. My father loved spicy food, the spicier, the better. He enjoyed his curry even to the point of breaking out into a sweat. Apparently, nothing was too hot for him. Was that why he distanced himself from his mother in his adult years before he met my mother? Did his own mother's methods of raising her children leave a bitter taste in his mouth? Did he have an unhappy childhood after all? I wish you'd told me, Dad. I wish you had told us stories of your boyhood days.
But something happened and he stayed. And he met, courted and married my mother. All of that happened long before I was born. I only know that, as a little girl, we would visit Grandma (after Grandpa passed away) regularly. I think it was every Sunday or maybe it was most Sundays. It must have been a Sunday. I don't quite remember. But if I remember the visits to her house, and eating her tasty lunches in that small dining-room, as well as playing in her small backyard, then all of it happened. Later, when she lived in an old folks' home, our father made sure we visited Grandma. Our maternal grandmother was already living with us. Did my father, in his own time, learn his own lesson? And did he do all that he did because he wanted to make amends, to heal his relationship with his mother? I wish I knew.
Visiting. Spending time with a loved one. Making time for them. Why was it so difficult for some?
My mother doesn't always get to see her grandchildren or even her other children. Hardly ever, as a matter of fact, and she sometimes makes excuses for them. Everyone is busy. Well, of course they are. So were my father and mother during our growing-up years. But they made time. No one really lives close by anymore but neither did we when we visited Grandma.
Perhaps I would have been the same if I had married and lived closer to home. Would I? Perhaps I, too, would have been too busy to visit my mother on a regular basis. Perhaps it's easier for me, now that I'm thousands of miles away, to cast judgement on those who do not make time.
Perhaps it was a lesson that I had to learn for myself. And isn't it a good thing that I actually learned the lesson even though I still am thousands of miles away? Isn't it a good thing? If it is, why am I so sad?
I suppose it's because that lessons learned do not always make one feel good about themselves. Maybe they're not supposed to. Maybe they're wake-up calls and it is up to us to then do something about it. And maybe the others have their own, deeply personal, reasons for not visiting.
We all have our own lives. We all have our own problems. But surely we can still make time for a loved one. Even a simple phone call would do. But surely a visit would be so much better. Regular visits. The time spent is so precious, although we often do not realise it, and the children grow up so fast. And visits not just during the major holidays when the other party has extended an invitation. We can always say that life now is so very different from our parents' time. True enough. But they too had their own lives to lead and their own problems. That goes without saying. Problems plague us no matter which century we live in. But there is this other thing called priorities. Surely making time to visit one's mother or grandmother (or father or grandfather or even grandparents) is not such a sacrifice.
I am here and she is there. Both of us grow older with each passing year. And I can't even call up and casually say, "Mum, I'm coming over. What's there to eat?" How I wish I could.
Family ties. Family relationships. Passing down one's culture and traditions. Sitting down together. Sharing stories. Sharing meals. Sharing laughter. Don't sever the ties. Don't break the chain. To be able to console, or to give a reassuring hug, when dreams or hearts are broken or when tears are shed. To take walks together or something as simple as sipping a hot cup of coffee whilst watching television. I did that once. I don't anymore. Unless I cross the miles and visit but unfortunately, it doesn't happen as often as we would like. And after each visit, you wonder if it will happen again. You hope. You always hope. At least there is that.
Yes, it was a very painful lesson to learn. I learned my lesson, Father.